Why I Chose Abortion In The Face Of A Genetic Disorder

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abortionWhen Nicole and her wife were trying for baby #2, they had expected some fertility challenges. The couple was working with a fertility specialist and doing intrauterine insemination (IUI) each month. Nicole received daily injections to increase her egg production, along with hormones to promote ovulation. That and constant blood work and ultrasounds became the couple’s routine for six months while also raising their daughter. At the age of 39, Nicole was delighted to have successfully conceived and began an array of prenatal testing — some of which she had not done with her first child.

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS), a test that determines chromosomal or genetic disorders in fetuses, wasn’t quite as available during her first pregnancy. The mother’s quad screening, a maternal blood test, had yielded healthy results, prompting her to then consider a CVS along with nuchal scan ultrasound without much worry.

“Because I was almost 40, my insurance covered it,” she remembers.  “I figured ‘why not?’  I really went into it thinking, ‘we will find out the gender early’ — no big deal.”

Nicole was 11 weeks pregnant when she and her wife met with a genetic counselor, the same one from the first pregnancy. The familiarity gave way to laughing and joking as the group revisited the information about risks and how the testing functioned. It wasn’t until Nicole was in the exam room and the ultrasound was being performed that she began to suspect something had gone awry.

“As the ultrasound tech was doing the nuchal scan, I could tell something was up. She got very quiet, and she had an intern with her and kept showing her the screen.  I figured it was nothing, but I asked her what the measurement was of the nuchal fold. I knew that anything over 3mm was a red flag for Downs Syndrome.  When I asked her, she sort of caught her breath and said, ‘it is 2.6.’ There was something about how she said it. She wouldn’t look at me, and something just told me she wasn’t telling me the truth or at least all of it.  That is when I first thought something was wrong.”

Nicole didn’t get confirmation until about a week later during a prenatal appointment with her midwife. She had chosen to go alone while her wife stayed home with their daughter. The nurse informed her of what she had already intuited.

“I went in, and she just told me, ‘I have the CVS results, and you have a boy who has Downs.’  I was an absolute wreck.  I cried and cried.  The midwife just kept telling me it was just one of those things, that I didn’t do anything wrong.  It just happens.”

Nicole’s options were to continue with the pregnancy or to choose abortion. Her midwife encouraged her to seek further advice from the genetic counselor and speak to the fertility doctor before making any decisions.

“She really pushed doing the termination quickly, if we decided to go that route,” Nicole recalls.

The mother immediately returned home, calling her genetic counselor and suggesting performing the test again. The counselor responded that they had run the sample twice and both times, the baby had tested positive. Nicole weighed redoing the CVS once more, but knew that an abortion would be “easier” at 12 weeks then waiting several more and then waiting on those results. She also adds that she simply knew that the results were accurate.

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  1. Stacey

    July 5, 2012 at 11:42 am

    I chose to terminate my pregnancy at 20 weeks after learning that my baby had Trisomy 18, a fatal chromosomal disorder. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make, and 9 months later, thinking of it still brings me to tears. However, I am grateful that I had the choice to terminate rather than being forced to carry it until it was stillborn.

    • Lauren

      July 6, 2012 at 1:25 am

      I’m very sorry for your loss. I will pray that you find peace from this tragic event

    • Rebecca

      July 6, 2012 at 10:48 am

      I think that Lauren (and other people who feel as strongly as she does) should consider adopting a severely impaired special needs child. If she is strong enough to devote her life to raising such a child, and is able to find a partner who will happily share such a life, then it will be a blessing for all involved. After having made such a choice and having lived her life as a parent of a special needs child, then she would be in a position to share her experience with others and offer advice to prospective parents. Until she has that experience (or is faced with being pregnant with a special needs child), I recommend that she listen with open heart and mind to all parents and their experiences, as well as the experiences of adults who grew up with special needs.
      I am a speech-language pathologist who works with special needs children of varying degrees of disability. I have chosen this path and cherish these children. At the same time, I am very aware of the extraordinary emotional and financial difficulties these families deal with every day. Some families and marriages do not survive such stressors. As Lauren says, not everyone is equipped to handle such a life. If she wants more mothers to carry their special needs children to term and put them up for adoption, then she and others like her should make themselves available as adoptive parents.
      There is a teacher at my school who adopted one of her students when the mother became overwhelmed. She is pro-life and religious, but is a private person and has never bragged about her sacrifice. In fact, for many years I did not even know she had a special needs child! Now I know why she often seems exhausted (but rarely grumpy). I have the deepest respect for her because she quietly practices what many others only preach.

    • Robyn

      July 11, 2012 at 6:10 pm

      Stacy (and the lady this story is about), it must have been a terrible time in your life – there are so many judgemental people out there who have never had to make that choice. (I can say if I were in your shoes…I would have done the same thing)
      I hope you have people in your life that supported you throughout this difficult time.

  2. Lauren

    July 5, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    It breaks my heart that these families felt that abortion was really the best option for them. I understand that it must have been a very difficult and painful decision for each couple to come to and it is evident that these couples did not take the decision lightly. That being said, I just cannot fathom how someone could really feel that denying a child a chance at any life is preferable to a life that might be more difficult than a child without a “defect”. People with Down syndrome function at a variety of levels from very mildly to very severely impaired. It is possible that sweet Thomas may have had very minimal impairments, may have gone to a mainstream school, even graduated college, and likely held a job. Also, having worked with many children with Down syndrome (I’m a speech pathology student), I can say with 100% confidence that they are some of the most loving, caring, friendly people that you will meet in your life and that it is a privilege to get to spend time with these amazing individuals. Also – and I say this knowing and respecting that no everyone shares my religious beliefs – I believe that God makes each person exactly the way that He intended for us to be, “defects” and all.

    • KJ

      July 5, 2012 at 11:58 pm

      “I understand that it must have been a very difficult and painful decision for each couple to come to and it is evident that these couples did not take the decision lightly.”

      …but that didn’t stop you from throwing in your self-righteous two cents and looking down at them for “denying a child a chance at life”, did it?

    • Lauren

      July 6, 2012 at 1:23 am

      I’m not looking down on anyone or being self-righteous. I’m sharing my thoughts about the article – the purpose of the comments section. And although I am religious and take a religion-based stance on abortion, I respect that not everyone shares my beliefs and that I am not the authority on what is best for people who I have never met. Abortion arrests all life-sustaining functions in a developing fetus. So yes, both couples did deny these babies a chance at life. This is a scientific fact, not my self-righteousness.

      I don’t think that it is fair of me to say, “Oh, I would definitely do this or that” because I have not been in the situation of having a child with a genetic anomaly. I can say that I personally do not consider Down syndrome to be a catastrophic disorder. No doubt, it offers parenting challenges beyond those of a typical baby. No doubt, it offers unique challenges to the individual with the syndrome. But I have also seen the many blessings that Down syndrome has brought to families and to my own life through working with my clients. But then again, it doesn’t matter what I would do or my opinion, as this article is not about me. I think that it takes a strong person to admit that they are not equipped to or do not wish to accommodate a special needs child and I applaud these couples for being honest with themselves and doing just that. However, there are a lot of couples in this world who are equipped to accommodate these special children, many of which cannot have children of their own. No doubt, there are numerous families who would have loved to adopt these children. The article didn’t mention if either couple considered adoption. Maybe they did and still decided on abortion, which is their right in this country. Either way, it makes me sad that this country still views disability as such a terrible thing.

    • meteor_echo

      July 6, 2012 at 4:22 am

      I’ve been born with heart/blood vessel problems that run in the family. While not hard enough to be qualified as a disability in the country where I live, they still caused a lot of health problems for me when I was a teen. And, thinking of it, if I could go back in time to ask my parents to not procreate, I’d have done it.
      Don’t think FOR other people, let them make their own decisions.

    • Connie

      July 10, 2012 at 12:08 pm

      @Lauren, unless you are out to adopt a special needs child and raise him or her yourself, STFU. As a foster mom I can tell you that even though you work professionally (as a student) with special needs children I have raised them in my house. I would never judge a parent for choosing an abortion in the face of a serious genetic condition like Downs.

    • bang2tang

      March 29, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      oh man, i even hate my self why i get short gene instead of tall from my parent.

  3. Lindsey

    July 6, 2012 at 1:30 am

    It’s great when people choose to have children with birth defects, but every situation and every person is unique. I think it’s even better that these people analyzed their situations and knew that they couldn’t handle them. In my own experience, I was a child my parents didn’t really want who had a birth defect that, while it hasn’t affected me much as an adult, took a massive amount of time and money to treat when I was a child. I had a horrible childhood and have a lot of lingering psych issues as an adult because of it. My personal belief is that we don’t get one chance, we don’t get a chance at conception and if that’s aborted or miscarried, we don’t just go out. I don’t believe that abortion doctors can destroy souls lol So, personally, I would have rather been aborted than lived as the unwanted burden that I was. I think the overwhelming majority of adults who were children in similar positions might say the same.

  4. Guest

    July 6, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    I cannot imagine anything more selfish than creating a special needs child when there are so many healthy children who already exist and need homes. This is especially true of people who know they have a genetic disorder and choose to conceive (once you’re pregnant, the calculus is obviously very different).

    • D

      July 7, 2012 at 9:04 pm

      I am sure that these women set out to “create” special needs children. Are you fucking serious?

      And saying that there are so many children who already exist and need homes is like saying to a couple “You shouldn’t have gotten that dog from a breeder, when there are so many at the shelter who need good homes.” That is the most insulting thing that you could ever say to someone who is struggling to conceive.

      how’s the weather up there on your pedestal?

    • Leonhart

      July 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm

      @D – No one sets out to “create” a child with any sort of defects. No one is saying that. But people who have genetic disorders that are likely to pass them onto their children ARE being selfish by gambling on the quality of life for their child.

      Suggesting adoption IS EXACTLY like saying you shouldn’t buy from a breeder because there are too many unwanted dogs being put down every year in the pounds and shelters. If you really cared about a child instead of being so narcissistic about replicating your own DNA, you’d give more thought to the quality of life you may be sentencing your child to.

    • GuessWho

      March 21, 2013 at 6:29 pm

      A child can be “ special needs” at anytime, slip in fall, high fever, car accident. Would you terminate them then, or just stick them in a home? And so can you – be “special needs” cancer, brain tumor etc.

  5. D.

    July 7, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    I always love when people get up on their high horses about this subject- especially if they have never been in it themselves.

    I was always someone who thought I could never have an abortion. Until I did.

    I was right out of high school and got pregnant by my abusive, alcoholic boyfriend. He forced me to have an abortion. And by forced- I mean that he held a knife to my throat. Then promised me that if I didn’t go through with it, then he would kill me. (and spare me all the “you shouldn’t have had sex” guilt trips)

    Because of that abortion, I have suffered some medical issues and had to endure fertility treatments to conceive my children with my husband.

    While my situation is nothing like the women in this article, I think it is completely unfair for everyone to put their beliefs, religion, etc on someone else and judge them. Until you are placed in that situation, you truly don’t know how you would react.

    So until you go through what anyone in this situation has been through, just keep your “how could yous,” the “adoption is always the answer” “you are so selfish” or any other judgmental bullshit to yourself.

    Must be nice to have a perfect life.

  6. Lulu

    July 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Do you realize that those tests are NOT always correct? Many women have had these tests & (at birth) was found to be a typical child. Read about it & do research.

    • lilkym

      March 28, 2013 at 4:49 pm

      as she said this was not an easy decision. I am pretty sure she did her research.

    • Jess

      February 11, 2014 at 4:21 pm

      CVS is definitive for trisomies. No false positives. ultrasound and certain blood tests can produce false positives. no doctor would recommend termination based on a test that even occasionally produces false positives. YOU read about it and do research. Oh wait, that’s why we have obstetricians who spent MANY years on becoming experts. but hey, you know how to use google, right? why bother with a doctor?

  7. Leilani

    July 9, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    she murdered her little baby – end of story – no explanations – when you are pregnant with a baby it is no longer just your body and your choice it is the home of your unborn baby.
    gross and selfish!!!!!!!!! that little baby’s soul is in heaven now and thats where her baby will be unitl she dies and they meet again – and she’ll have to explain why she killed him. ugh would not want to be her. (oh I’m sorry honey but you weren’t going to be perfect, so I chose to murder you)….Think about tebow his mommy was told she was going to DIE if she carried to term and look at him an amazing man! Sarah Palin another fine example of a true mommy. No one has the right to take another life or murder her baby – !!!!!!!!! ONLY GOD!!!!

    • Lawcat

      July 10, 2012 at 9:57 am

      No one is going to take your opinion seriously if you have a case of the crazies. Declaring something “end of story” doesn’t make it so, no matter how many exclamation points you use. (“OH, well, LEILANI said it was end of discussion, so….guess we’ll just be moving on then.”) I wasn’t aware that Leilani was the Great Decider.

      Since she holds tebow (sic) and Sarah Palin in such high regard and plays fast and loose with punctuation, perhaps we should nominate her to such a role. I would like to her more intelligent opinions from our new Great Decider. I’m sure they include our President’s “muslin” heritage and how the government is going to steal from Medicare to support socialized medicine.

      Generally, people who call abortion “murder” (1) have little to no grasp of what murder entails and (2) have never actually witnessed or experienced the aftermath of *actual* murder. This is a tell tale sign of someone who is an ideologue and is incapable of any type of civil discussion.

      That, and the sheer number of exclamation points. I mean, come on.

    • bang2tang

      March 29, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      She did right option, IMO if you let your baby live with “difficulties”, i don’t think it’s really right same like kids who need to consider hospital as their 2nd home because of genetic disease.

  8. Jenn

    July 9, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    The story may not have explained all the soft or hard markers this couple were presented with, but my blood test showed some “concerns” (I didn’t follow up to find out exactly what it showed; we were moving across the country and nothing would have made us decide to end the pregnancy) and our nuchal scan was 3.6. We now have a BEAUTIFUL, perfect 4-month old who is developing right on schedule. It turned out that absolutely NOTHING was wrong with her! I am so thankful I wasn’t a scared or fearful mom who let a doctor convince me that I needed to terminate.

    • Jess

      February 11, 2014 at 4:15 pm

      i know this is an old post but thought i would inform in case anyone else is reading this. the cvs procedure is definitive when it comes to diagnosing chromosomal disorders. there are not false positives unlike ultrasound alone and blood tests. NO doctor would recommend termination based on ultrasound or blood tests alone. So glad you were not a scared or fearful mom who didnt even bother to follow up with possible concerning results. Lucky for you your baby didn’t have any heart defects or other problems that should have been monitored closely during your pregnancy.

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  10. Amanda

    July 13, 2012 at 11:03 am

    I had an abortion when I was 19 because my daughter had triploidy. It is a condition that is incompatible with life and she would have suffered greatly. The thing about it is, I was 22 weeks and was never given the choice to deliver her pre-term. I had to go to your standard abortion clinic. I regret that decision everyday and wish I had been given the choice to give her even a few minutes of life. That decision helped lead me into drug addiction. I now have 2 awesome children, but think everyday of Kaylee. I am in no way criticizing your choice but I wish my daughter had a problem that she could have lived with.

  11. lovingbrother

    March 21, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    my parents thought that our family would not have survived had they gone through with my moms pregnancy… however, I don’t think our family would have survived if she hadn’t. my sister saved us in so many ways. and to think that it is such an easy option for people make without educating themselves… she is an angel and not comparable to all of the things mentioned in this forum..quick learner, witty, and self sufficient- . but we had the patience and love to provide her with a good environment I don’t think most people here have enough experience with DS- and for that I feel sorry for you and the angels sent back to heaven too early. This is not a high horse statement.. but it is so narrow minded to talk about DS the way all of you do- like it is a lesser.. It is not.

  12. bang2tang

    March 29, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    This writer are so brave to telling his story, a lot of abortion even parent who dump their child happen in this world and they hide in from society.

  13. Jay

    December 7, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Downs is interesting to me because it is the only viable autosomal trisomy past the first year (there are only two other trisomies that have live births). 50% of miscarriages are due to chromosomal anomalies, including downs. To me genetic problems in vitro are accidents that happen during meiosis and I would abort a fetus that fell into that category. This is different from bad genes and the hazards of life.

    People like to argue that those who abort genetically abnormal fetuses are attempting to obtain perfect in a child. What’s next? They ask, you abort because the child won’t be smart enough, pretty enough? The answer? No, because that’s very different. Each of us, with our partner has a set of genes that we will pass on to our children. You are gambling with these every time you conceive. So if you have a history of hemophilia or sickle cell or dwarfism in your family you know the risks.

    Downs is different its a mistake in the copying of the code. Its not some divine challenge. Its an accident, and its likely not going to happen again. So, no shame in doing for your body what it would normally do itself in the event of any other trisomy. Downs people severely handicap their caregivers. While the do contribute love and positive energy to the world, they are not able to live completely independently. They are treated poorly by society and will struggle. I don’t think downs ppl are without value, but lets not pretend that their are huge consequences to bringing them into existence.

    If I had a child with special needs whether by birth or because of a car crash, or something developed in life, I would embrace the challenge and give that kid my everything. But I’m certainly not going to volunteer for that life.

  14. Mickey

    January 16, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    I can understand aborting a fetus that will have a horrible, debilitating, painful death as a result of a genetic anomaly. But Down Syndrome? They’re the happiest people on the planet, and enrich the lives of everyone around them. The only reason to kill such a child is selfishness.

    • jroark

      October 8, 2014 at 10:07 pm

      Would you be willing to adopt an aging Down Syndrome person into your home? Or how about giving families financial support to help them care for loved ones with Down Syndrome? Certainly you’d be willing to help those families that didn’t succumb to their “selfishness”, wouldn’t you?

      I’m sure you’re doing these things already, since you’re such an advocate for people with Down Syndrome.

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