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Hear One Woman’s Story of an Abortion at 23 Weeks

Photo-Illustration: by Stevie Remsberg; Photos: Getty

The reality of later-stage abortion is nothing like the political rhetoric surrounding it. So, on this week’s show, we’re telling the story of what it was like for one woman, Laura, who needed an abortion at 23 weeks pregnant.

Throughout almost all of her first two trimesters, Laura had an easy pregnancy. It was only with her anatomy scan that things began to change. This scan happens at 20 weeks — it’s when doctors first get a good look at the fetus. They measure its size, check its organs, generally make sure everything seems okay, and they can finally tell you the baby’s sex.

LAURA: I went by myself. I wasn’t expecting anything. You know, the most I was expecting was to finally be told that it was a boy or a girl.

MOLLY: How were you feeling? Were you excited?

LAURA: I was excited. I was so nervous. And I thought it would be a quick 10-minute, 20-minute thing. And so the ultrasound tech was very chatty, she was very, very nice. She was like, you know, do you know what you’re having, and I said, No, so hopefully I get to find out. She was like, Well, if if the baby’s in the right position we’ll be able to tell quickly. I was like, I hope so. So that was the first thing that we were trying to figure out. She’s like, You’re having a girl, and I was like how sure are you? She’s like, I’m really sure.

LAURA: In my family, from the kids that we have — that everyone has — there’s only two girls. This would have been the third. I was like, Oh my God, finally another girl! Everyone will be so happy.

Laura was expecting this to be the day’s big news — that’s why she’d figured it would be fine to go to the appointment alone. But then the ultrasound tech stopped chatting … and then she left the room to find the doctor. The moment when they stop talking to you — that’s the moment you know to dread. Laura was lying there, with ultrasound jelly all over her stomach, wondering what was going on.

LAURA: Ten minutes later they both came in. The ob-gyn took over and he started doing the exam again — abdominally and then transvaginally. So it was at that time that he said, Okay, listen, there’s a few things that we’re worried about. He said, Her brain is not at the size that it should be for her age. I don’t see her right kidney. Her overall size is small for what she should be. And he was like, I can’t see her hands. So at that time I’m freaking out.

It looked like something was wrong, but the doctor couldn’t determine much more from an ultrasound. It wasn’t clear exactly what was wrong or how serious it was. At that point, Laura was five months pregnant. And it was the first time she heard anything was wrong.

To hear what came next for Laura, click above to listen, and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. (And to read more women’s stories of abortion after 20 weeks, see Callie Beusman’s interviews here.)

The Cut on Tuesdays

A weekly podcast from the Cut and Gimlet Media, with host Molly Fischer.

Hear One Woman’s Story of an Abortion at 23 Weeks