She was 20 weeks pregnant on the day in January when her doctor, the same one who delivered her daughter, gently broke the news that her new baby may not make it to term because of the severity of his disabilities; should he be born alive, his particular birth defect would mean he’d spend his entire life going back and forth from the hospital. A specialist conducted a second ultrasound and confirmed the prognosis. Stunned, Jones had a horrible decision to make: welcome a child into this world to face a lifetime of suffering or abort him. Choosing to continue the pregnancy, says Jones, a freelance writer in Austin, Texas, “sounded like physical cruelty.” She made her choice. That same day, she went to a Planned Parenthood clinic for the abortion….
When she arrived at Planned Parenthood, the doctor who was to perform the abortion first performed an ultrasound, as ordered by law — despite the fact that it was Jones’ third ultrasound of the day. He also had to describe in detail her baby’s anatomy. “It felt barbaric to have to listen to a description of a baby I had so badly wanted,” says Jones, who is 35. “I could barely breathe.”
Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath, pledging to do no harm. Yet it’s tough to argue that forcing Jones to look at and listen to the description of a baby she would never rock or cuddle didn’t cause her psychological harm. The doctor must have known this; he apologized to Jones and tried to minimize her distress. “I am so sorry,” she says he told her, “but if I don’t do this, I could lose my license.” He did his best to make the ordeal easier. He spoke softly. The nurse turned up the radio. But still Jones heard him:
“Here I see a well-developed diaphragm and here I see four healthy chambers of the heart…”
I closed my eyes and waited for it to end, as one waits for the car to stop rolling at the end of a terrible accident.
Then Jones had to leave and return a day later — a mandatory 24-hour waiting period during which women who’ve decided for any reason that they can’t be mothers right now are supposed to reflect and, ideally, change their mind.
Jones didn’t change her mind. “You can imagine that having politicians muscling in on the most private and devastating personal situation I’ve ever been was terrible,” says Jones. “As devastating as this is, I feel at peace with the choice I made.”
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