@trac1 via Twenty20

In the final days before my husband and I made the decision to end our pregnancy, we named our baby girl Angelica. It was a nod to the long-standing tradition of names in my family ending with an “A”—and a reminder to us that she would always be our angel.

I never thought I would have an abortion. It wasn’t until my own experience needing care that I realized the wide range of deeply personal reasons someone may decide to seek an abortion later in pregnancy. In 2017, living in the state of Georgia, I ended my wanted pregnancy after 20 weeks—just two weeks before my state’s 22-week cutoff. We had learned new information later in our pregnancy that we couldn’t have known earlier, and it changed everything.

Too many states like Georgia ban and restrict abortion care or make it widely unavailable for people who are struggling financially. They make it harder to find care, harder to pay for, and harder to get to. These restrictions affect real people, real families, and end up disproportionately affecting Black women like myself. All pregnancies, like families, are unique and come with a wide range of health care needs—sometimes including abortion care. And all of us who experience pregnancy deserve the full range of reproductive health care options available to us, without stigma, shame, or burden.

Before my pregnancy and my family’s move from Illinois to Georgia in 2017, I’d worked as a teacher for 12 years and already had one young daughter. There was reason to be hopeful, excited even, about our new life. We had family in Georgia who could help us with child care, and at about 12 weeks into my pregnancy, we were excited to begin sharing this news with them, and preparing our daughter to meet her little sister.

But everything changed after an ultrasound 18 weeks into my pregnancy. The list of fetal diagnoses we faced was devastating: Angelica had holes in her heart, only one kidney, a brain fluid anomaly, and a number of other conditions, including her improperly formed umbilical cord and placenta. Even as she was inside me, I was helpless to take care of her. After running more tests, the doctors were clear: Angelica would not survive.

In the process of deciding what to do, the most valuable support I received came from a friend who had gone through a similar experience, and ultimately made her own decision to have the child. We shared in each other’s pain and grief, and she reminded me that this decision was not about seeking the approval and forgiveness of others—it was about doing what was best for my family, and our beloved Angelica.

As we weighed our options, my husband and I reflected on the life we imagined Angelica would have if she could live. We named her, we imagined all the ways we could try to give her a good life, but that wasn’t an option for us. Our choice to end the pregnancy was clear.

As if losing a wanted child wasn’t heartbreaking enough, the process was made needlessly costly and difficult in the state of Georgia. My family was privileged to have resources and support, including savings, nearby family, and child care; these aren’t available to many women and families, who face greater economic barriers and may struggle to make ends meet. Still, we paid thousands of dollars out-of-pocket in medical expenses and faced the added pressure of making our decision before the cutoff of Georgia’s 22-week ban. If we had missed the cutoff, we could have been forced to travel out of state for care or carry this devastating pregnancy to term, endangering my health and subjecting my family to continued pain and suffering. 

The laws and stigma around abortion later in pregnancy are meant to demonize families like mine and draw false contrasts between parents and people who have abortions. In reality, my family’s experience has shown me that often, we’re the same people, doing everything we can to take care of our families and do what’s best for ourselves and our children.

No pregnancy is the same, and we’ll never know what circumstances might move someone to seek abortion care. But when I think of Angelica and our story, and the wisdom of my friend, I’m reminded that our lives and decisions are our own. However anyone else may feel, those who seek abortion care should be able to reach it, and be met with respect and support.

M. Daniels is a mom and resident of Georgia.