After having what she called an "uncomplicated" first pregnancy, Julie*, a Maryland-based reproductive psychologist, says that she and her husband were ready for more children.
In 2009, she discovered that she was pregnant, and she and her husband were planning for a baby to arrive in April 2010. Though she says she had a feeling that her second pregnancy might not be as easy as the first, she had no way of anticipating just how difficult it would be.
After a series of tests, her baby had been deemed healthy — until the 20-week scan.
"We went to the maternal fetal medicine’s office, and they did a scan, and we met with the genetic counselor and doctor, and they start talking to us in words we’ve never heard, like ventriculomegaly," she says.
The doctors discovered that her baby had a condition in which the ventricles, or fluid-filled structures in the brain, became enlarged, which was causing him to have hydrocephalus, wherein there is an excessive amount of fluid in the brain.
"Because of those two things, they were telling me that none of his brain had actually developed," she says. Doctors told Julie that if she chose to carry the baby to term, they would advise an emergency C-section at 39 weeks, and transfer the baby to a children's hospital to have the first of probably many surgeries on his brain. They also told her that the best case scenario for her son was for him to have the developmental quality of life of a 2-month-old — and that was if he survived, because he could die at any time in utero.
"They started telling us about the chairs he could sit in, because he would never be able to see himself, he would never be able to walk, talk, learn or communicate," she says. "All of these things that we take for granted, that are a part of quality of life, would not be on the table for him."
Upon hearing this, Julie says that she and her husband asked their doctor what the chances were that there would be a miracle, and that their son would turn out to have the quality of life they wanted for him.
"The doctor said, 'Please don’t make this decision based on your hopes for a miracle,'" she recalls. "So my husband and I made the hard decision to terminate this very wanted pregnancy."
Abortion is a medical procedure; it’s not something to be legislated, and it’s not something to be judged.
However, it wasn't the last time that she and her husband had to make such a difficult choice. After they began trying for another baby, Julie became pregnant again, this time with a girl. But when she was 18 weeks pregnant, her doctors found that the baby's brain ventricles were also enlarged, once again causing hydrocephalus.
"I thought, You've gotta be kidding me, I can't believe I'm going through this again," she says. "And again, we made the agonizing decision to end this very wanted pregnancy."
While she was eventually able to get pregnant again and give birth to a healthy baby girl, she hopes that the story of her grueling journey helps people understand how important abortion rights are — especially as we reach the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that gives women in the U.S. the right to safe, accessible abortion procedures.
"There are many different reasons someone might opt for an abortion," she says. "Abortion is a medical procedure; it’s not something to be legislated, and it’s not something to be judged."
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, says that stories like Julie's are reminders of why Roe v. Wade is still so crucial for women.
"[The decision] is important today for the same reasons it was important in 1973," she says. "Women need to have an ability to control their reproduction, so that they can participate fully in the economic, social, and political life of the nation."
But while women have undoubtedly made more advancements in the workforce and in political life since 1973, abortion rights are something that we're still fighting for today — and, Northup argues, it may be an even more intense fight now than it was in the 1970s.
Just last week, it was reported that the Trump administration will offer protection for health workers who refuse to treat people who seek abortions (as well as health workers who refuse to treat transgender individuals). And let's not forget, one of President Trump's first actions while in office was to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, which blocks international organizations that offer abortions from receiving federal funding. Plus, he signed a bill that allows states to withhold Title X family planning funds from health care providers that offer abortion-related care, assigned an anti-choice activist to the Department of Health, and proposed a budget that withheld funds from Planned Parenthood or any health provider that offers abortions.
Given the trajectory of Trump's first year in office, it's arguably more important than ever that we defend Roe v. Wade.
"Just because Roe. v Wade was decided 45 years ago, doesn’t mean that we can be complacent," Julie says. "It is very much being threatened today on a state level, and I expect it to be challenged on a federal level again and again and again."
All of this, then, is why we need to be more vigilant than ever, and to not let up our fight for reproductive freedom. Whether you donate money to Planned Parenthood, keep track of local laws and call your representatives, or contribute to abortion-providing clinics in your area, there are plenty of ways to keep working for the rights we deserve.
As Northup puts it: "What I think is most important in this anniversary is that women reaffirm that we’re going to have control over our reproductive lives, we’re going to have control over our reproductive health, and that we need to unfortunately continue fighting in the political arena against people who would take that away."
*Last name has been withheld to protect her identity.