Karen’s Story: “I made the heartbreaking choice to terminate my pregnancy” (Guest Blog)

By Karen Agatone

In July of 2015, I found out I was pregnant for the first time. My husband and I were thrilled. Our dreams of becoming a family were just starting and everything felt full of hope and promise.

While still in my first trimester, I opted for advanced genetic screening, which ruled out any major chromosomal abnormalities and confirmed the exciting news that we were having a girl. By the time we got to the 20-week ultrasound, we had named her Evelyn and even purchased a crib the weekend before.

Within 10 minutes of the scan, we knew something was wrong. Our sonogram technician became quiet and a high-risk doctor came into the room to confirm our worst fears: that something was very wrong. He sat us down and told us that Evelyn had what he believed to be a rare genetic disorder. Before we could even process what that meant for our family, the doctor explained that her chances of survival were non-existent and that she was incompatible with life.

Crushed, we went to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for a second opinion. We saw a team of the best specialists in the country, who confirmed what the other doctor had told us: Evelyn would not survive. She had Thanatophoric Dysplasia, a very rare and spontaneous mutation that is not only lethal but would be incredibly painful for her as she developed.

Evelyn’s lungs would not be able to grow inside of her too small chest cavity, which meant she could die inside of me within days or weeks or she could go all the way to term, only to be left gasping for the air she would never breathe on her own. She might live for a few hours or at best, a few days, and would be suffering the entire time.

All of the hopes and dreams we had for Evelyn died that day, along with the dream of our new family. We mourned Evelyn and the family we thought we would be. As her mother, it was my job to plan for her to have the best possible quality of life. But I could not continue to plan for her to have no quality of life.

My husband and I made the heartbreaking choice to terminate my pregnancy and let Evelyn be at peace. It was the only decision we would have to make for her as parents. At 21 weeks of gestation, I had an abortion so my daughter would not have to suffer.

Less than three months later, I conceived again and today, we have a healthy toddler son and infant daughter who light up my life. If it were not for my ability to access safe and legal care to terminate my pregnancy, I would not have our children in my arms today.

Second trimester abortion is not a black or white issue – it’s much more complicated than that. It’s not something any mother wants to go through and it’s certainly not something that is easy to talk about, no matter how much time goes by. But I continue to tell my story because conservative legislators in Pennsylvania have repeatedly tried to pass laws to restrict a woman’s right to choose. They are forcing their beliefs on women they don’t know about circumstances they could never understand. These dangerous bills threaten the health, wellbeing and fertility of women.

Abortion isn’t just about the decision to become a parent. It’s often a parenting decision. And Governor Wolf has always allowed loving parents to be able to make the decisions they believe are best for their babies and families. He trusts women and that’s why he deserves your vote for re-election.