Childhood sweethearts Tara and Justin George were thrilled after discovering they were expecting their first baby together.
The couple, from the US, sent ultrasound pictures to friends and family – and named their son Griffyn.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Couple forced to travel interstate to get abortion
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But at five months pregnant, their world came crashing down after their doctor noticed there was no amniotic fluid around the baby.
The couple was told the pregnancy posed two major issues.
The first was that the baby would either be stillborn or live for only a few hours.
And carrying him to term would risk Tara’s life, as the expectant mum had medical issues which could prove fatal to her.
So the pair made a heartbreaking decision to get an abortion.
Eventually, the couple was forced to travel out of state for the termination, because of local Ohio laws prohibiting terminations.
Before terminating the pregnancy, the couple was over the moon after Tara, 34, fell pregnant.
Justin, a 33-year-old sports podcaster, was so ecstatic about becoming a first-time dad, he bought his son onesies with logos of his beloved Cleveland teams.
“All I could think of was just hanging out watching sports, taking him to games, just having fun, somebody to play with,” Justin said.
“Just doing everything a dad would do with his son. We were so excited.”
Tara said they had already picked a date for the baby shower, and were “really looking forward to it”.
But when Dr Mae Winchester did an ultrasound, the couple knew their baby was in trouble.
The tests showed the baby was in kidney failure and had multiple heart defects, with medical records coldly describing as “lethal fetal anomalies”.
Tara was 20 weeks pregnant.
Carrying the baby
One option was to carry on with the pregnancy.
The baby might be stillborn, but even if he was born alive, he would survive for a few hours at most, Dr Winchester said.
But carrying the baby to term would put Tara’s life at risk.
She has a blood clotting disorder and an autoimmune condition, which put her at high risk for hemorrhaging, clotting and preeclampsia – all potentially deadly complications.
“When you have a baby that will never make it, a baby that’s going to be faced with a potentially very difficult couple of hours of life, we have to really think hard about if we want to put Tara’s life at risk for that,” Dr Winchester said.
Having an abortion
The other option was abortion.
After careful consideration, Tara and Justin chose to terminate the pregnancy – both to protect Tara’s life and to prevent Griffyn from suffering.
“I can only imagine being born and not having organs that are functioning like at all. It would be horrible,” Tara said.
Dr Winchester told Tara she thought she could get the abortion at home in Ohio.
That’s despite the fact that, just weeks before , in the wake of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v Wade – a law had taken effect prohibiting abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
But the doctor says she consulted with a hospital lawyer, who said Tara couldn’t get the abortion because of the new Ohio law.
“When I had to call Tara and tell her that we couldn’t do it, that was really difficult,” Dr Winchester said.
Tara said it was an awful situation “because not only were we told no, then the next step was kind of thinking, ‘OK, well, who’s going to help us? Where do we go from here?’”
“I literally have never felt more helpless in my life,” Justin added.
Dr Winchester then reached out to colleagues in nearby states to find a place as close as possible where Tara could get the procedure.
That process took several days, partly because abortion laws in neighbouring states were in flux.
“She had to wait,” Dr Winchester said.
“And if something happened to her in that waiting period, that would make me feel terrible.”
Across the border
In the midst of their grief, Tara and Justin drove nearly three hours to Michigan, where they spent two days to get the procedure.
Justin told jokes and sang songs to keep Tara’s spirits up, but he knew it was no use.
“It was devastating,” he said.
They had to pay for a hotel and they lost days of pay from her work as a hair stylist and his work as a quality manager at a steel factory.
But the worst part, Tara said, was how “scary” and “worrisome” it was to be in an unfamiliar hospital with doctors they had never met before.
Six days later, on August 2, Tara received the abortion in Michigan.
Tara and Justin say they’re telling their story to help women in states like Ohio who might also be experiencing a potentially dangerous pregnancy but don’t have the resources they have.
“We were lucky enough to where we could miss work, we could afford to get a hotel, to travel out of state. Not everybody can do that,” Justin said.
“I’m very fearful for any woman out there who maybe doesn’t have family or support, doesn’t have a vehicle. What is she supposed to do?”
On September 14, an Ohio judge temporarily blocked the state’s abortion law, restoring for 14 days abortion access in the state up to 20 weeks after fertilisation.
Justin and Tara still want to have a family, but Ohio’s changing laws make them “nervous” and “unsure” because they “have no idea what the laws (will) look like,” Tara said.
“All of our family is here; our friends are here; our jobs are here,” she said.
“(We’re) just trying to hope that something changes for the better so that we can stay here.”
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