Today I am not okay.
Yesterday (June 24), the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The decision was as historic as it was brazenly political. As an attorney, it shook me to my core to watch an institution I so deeply respected become just another political pawn for the far right. As a woman, it made me feel that I was suddenly adjudicated “less than” my male counterparts. But more than anything, as someone who has had an abortion, the decision felt like a personal attack — on my character, my beliefs and on who I am as a person. The highest court in the land told the State of Florida, it was up to them to decide whether the most deeply personal decision I have ever had to make was criminal. Yesterday was devastating. So today, I am not okay.
I am a 34-year-old married woman and mother to one incredible son. I have been pregnant four times, all wanted pregnancies. My first two pregnancies resulted in first-trimester miscarriages. The first, in a “natural” miscarriage, the second by dilation and curettage (D&C) after the doctor confirmed the pregnancy was no longer viable. My third resulted in my son, and my fourth ended with an abortion at 14 weeks, 1 day pregnant.
My fourth pregnancy was wanted — it was purposeful and my husband and I were cautiously optimistic it would result in a full-term and healthy baby. At my 10-week appointment I had a noninvasive prenatal test (NIPT) completed, to check for genetic abnormalities and to determine the sex of the child. Results could take anywhere from 10-14 days. When we received the results only eight days later, I thought nothing of it. But when my doctor personally made the call, my heart sank — it’s never good when the doctors themselves call. The doctor cut right to it, “Hillary, I never want to give this news but especially not to you, the results came back high risk for Down syndrome. It’s not 100% but it’s extremely accurate.” My head spun. I tried to think of questions I was supposed to ask but I could barely get myself to even listen to what the doctor was saying. I had gone through such heartache in previous pregnancies I hadn’t mentally prepared for a roadblock at this stage.
The doctor walked me through the next steps: a zoom call with a genetic counselor, a Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) to confirm the diagnosis and then a decision to make. In the next two weeks we went step by step: the session with the genetic counselor, the appointment with the perinatologist, the CVS test — we did each as early as we could. The diagnosis was as we thought — positive for Down syndrome.
Without a blink, we asked to be scheduled for an abortion. For us, the need to make the decision was hard — the decision itself was not. We knew what was best for ourselves, our family, our son. I cannot think of a bigger parental right than deciding whether or not to become parents.
I was fortunate to have doctors who supported my decision and who advocated on my behalf. My OB/GYN attempted to schedule the procedure herself but was told she wasn’t allowed at the clinic she was affiliated with. She sent me to a clinic in which she knew the doctor. She warned me that it was a “clinic.” I naively didn’t understand what she meant by that until she said, “there could be protestors.” My husband drove me there the next day, my doctor had sent in a letter saying I had been “counseled.” I thought, at least this will be over today. I was wrong.
We sat for hours in the cramped waiting room waiting for the doctor to arrive. When he did, all the women were brought to the back to change out of their clothes and into robes. We held all our belongings in a garbage bag as we sat in another, closed off waiting room. We got called to the room one by one like prisoners. The doctor sat me down, and just as my nerves began to take over, quickly, and without emotion, stated he couldn’t do the procedure today because of the 24 hours counseling rule. My doctor had dated the letter for today instead of yesterday and I had to come back tomorrow. He blankly stated his hands were tied and he wasn’t going to “lose his license” over me. With that I was escorted out of the room, “counseled” on abortion and told to come back tomorrow. It was devastating.
By the time we left the office, I was broken, I was starving and I was angry. I was angry at the process, angry at the doctor’s bedside manner, angry at the politicians who were making this process so difficult, and more than anything else, angry at anyone and everyone who voted those people into office.
But my husband and I were unfazed. We knew what was best for us, for our family, and the next day we returned. It was the same song and dance as the day before, but this time, the process resulted in an abortion. The abortion itself was quick, impersonal, and sterile. But it was over.
On the day of my abortion, there were protestors — four of them — all middle-aged, dressed like they were using this time as a break between their golf game and brunch. They held signs that said “pray to end abortion” and all the typical anti-abortion jargon. To me, they were pathetic, they didn’t know any women in the clinic, they didn’t know our stories, our families, who we were. We could have been their children, their nurses, their teachers, members of their church, all they cared about is what we were doing and to them that was enough to protest against us.
I should be clear, I am incredibly fortunate. I have a loving and supportive husband, family and friends. My husband and I are both our own bosses and were easily able to miss work to go to the clinic, we had access to a car to drive to the clinic and childcare for our son while we were at the clinic. But even yet, the process felt grueling with roadblocks at every turn. The frustration of the process does not even account for the mental and physical impact of having an abortion — which is extreme, even for the strongest-willed individuals.
Simply put, it should not be this hard to have an abortion. But here we are. As of today, it is 1 million times harder, if not impossible, to have an abortion in this country. How can this be? How can this be America?
The timing of my abortion and my story is if nothing else, ironic. After receiving the diagnosis but before the confirmation, the leaked draft opinion of Roe v. Wade came out. I cried as I watched myself silently becoming the biggest news story in the country. The day I had the abortion, I scrolled through Instagram and Facebook and watched as friends protested, unknowingly advocating for me and the very thing I was doing at the moment. And, yesterday, on my 34th birthday, June 24, 2022, Roe v. Wade was overruled and a women’s constitutional right to an abortion was no more.
My story is not extraordinary. But, if yesterday’s ruling is an indication of the way in which this country is going, it is one I can no longer in good faith keep private. If yesterday proved anything, it is that the days of sitting back and allowing your peers to advocate for you have disappeared. It is now imperative that each of us stand up and share our stories and the stories of our loved ones. For each person who steps into the ballot box November and is undecided on how to vote — let them remember our names, our stories, our faces. Let them think of their mothers, their daughters, their sisters and their wives. Because the truth is, the decision to have an abortion was the most difficult “easy” decision I have ever had to make and I am not alone. I am someone’s daughter, sister, wife and mother and I needed an abortion, and the truth of it is, a question of whether or not my act was criminal should never even be a thought — my decision was personal to me and to my family and if you do not see it the same, you are on the wrong side of history.
Today I am not okay. But tomorrow I will fight, and I hope you will, too.
Hillary Mullin lives in Palm Beach County and is a Fort Lauderdale lawyer.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Abortion and Down syndrome: Why Roe v. Wade ruling was personal for me