Why I Chose Abortion In The Face Of A Genetic Disorder
When 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.