There is a lot we don’t know about what will happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned in June. What we do know is that it will be illegal to get an abortion in 13 states immediately and another 13 are likely to follow. While many states will make exceptions for the life of the mother, medical emergency exceptions are not as clear as they may seem—how close to death does a woman have to be before an abortion is legal isn’t black-and-white, and a doctor will need to make that decision while also weighing the risk of criminal prosecution.
What is clear is that many women are alive today because they could have an abortion. Deanna Corby is one of them. Stephen, her husband, told us what it was like to almost lose her and how they have a family today because they discussed it and Deanna had an abortion in April 2017. —Jason Silverstein
We had been trying for nine months. We tried to stay cautious, but we were ecstatic. We started buying baby books. Deanna bought a pair of baby shoes. We had friends who were pregnant and thought, how great they will grow up together as friends. We were making a lot of plans. We didn’t hold anything back.
Deanna is a horse trainer. If you don’t know horse people, they are tough. That morning she told me she wasn’t feeling very well and had a lot of stomach cramping. She was going to lay down. That’s not common for her. She was laying on the bed with a hand over her head and her eyes closed. It was just not her. If something hurts, she might mention it once. I said maybe we should go to the doctor to get this checked out. She thought they would just laugh at us.
I called my aunt, who is an emergency room doctor. She asked me to describe the pain and if Deanna was sweating. I said yes. She said, “You have to go to the hospital right now.” I had to help her into the car.
They took her back to the exam room immediately. The nurse checked her blood pressure. Then she checked it a few more times because she didn’t believe it. Her blood pressure was 70 over 50. “We have to get a doctor,” she said. “Hold on.”
It’s the weirdest thing. We were both at this point worrying, but there was no blood on the outside. There was no outward sign of what was going on. So we had no idea how life threatening of a situation she was in.
The doctor came to take her into a room with a nurse and they start doing an ultrasound. They were pushing really hard on her stomach to try to find what side the embryo was on. And it was a very young embryo—it was hard to find it because it was so small and there was a lot of blood, which can make it more difficult. Eventually they found what side it was on. Deanna said it was excruciating.
The doctor explained that the embryo started growing in the fallopian tube, which made the fallopian tube rupture. I asked how serious this was. He said, “We do this a lot. But it’s very serious and she’s lost a lot of blood.”
I directly asked him the question. “Are you saying she might die?”
“Yes, it’s a possibility,” he said. “She has a lot of bleeding.”
One of us asked about the embryo. The doctor said, “There’s nothing to do. It’s not viable. It’s not going to survive.”
I knew these kinds of things could happen. But I never thought we would need an abortion, because we wanted a family and we were financially stable and ready.
We had only found out we were pregnant three weeks before. We hadn’t even told our family. I had to start making phone calls to her father and her mother and brother and my side of the family.
I was completely confused to have had so recently an amazing, life-changing moment of happiness when we found out we were pregnant, then to hear someone say not only is that going to be taken away, but your wife may die, too. I just wanted her to get better. I don’t know if I fully grasped it in the waiting room with the hours slowly ticking away, not knowing if I’m going to have a family when it’s done.
It was a four hour wait. We were told it was supposed to be two. Eventually, the doctor came out and said they were able to stop the bleeding but they had to take out the whole right fallopian tube. The reason it took so long was that the bleeding was so bad. They think she lost 2.5 liters of blood.
We checked out of the hospital 36 hours later. Deanna was so calm. Almost emotionless. Three days later, it hit her hard that we had lost the pregnancy and she almost died. That’s when she really started crying. We went through a year battling with what happened—that she lost a tube and felt she really lost part of her body. And she feared she may not ever get pregnant again.
We tried for four years with IVF and had a daughter on May 30 of last year. I don’t know how I’ve managed to be as lucky as I am to have the best partner I could have imagined and have an incredibly beautiful and wonderful daughter. To think about not having them…my life would have been over.
I don’t know how I would have reacted if the doctor had said, “There’s something we could do to save her life, but the law says we can’t and she has to die.”
I think we both feel guilty that there was a child that unfortunately we lost. Deanna still has the baby shoes she bought and keeps them in a little box to remember embryo we lost. It is hard for her not to blame herself that she got to live but this baby didn’t.
But we are both incredibly happy that she is okay and we have our daughter. We wouldn’t have our daughter if not for the abortion that saved my wife’s life.
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