Hadleigh Tweedall shares her intimate story of her wanted pregnancy loss which has informed her decision to speak out in opposition to SB 1180, an extreme abortion ban bill which the TN legislature is currently debating. Read on to hear her story.
A little after my son turned 1, my husband and I decided we were ready to grow our family. I got pregnant right away, and everything was progressing perfectly.
At 13 weeks, my doctor suggested we take a simple Non-Invasive blood work test that is 99.9% accurate in detecting chromosome abnormalities. This is a very expensive test that can only be taken after 10 weeks of pregnancy. Besides chromosome abnormalities, this test also reveals the gender of the baby, so we decided to take it.
A few weeks later, at 15 weeks pregnant, my doctor called and informed us that our baby tested positive for Down syndrome. We also found out that we were having a little girl, and we decided to name our daughter Grace, meaning “gift from God”.
Our doctor suggested we take an amnio test to confirm the diagnosis so we could better prepare for our daughter’s arrival. I wanted to have the test right away, but it was the middle of December and every Maternal Fetal Medicine office within a few hours of Nashville was booked then closed for the holidays. The earliest I could get in anywhere was at 17 weeks.
During the amnio test, we received a high-risk ultrasound which revealed that our baby not only had Downs syndrome, but also non-immune Hydrops. This meant that our daughter was filling with fluid and her organs were shutting down one by one. The specialists told us that it was medically impossible for our daughter to survive longer than a few more weeks of pregnancy.
My doctor then told me that waiting several weeks until she passed on her own increased my risk of infection, hemorrhaging and other medical issues, including death. I didn't want to take that risk. I still had the responsibility of being a mother to my son and a wife to my husband. Suddenly I was faced with the most horrific choice of my life, one that I didn't ask for nor wanted to make. I chose to end my wanted pregnancy.
Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, it did. My doctor told me that I was unable to end my pregnancy in my own state of Tennessee. I was too far along to get services at a clinic, and the hospitals here denied my request. My husband I were forced to travel out of state for our abortion. We were surrounded by a medical team we had never met in a city that wasn’t home. On the worst day of my life, I couldn't even sleep in my own bed. I had never given much thought to the anti-abortion or pro-choice stance until Tennessee laws failed me. The existing laws were already too restrictive, and this bill adds additional restrictions.
As Grace's mother, ensuring she felt absolutely no pain was my number one priority. I actually remember telling my doctor that I didn't care what pain I had to endure as long as she felt nothing. I was given 2 options to end my pregnancy: I could be induced and labor and deliver my daughter stillborn, in which a shot would be administered ahead of time so that my daughter's heart would stop long before the procedure and she'd pass away in the warmth of my womb. Or, I could have a D&E which would require me and my daughter to be under full anesthesia. I would feel absolutely nothing and wake up in a recovery room, and my daughter would feel absolutely nothing and wake up in heaven. Even beyond those measures, my doctor reassured me that the nervous system does not develop until the 24th week of pregnancy.
I was lucky in that I had the financial means to get early non-invasive genetic testing and found out my daughter was sick long before the typical pregnant woman. Most women have 2 ultra sounds: One in the 1st trimester to confirm the heartbeat, then another around 20 weeks to review the health of the baby. If this bill goes into effect, women who learn that they are at risk at their 20 week anatomy scan will not have enough time to get the medical treatment they need. Then to add even more time to a very time sensitive issue, this bill requires women to receive medical approval from two separate doctors, delaying the process even further. And if this all happens during the holidays like me, good luck to you.
I want to further add that my abortion required multiple sources of medical documentation to confirm that my daughter was indeed sick. I had to share my early prenatal blood work, ultra sound images and my amnio test results. Also, the hospital’s ethics board had to evaluate my case to approve or deny services. The current laws are already set so that each 2nd trimester abortion is vetted and deemed necessary.
This bill further narrows the definition of medical emergency. Women, like me, who learn that their babies will die later in pregnancy or won’t survive delivery, will be denied access. In turn, their risks of hemorrhaging, infection and death will increase. Women who learn that their baby will die shortly after birth, will also be denied access. These women will be forced to carry their pregnancies to term just to watch their babies suffer through traumatic and invasive medical intervention during their child’s short life in the hospital. It is cruel to use this bill to take away a mother’s choice and make the most painful situations even harder.
I would like to end with this: As a mother, I would do anything to protect my children from pain and suffering, no matter what. Please, trust us mothers to do just that.