She Never Considered Abortion. Then the Supreme Court Forced Her Hand.

·7 min read
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Andrea Barnes/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Andrea Barnes/Getty

Andrea Barnes has always dreamed of being a mother of three.

This long-held goal has helped the 30-year-old Michigan native through two complicated pregnancies, multiple miscarriages, and parenting her two young daughters. Barnes told The Daily Beast on Monday that it was that same maternal desire that has pushed her to make a painful choice after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday: get an abortion before she might lose her right to choose in Michigan.

“I want to keep the baby, I want to believe that everything will be OK,” Barnes said through tears. “But I have to be smarter than that and more logical, because the chances of something going wrong in my case are high.”

Barnes’ decision to get an abortion—she said she had scheduled one for this coming Wednesday—comes relatively early in her pregnancy. She estimated she was five or six weeks along, roughly the cut-off for abortion bans in extreme states like Texas even before Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization gutted abortion rights nationally.

But given her past complications and a Great Depression-era state law imposing an almost total ban on abortion in Michigan—a law everyone from Democrats in the state government to local prosecutors fear could could now go back into effect—she felt hamstrung. Her story shows how a conservative court has not only blown up health-care policy and denied women abortion services, but also plunged millions into uncertainty and panic.

“I would never have dreamed I would have ever gotten an abortion, but I have to think about my daughters and making sure I am healthy for them,” the mother, who works part-time at a hair salon, added.

In a 6-3 majority opinion released Friday and authored by Justice Samuel Alito, the nation’s highest court overturned the landmark 1973 decision that identified a right to privacy in the Constitution protecting a patient’s decision to have an abortion. The new ruling now threatens to end abortion access for roughly 40 million women and girls in nearly two-dozen states and has upended nearly five decades of judicial and medical precedent.

Immediately after the ruling, 13 states moved to impose severe restrictions on abortion or even immediately banned it thanks to preemptively-enacted “trigger laws.” Other states—including Michigan—have pre-Roe bans that remain on the books, or else have passed subsequent laws that have been blocked by federal courts.

Barnes said that when the decision came down, she was asleep with her two daughters. When she arose from her nap, she looked at her phone to the onslaught of news notifications and texts messages. At first frozen in shock, Barnes said she immediately leapt into action to see which states had already banned abortion.

“Then I saw that Michigan’s right to abortion was teetering and it was so devastating to see. And then I thought about the fact that I was pregnant,” she said. “It immediately felt like I had no choice.”

While abortions are still technically legal in Michigan, reproductive rights in the state hinge at least in part on a temporary injunction filed by a Court of Claims judge in May that blocked enforcement of the 1931 state law criminalizing abortion. The injunction came after Planned Parenthood of Michigan filed a lawsuit challenging the previously irrelevant pre-Roe ban.

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also filed a motion asking the Michigan Supreme Court to take up her lawsuit that would protect abortion rights in the state, and Attorney General Dana Nessel insisted last week that she did not have plans to prosecute people under the law, which imposes punishments up to four years in prison.

“As it currently stands, providing abortion care in Michigan cannot be prosecuted, and I encourage those with appointments to move forward as scheduled and consult with their doctors,” Nessel said in a Monday statement. “Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling last week, I remain committed to ensuring a woman’s right to choose and will continue to fight against every attempt to limit access to care. This includes ensuring Michiganders are properly informed regarding the current state court battle that is far from over.”

At least seven other local prosecutors—including Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who presides over Barnes’ hometown—have insisted they will not charge women or health-care providers who perform safe abortions. Republican Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido, however, has revealed he would enforce the ban.

While Worthy declined to comment for this story, noting that she is unable to “unable to comment on cases that are not before our office for review,” Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller reiterated to The Daily Beast that the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office “is strongly supportive of reproductive freedom.”

But the state’s Republican-controlled legislature looms over women like Barnes.

Earlier this month, GOP lawmakers asked a state judge to enforce the 1931 abortion ban—which does not allow exceptions for cases of rape or incest—if Roe fell. In anticipation of the ruling, a handful of Michigan state representatives also introduced a bill last week seeking to impose a 10-year prison sentence for doctors who perform abortions deemed illegal and a 20-year sentence for anyone selling or making medications to induce abortions.

Like many harsh abortion laws nationwide, the measures do not seek to prosecute the individual women seeking an abortion. But Barnes took little solace in that.

In fact, the mounting uncertainty about whether Michigan will allow legal abortions—coupled with her own history—prompted her to make “the hardest decision” about her pregnancy “the day or day after” Roe was overruled.

In all, Barnes has suffered three miscarriages, she said, two of them dilation and curettage (D&C) procedures where a doctor had to remove tissue in her uterus. The surgery, which is often used to treat miscarriage complications, is technically abortive and could soon be illegal in Michigan.

“Because it’s the same procedure that you might perform for an abortion, [doctors] will be so concerned that these cases will be investigated,” Nessel said previously on NBC’s Meet the Press about D&C procedures. “It will have a chilling effect and you won’t have basic medical health care that is required for women not to have extreme health problems or even die.”

That is a major fear for Barnes, who noted that “miscarriages actually run in my family.”

“I have an aunt who was never able to have children. For the longest time, I never thought I could have children,” Barnes said. “Then when I finally did have a pregnancy to term, I got sepsis and almost died. My eldest daughter was in the NICU for several days.”

“Having a tragic miscarriage and then almost losing my first baby—it traumatized me,” she added, explaining that when it came time to deliver her second baby, there were complications “that could have caused hemorrhaging for me.”

When Barnes first learned about the latest pregnancy, she was excited but cautious. “I kind of held my breath,” she said. “But I have always really wanted three kids and I did not even think Roe v. Wade was going [to get overturned] or what it would mean for my pregnancy.”

That excitement was replaced with depression at the new reality. On Sunday, Barnes took to TikTok to express her anger and anguish. Her video garnered over 110,000 views and 1,000 comments.

The mom admitted that the attention that her video has received helped make her feel less alone, especially because she had yet to tell at least some family members about her decision to terminate the new pregnancy. Noting that she was raised to trust her faith, Barnes added that she thinks her family would not be supportive.

“All I am focused on is making sure I am safe and healthy for my daughters. My daughters are my world and I would never want to do anything to jeopardize leaving them,” Barnes said. “I am honestly still conflicted—I would have never dreamed that I would ever get an abortion.”

“But now that we have the same rights as livestock… I feel like this is the best choice for me and my family.”

Later, Barnes laughed and added: “It’s all fucking crazy.”

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