Sunday, February 28, 2016

a letter to pro-life activists

Dear Pro-lifer,

I've quietly stood by listening to your opinions. I feel every painful assumption you make about me. You draw a line between right and wrong without hesitation, as if you know exactly what it feels like to be faced with a life-changing decision. The problem is, the picture you paint doesn't look anything like me.

On January 5, 2016, I had a second trimester abortion at 18 weeks and 3 days pregnant. I was not involved in rape or incest. I was not an unwed teenager. I did not have financial concerns with raising another child. I was not using abortion as a form of birth control. My baby was not unloved, unwanted, an accident or a mistake. 

My baby was not a "fetus." She was a precious little girl that my husband and I named Grace, meaning "Gift from God." She was a younger sister, daughter, niece and granddaughter, and she was so loved and so wanted.

During an ultra sound at 17.5 weeks pregnant, we learned the devastating news that our daughter was sick. Fatally sick. Our sweet Grace was diagnosed with Trisomy 21 and Nonimmune Hydrops Fetalis. As a result, her body was filling with fluid and her organs were shutting down one by one. Her little legs had already stopped growing. Multiple specialists told me it was medically impossible for our daughter to survive longer than a few more weeks of pregnancy. Every ounce of excitement and future dream I had about our growing family was taken from me in a matter of minutes.

I am a Christian and I believe in miracles, but I also trust modern medicine. I could not stand the thought of my daughter suffering in the one place she should feel safest. I could not fathom bonding with her longer and watching my belly grow bigger, only to say our inevitable goodbye. I could not labor for hours to deliver our dead daughter. The day my two year old son was born was the best day of my life. I did not want those beautiful memories of the best day tainted with the worst.

My doctor told me waiting several weeks until she passed on her own increased my risk of infection, hemorrhaging and other medical issues, including death. I didn't want to take that risk. I still had the responsibility of being a mother to my son and a wife to my husband. Suddenly I was faced with the most horrific choice of my life, one that I didn't ask for nor wanted to make. I chose to end my wanted pregnancy.

Due to the laws you fought to pass, I learned that I was unable to end my pregnancy in my own state of Tennessee. Planned Parenthood can not perform an abortion after 15 weeks gestation, and the hospitals denied my request.

I was overcome with shame when the doctor who delivered my son told me she couldn't legally perform the procedure. My own state legislators don't trust me, her mother, to make the best decisions for my daughter and family. I felt like a fugitive fleeing the state to have my taboo procedure done in a state that didn't see it that way. On the worst day of my life, I couldn't even go home to my own bed. I had never given much thought to the pro-life or pro-choice stance until the laws put in place failed me, leaving me feeling alone, scared, and quite frankly, angry.

I haven't used the term abortion because there's such a negative stigma around that word. It's difficult to even type. With the elections coming up, it seems to be everywhere, haunting my every move. Not only do I have to grieve the painful loss of my daughter, I also have to carry the weight of the judgments you make about me. 

Many pro-life family members and friends have said to me, "But your situation is different." While comforting to hear at first, I now believe that thinking is the root of the problem. I am not different. The procedure I had is not different. If we continue to shy away from the term abortion the perceptions will never change. The laws will never change. While it's painful and uncomfortable to admit, I had an abortion and this is what it looked like for me. It's not always right or wrong, black or white. Some of us struggle every day in the gray, keeping our experiences hush-hush for fear of shame and judgment. We choose not to stand up for our rights in an effort to protect our already broken hearts from even more pain. And so the cycle continues...your voice shouts louder, restrictive laws get passed, and we heartbroken mothers continue to lose our rights to do what's best for our families.

So while you were busy pushing your pro-life agenda, my husband and I said goodbye to our daughter in an out-of-state hospital surrounded by a group of strangers. While you stood outside a Planned Parenthood protesting, my husband stood alone in an out-of-state funeral home picking out a tiny urn to hold our daughter's ashes. While you sit behind your computer clicking "share" to yet another anti-abortion article, I am on my knees praying that God's arms are tightly wrapped around my sweet little angel. You talk about abortion as the selfish act of killing a baby, but what you don't realize is a part of the mother dies that day, too.

Please, include us in the abortion debate. Consider all of the gray before you support anti-abortion laws. Don't shy away from us because it makes you uncomfortable. We are mothers that have chosen abortion due to a severe prenatal diagnosis. We made this choice out of love and we are doing the best we can with the cards we've been dealt.

For Grace, my angel. 
You give me courage & strength every day.


  1. Sweet Hadleigh, I am so sorry for all that you've been through. I am here with you every step of the way. Honoring your motherhood, your loving decision in the saddest of circumstances, and your baby girl. Honoring, too, your wisdom. I am fighting all the time for a legal and social climate that will make this world safer and more loving for families like ours.

  2. I, too, had an abortion a bunch of years ago. I was raped and became pregnant. I had the abortion as soon as I missed my period and tests showed that I was pregnant. I have never felt any guilt about it. I knew that I could not face a child who was conceived under such circumstances. I was afraid that I would resent that child for all my life. I could not wish that on any child. You did the right thing for different reasons. Don't allow any self-righteous hypocrite bother you with their beliefs. Most of them are as phony as the day is long. Research shows that the people who most often have an abortion (or get divorced) are those loud mouths who try to make us feel guilty for not saying the same words as them. I seriously doubt that 50% of them are Christians.

  3. Thank you. For your bravery in sharing this hurt and this pain that you continue to endure and will never forget. Thank you for sharing your voice in the hopes to make things better. Thank you.

  4. This is just incredible. Thank you so much for finding the words to share your story. Prayers to you and your sweet family.

  5. Dearest Hadleigh,
    You are so brave! My heart is breaking for you and I am praying that in time you will have some peace from the suffering of losing both of your sweet angels.
    I am from a generation when terminating a pregnancy was illegal in every sense so this was done by butchers in dark alleys with lethal outcomes.
    A woman's right to choose is as important today as it was then, in some ways even more.
    Little Grace gave you the emotion to eloquently express what I believe is the reason for all women from every generation to support a woman's right to choose.
    Thank you, thank you and bless you and your sweet family!

  6. Hadleigh-- I came by your blog via Instagram. I sang with you in college. I am now a transplanted Chicagoan who is an obgyn in the Deep South and think your words are amazing. Thank you for your narrative, your honesty and your love for this daughter.