Why my “rainbow baby” owes his existence to legal abortion

Grace O.

About nine months after making my heartwrenching choice to end my 20-week pregnancy due to a combination Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome and Down syndrome, I conceived again. That was a tough decision, one I had to make all over again each month that I did not get pregnant.

Getting pregnant again is not a decision I would have made if abortion had not been legal. After what we’d been though, it was terrifying to even consider trying again. I now understood only too well that poor prenatal diagnosis wasn’t something that only happened to “other people.” The best prenatal behavior, medical care or most fervent and heartfelt prayers didn’t stop it from happening the first time, and couldn’t stop it from happening again.

There is no way I would have chanced another pregnancy if not for the option to obtain a safe and legal abortion if something were to go terribly wrong again.

As my husband once said, “The first time, it was like we crashed our plane in the Andes and somehow survived. The second time, we made the same scary trip but that time we understood that we could crash, and we packed parachutes.”

If not for the parachute of legal abortion, my rainbow child would not exist.

The night in February of 2000, when we drove all the way to Detroit in a snowstorm to prepare for the ending of a planned pregnancy gone completely wrong, I told my husband we owed a huge debt of gratitude to the pro-choice movement. Although I had always been pro-choice, I was also careful about birth control, happily married and wanting children. I foolishly, perhaps arrogantly, presumed that I, personally, would never need an abortion.

But when I did end up needing one, those rights were there for me. And for my husband. And for my living toddler. She would have had to be all but abandoned to meet the overwhelming medical interventions required to eek a few days or weeks of life out of her terribly compromised little brother.

Nine months after our tragedy, I was pregnant again. Although hopeful, I was all too aware of everything that could go wrong. Awaiting the results of each test, the CVS, the Level II ultrasound, I was afforded a small piece of mind knowing that there was a way out. No child of mine would be born facing a hellish hospital-based existence.

It feels odd to look at my healthy rainbow child–the one who adores playing his violin, who buttons his shirts all the way to the top, who cries when others are in pain, who teaches himself Scott Joplin rags on our old piano, who can make virtually anything fly, and who calls me “Mama Llama”—and know that if it wasn’t for the availability of safe, legal abortion, he wouldn’t be here.

But it’s my truth.


Photo provided by the author
My happy rainbow baby at 6 months.

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