Having a Preemie Made Me More Pro-Choice

I’m not going to let Trump use the struggle my daughter faced as an infant as a reason to take away her rights as an adult

Photo: BSIP/Getty Images

AtAt the State of the Union, one of President Donald Trump’s guests was a mother and her toddler who was born prematurely. Her presence, the president made clear, was meant to bolster his stance against abortion. “Born at just 21 weeks and six days, and weighing less than a pound, Ellie Schneider was born a fighter,” Trump said before calling for a ban on abortion.

This isn’t just horrific to me on a political level; it’s personal. My daughter was born three months early after I got sick with pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome — we both nearly died. Layla spent eight weeks in the NICU where she was intubated and had a central line IV threaded up to her heart. While she was there, she had collapsed lung, a blood transfusion, was fed through a tube, and stopped breathing more times than I can possibly count.

You have no idea how a medical trauma like this can stay with you until you experience it yourself.

Even after Layla left the hospital, she endured two years of early intervention programs, nutritionists, physical therapists, and numerous trips to the emergency room because of her underdeveloped lungs. I developed PTSD as a result of the ordeal; it took years for my husband, Layla, and I to truly recover. You have no idea how a medical trauma like this can stay with you until you experience it yourself.

After Layla was born, I had people from the anti-abortion community reach out to me and ask if it had changed my mind on abortion. It had, but not in the way they hoped — my experience made me even more pro-choice. Because I saw, firsthand, how complicated pregnancy can be, how quickly you need to make decisions, and how intensely personal those decisions are.

If I had gotten sick a few weeks earlier and was faced with the horrible choice of ending my pregnancy to save my life, I can’t imagine having to deal with legal hurdles in the middle of such a tragedy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 91% of abortions are performed in the first trimester and less than 1.2% happen after 21 weeks — most of which are wanted pregnancies that endanger a woman’s life or cases of extreme fetal abnormalities. So we’re talking about very rare and very serious cases.

The only reason Republicans and Trump are focusing on later abortions is because support for abortion access is at an all-time high. Instead of speaking to the actual issue, they’re using scare tactics and extremism. It’s the same reason that the president has tried to push the lie that doctors are executing newborns. (He was referring to the fact that sometimes a baby is born so early that extraordinary measures aren’t taken to save the child, as it would only prolong unnecessary suffering.)

If Republicans were really concerned about abortions after the first trimester, they would stop making it so hard to access the procedure earlier in pregnancy. It’s because of Republican-created restrictions — waiting periods, lack of medical coverage, clinic shutdowns, and parental notification laws — that women can’t get the procedures they need sooner rather than later. In fact, over 90% of women who have abortions after the first trimester say they wish they could have had the procedure earlier, but they faced barriers.

The truth is that it’s not how far along someone is pregnancy that bothers Trump and his administration — it’s that women have that right at all. My daughter is nine years old now and healthy. I am so grateful for her and for our life together. Part of my job as her mom is to make sure she’s safe and respected — which means I’m not going to allow a government led by misogynists and cowards to use the struggle she faced as an infant as a reason to take her rights away when she’s an adult.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

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