16 weeks into my pregnancy, my doctor told me some heartbreaking news: My fetus could not survive outside the womb due to a fatal medical complication. This was a baby that I desperately wanted. But if I chose to continue with the pregnancy, I would be prolonging the suffering of the fetus and putting my own health at risk.
After talking it over with my doctor and taking several days to reflect, I ultimately decided to have an abortion.
At the time, my choice to have an abortion at 17 weeks was protected by Roe v. Wade. But since the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion this summer, women in situations like mine are now having their freedom of choice stripped away across the country. Politicians are forcing women to carry fetuses that have died or have no chance of survival.
When I went to vote in Pennsylvania’s elections earlier this month, abortion was at the forefront of my mind, as it was for so many voters. Just a few days prior, Republican Senate candidate Doctor Oz had said that abortion should be decided by “women, doctors, [and] local political leaders.” Republican Governor candidate Doug Mastriano had proposed a total abortion ban on the campaign trail. The stakes in this election felt higher than at any point in my lifetime, and I felt motivated to cast a vote against the future these men had proposed.
People choose to have an abortion for so many different reasons. They may have been sexually assaulted. They may be in an abusive relationship. They may not be able to afford to start or grow a family. They may not be ready for the responsibility of raising a child. They may have countless other reasons personal and unique to them. In my case, I chose abortion as a last resort, because of health difficulties that were no fault of my own. I never wanted to have an abortion, but I am thankful every day that I had the choice. Otherwise, I might not be alive today.
My abortion wasn’t the only pregnancy I lost. Over the years, I experienced pregnancy loss a total of nine times, including several medically-assisted miscarriages and an abortion chosen due to my health and the health of the fetus. Each loss was absolutely devastating.
Yet my experience with pregnancy loss is actually more common than you might think; as many as 25 percent of known pregnancies end in a miscarriage. But when you are trying for a child, and you experience a miscarriage or learn your fetus has a terminal health condition, you undergo a uniquely personal type of trauma. Whenever I learned that my fetus, the embodiment of my hopes for the future, would not survive to birth, it was a crushing experience. I cannot imagine the additional pain that would have been inflicted if the government had forced me to carry those pregnancies, as Doug Mastriano’s plan would have required.
Pregnancy loss is something I would not wish upon my worst enemy. But I do wish people could understand what it’s like to go through. Then perhaps more people could empathize with the decision of whether to have an abortion. In the times when I had no choice over the survival of my baby and felt helpless, the option to have an abortion gave me a small amount of agency. Every pregnant person should have the right to make that choice for themselves.
Yet since the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, women across the country have been stripped of their ability to make choices over their own bodies and their own pregnancies. Women who’ve experienced miscarriages are now being prosecuted in states with extreme abortion laws, prompting fears of jail time for just seeking medical care. Because abortion services are identical to many miscarriage treatments, doctors are also being threatened with legal penalties for assisting women with pregnancy loss, leading some to refuse to treat miscarriages for fear of running afoul of Draconian abortion laws.
This November, I cast my vote with women in mind—women who are facing these horrible situations across the country and are being forced to travel to other states to seek safe abortion services. I feel incredibly proud that our state chose to elect Josh Shapiro, who will protect abortion rights as governor, and John Fetterman, who has promised to support Senate legislation that would codify Roe v. Wade into law.
If I had not received abortion services or had been turned away from proper miscarriage treatment during my pregnancies, I might not be here today. Abortion helped keep me alive and, because of that, I am now the mother of a brilliant six-year-old named Cole. He is my heart, and I am so proud to be his mom.
Victoria Schiano lives in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, with her son Cole and husband Ryan.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.