It had been two and a half years since Erika Christensen had flown from New York to Colorado for a late-term abortion, but the news over the last few weeks brought it all back to her: the articles and protesters who called changes in New York and Virginia law “infanticide,” and the State of the Union speech that made the same claim. This convergence of voices saying that the agonizing choice she had made with her husband, Garin Marschall, was equivalent to murder. So they started writing.
He wrote an open letter, titled “We are later abortion patients.” He wrote: “We are not monsters. We are your family, your neighbors, someone you love.”
She, in turn, wrote on the websites of several support groups — secret, members-only sites with names like “Ending a Wanted Pregnancy.”
“Are you a later abortion patient (21 wks+) from anywhere in the country who is interested in a quick advocacy opportunity for later abortion access?” her messages said. “Please reach out through any of our channels or PM for more info. #theirliesdependonoursilence.”
Before long they had nearly 130 signatures on his letter, more than half from people going public with their stories for the first time.
In the course of the struggle over abortion rights in the U.S., there have been periodic episodes of attention to late-term terminations, defined as ending a pregnancy after about the 20th week. Each spike brings a wave of patients who step forward to share details of their own late abortion, hoping to give a human face to what they describe as personal anguish but know that some others see as callous disregard for life. In the past few weeks there has been a larger, more public and seemingly angrier outpouring of such tales than in recent memory, one that seems in keeping with these angrier, more anguished times.
“People told us ‘I’m sick of hiding, I’m sick of pretending that this didn’t happen in my life,’” says Christensen, who herself had to travel from her home in Brooklyn to a clinic in Colorado for an abortion in her 32nd week of pregnancy. The son she was carrying had a number of malformations which doctors told the couple were “incompatible with life.” If he were born alive, he would suffocate either immediately or soon after birth. By the time this could be diagnosed with certainty on a sonogram, she was well past the 24-week cutoff for termination in New York state.
Those who signed her letter have similar tales and “are angry at being accused of killing their babies on a whim,” Christensen said. “They hope their stories can add context to this hideous rhetoric that we’re hearing.” READ MORE