In committee before the Ohio Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, Marla shared her story:
I am a happily married mother of three beautiful children. Last summer, my husband and I were thrilled to discover that we were pregnant with our fourth child – a boy we came to name Samuel. After yet another extremely uneventful and healthy pregnancy, my happiness was swallowed up by the unimaginable. During a routine ultrasound just after 20 weeks, my doctor started the conversation by telling us that Samuel’s heart was on the wrong side of his body. He went on with a long list of other profound issues: Samuel had a diaphragmatic hernia, his intestines and stomach were developing inside of his chest cavity, he was missing part of his brain, his lungs were just not developing inside his tiny little body, etc.
I cannot possibly put into words what that moment in my life felt like. That feeling was something that no parent should have to feel. Further testing revealed that Samuel suffered from a lethal chromosomal disorder called Trisomy 9. Trisomy 9 is not compatible with life.
Our options were laid out for us in very basic language. 1) We could continue the pregnancy. My body would quite possibly continue keeping Samuel alive for the next few months. When the pregnancy reached term, I would deliver Samuel and watch him suffocate to death in pain and agony. At 9 months, his little body would not work well enough for him to take a breath, or to cry, or to be held by his mother, but it would work well enough so that he could feel the pain of slowly dying while I watched. 2) I could end the pregnancy and give Samuel dignity knowing that he never felt pain or suffering – only that his parents loved him more deeply than anyone could ever imagine.
As we reached our decision on how to end Samuel’s short life I realized that whatever I chose, my ultimate goal was to make sure that my son never suffered in this life. I spoke with my doctors, my minister, my family and friends. But mostly I reached deep inside myself and I made my decision based on what was best for my son, my three living children, and myself and my husband. I decided to take Samuel off of his ‘life support’ and end the pregnancy.
Because one of the most important moments in my life involved bringing three beautiful children into this world, it was important to me to give Samuel that same opportunity. As I slowly began dealing with the fact that my son was never going to live the life that I had dreamed for him, I also started making my plans for his entry into this world. I wanted him born in a hospital. I wanted him baptized. I wanted to hold him immediately. I wanted as many pictures and memories as I could get in the few short hours that I would have with him.
But then reality slapped me in the face. I couldn’t do any of that in Ohio: it was illegal. My wishes to say goodbye to my son with love and dignity are apparently illegal. My doctor did her best to explain the laws to me, but even she seemed confused. Abortion after 20 weeks was a sensitive topic regardless of the reasons. I was given the opportunity to visit a wonderful clinic very close to my house to have a late term clinical abortion. It was convenient, very recommended, and the procedure was legal in Ohio up to 24 weeks for medical reasons – I was just over 22 weeks at that point. But I also couldn’t see my son, hold my son, or say good bye to my son. And that is something a mother should never be denied.
If I couldn’t provide Samuel with the life that I wanted for him as his parent, then I was going to make sure that I could provide him with the death that I wanted for him as his parent. With the help of my doctors, I was put in contact with an amazing hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where most of my wishes could be carried out. But then I realized that I would have to travel, leave all my friends and family, be away from my kids, and have my baby in a different state. The reality of what a family has to go through to do what they think is best for their baby is unfathomable to anyone who has never been in this situation. I would not wish it on anyone.
Ultimately traveling to Pittsburgh is what my husband and I chose to do. I went through the labor and brought our beautiful Samuel into the world and held him in my arms. My husband and I said our goodbyes and cherished the short memories we had of him. Then we made the longest drive ever back to our family.
A mother will protect her children with all that she has – even if that means driving to another state to see that a dignified life and death was achieved. And this mother is here in the name of her three living children and her dearly missed and loved fourth to ask that you stop the ban on 20 week abortions in the State of Ohio.
Help build a pro-choice Ohio. Every day, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio fights to protect access to the full range of reproductive health care options—including preventing unintended pregnancy, bearing healthy children, and safe & legal abortion care. We educate the public about the real threat to women’s healthcare posed by anti-choice legislation and policies. We mobilize pro-choice Ohioans to take political action to defend reproductive rights. And we are the voice for Ohio’s abortion clinics, helping them navigate the increasingly hostile climate created by extremist groups. But we need your help. As a member organization, we rely on your financial support to fund our important legislative, educational, and grassroots activities.