She Traveled 200 Miles to Have the Abortion She Never Wanted

CHATTANOGA, Tenn. – Madison Underwood, about 19 weeks pregnant, was lying on the ultrasound table when the doctor said her abortion had been canceled.

Nurses followed and began to wipe lukewarm sonogram gel from her exposed abdomen as the doctor leaned over her shoulder and spoke to her fiancé, Adam Queen.

She remembered that she had calmed down, her body had become still. What did they mean, she can’t have an abortion? Just two weeks ago, she and her fiancé learned that her fetus had a condition that would not allow it to survive outside the womb. Her doctor had said that if she tried to walk for long enough, she could become seriously ill or even die. Now, she was being told that she couldn’t have an abortion, she didn’t even want to, but needed to.

“Will they let me die?” She remembers the surprise.

In the haze around her, she heard doctors and nurses talking about a clinic in Georgia that could perform the procedure now that the legal risks of doing it in Tennessee were too high.

She heard her fiancé curse, and with despair in her voice, tell the doctor it was stupid. He heard that the doctors agreed.

Three days ago, the US Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion. A Tennessee law passed in 2020 banning abortions at about six weeks of pregnancy was blocked by a court order, but could take effect.

Ms Underwood never thought it would affect her. She was 22 years old and excited to start a family with Mr Queen, who was 24.

She and Mr. Queen went back and forth for several days before deciding to terminate the pregnancy. She was afraid of miscarriage. She was dragged to the clinic and cried in the car. Wade by the Supreme Court, but thought that since she had scheduled her abortion before the decision, and before any state restrictions took effect, the procedure would be allowed.

Tennessee allows abortion if a woman’s life is in danger, but doctors feared making those decisions too soon and facing prosecution. Across the country, the legal landscape was changing so rapidly, some abortion clinics turned patients away before the laws officially took effect or before a legal battle took place in state courts.

The centuries-old ban on books became active, but then quickly became controversial. In states where abortion was still legal, waiting times at clinics increased as women in states with restrictions looked for alternatives.

It was in this chaos that Ms Underwood was sent home, still pregnant, and reeling. what will happen now? The doctor said she should go to Georgia, where abortion was still legal until 22 weeks, although that state had a ban that would take effect soon.

How will her fiancé get time off from work to travel? How will they get the hotel and gas money? How long did she have until she herself became ill? A new, more terrifying question hit him: What if he got kicked?

Mr Queen said she realized she had become pregnant even before her fiancé was pregnant.

She woke up almost every morning for a whole week asking for Chinese takeout, which she generally hated. One May night, after his shift as manager at a Dollar General store, he brought home a pregnancy test for her. He hoped and prayed that it would come back positive.

“I was ready to start our little family together and get the ball rolling,” he said.

To save money, he lived with his mother, Theresa Davis, and his stepfather, Christopher Davis, at a family farmhouse in Pikeville, a town nestled in a lush valley about an hour outside Chattanooga.

Ms. Underwood entered the upstairs bathroom. This was her first pregnancy test ever, and she didn’t want to mess with it. She spent 15 minutes waiting, staring at her bedroom television.

His phone alarm went off and he glanced at the test, picking it up and shaking it. A lineshot across it in the positive column. He stopped breathing for a few seconds.

“I hope it’s a boy,” said her fiancé.

His heartbeat quickened. She was smiling.

“I know you want a boy! You already have a girl,” he said with a laugh. “But you know I want a girl.”

Mr. Queen had a child with a previous girlfriend, and part of his proceeds went to child support. He and Ms. Underwood had dated for the past four years; He proposed a trip to Virginia Beach earlier this year.

On Mother’s Day, the couple cleverly revealed the pregnancy via a “Best Nana Ever” gift basket to both of their parents’ sets. At first, it took some shock for her to get pregnant before marriage, but with their wedding date set for late June and the thrill of a new baby, it all came to an end.

At her first checkup at a free local clinic, they found out she was 13 weeks pregnant and due on November 23. The couple made the appointment happy.

Mr Queen worked full time, but her fiancé had no health insurance. They were waiting for Medicaid to be approved so that she could schedule an appointment with a licensed obstetrician. Ms Underwood went about her daily routine, taking care of her three cats, the fish and other pets, and feeding the neighbor’s goats.

Mr. Queen’s mother, Ms. Davis, hung pictures of the ultrasound in her bedroom. She was staring at them when she saw something.

“I called Madison and said, ‘Is your baby a cat? he said. “Because the head looked like it had ears.”

At Ms Underwood’s next appointment, a nurse promised more ultrasound photos for the family to take home. The nurse asked questions, took measurements, and confirmed her due date. But then she got “real cool”, Underwood said.

“She said it would be a few minutes, and the nurse practitioner is going to come in and she’s going to talk to you and ‘see what we’re going to do from here,'” she said.

For Ms. Davis, who accompanied Ms. Underwood to the appointment, and had experienced seven miscarriages, the words “set the alarm bells” were in her head. “It doesn’t look good,” she told her would-be daughter-in-law.

At first, the nurse practitioner said there was a mild case of encephalocele, or a growth in the back of the neck of the fetus, due to failure of the neural tube to close during the first month of pregnancy. Encephalocele occurs in about 1 out of every 10,500 babies born in the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The nurse practitioner told the family that it could be corrected through surgery, and that there could be intellectual disability or developmental delay, possibly causing seizures. Ms Underwood and her fiancé “were fine with it,” she said. But she was worried that the baby would have to undergo surgery right after birth. “I was just so scared,” she said.

He also finds out that he has a girl. They decided to name her Olivia after Ms. Underwood’s grandfather, Oliver.

The doctors referred the family Regional Obstetric Consultant, a chain of clinics specializing in high-risk pregnancy treatments. Practice declined to comment for this article.

There, the family said they had received even more devastating news: The fetus had not formed a skull. Even with surgery, doctors said, nothing would happen to protect the brain, so she would most likely survive a few hours, if not minutes, after birth.

Still, Ms Underwood hoped to terminate the pregnancy so that, at the very least, she could meet her baby and donate an organ, if possible.

“It just felt like the only option,” she said. “Everything happens for a reason.”

But doctors told her that fetal brain fluid was leaking into the umbilical cord, which could lead to sepsis and serious illness or even death. Doctors recommended that she terminate the pregnancy for her own safety.

“We were arguing over it because I thought, maybe I can beat the odds,” she said. “But then I got scared.” She continued, “I wanted to make sure I didn’t regret it. Because for me and Adam, we have to work with it for the rest of our lives.”

They postponed their wedding and scheduled an abortion for Monday, June 27 at the regional obstetrician’s Chattanooga location.

Prior to June 24, the day of the Supreme Court ruling, Tennessee allowed abortions up to 24 weeks into pregnancy, but clinics rarely performed any after the 20-week mark, a spokeswoman for the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health said. Said, one of the largest abortion clinics in Tennessee.

Outside of abortion-specific clinics, only a few medical centers in the state provided the procedure. The Knoxville Center said it stopped providing abortions on Friday that Roe had reversed in anticipation of changes to the Tennessee law.

That day, the state’s attorney general, Herbert Slattery III, filed a motion for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to remove the nearly two-year-old injunction that had tried to ban abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy. was blocked. , The injunction was lifted a day after Ms Underwood’s abortion was nullified.

Her parents and grandparents who opposed abortion took this as a sign of reconsideration. He had prayed to God to stop the abortion if it didn’t happen, and when it didn’t, he was convinced that he should try to terminate the pregnancy.

“We were just hoping for a miracle,” said her mother, Jennifer Underwood.

He said that she should give birth so that he could see Olivia, say goodbye and bury her.

He didn’t tell them. “I’m doing what I think I can handle,” Ms. Underwood would later say, sobbing between words.

Mr. Rani’s mother said she supported the couple’s decision from the very beginning. At the age of 12, she was raped and gave birth to a stillborn child.

“Religion has nothing to do with it. Sometimes your body does something for you, and if you have to have an abortion, don’t feel guilty for it,” she said.

As tensions mounted on the couple, Mr. Queen quit her job to look after Ms. Underwood. His mother raised $5,250 from the crowdfunding website GoFundMe to help with travel expenses. The cash will also help pay for the cremation of the fetus.

Two cars left Pikeville at 2 a.m. in early July for a four-hour drive across state lines and time zones to make an 8 a.m. appointment at an abortion clinic in Georgia. Miss Underwood, Mr. Queen and their mother were in a car; Ms Underwood’s parents and one of her brothers followed her.

When they stopped at the third circle K of the night, she squeezed her own mother hard and cried. Her parents had made a last-minute decision to move in with her, even though they didn’t completely agree.

At sunrise, the couple sat in a corner booth at Waffle House, his hand massaging her back.

He will have a two-stage process known as a D&E, a spread and a withdrawal, in two days. First, she will be given medication to induce dilation, and will be sent to her hotel room to wait. The next day, she will return to the clinic to finish the procedure. Georgia clinic staff warned the family about protesters outside. As they entered the parking lot, they were driven by a man with signs showing a dead fetus.

“Are you okay with killing all the kids?” He shouted into a megaphone.

He approached Ms. Underwood’s parents’ car and her mother rolled down the window.

“We’re just like you,” said his mother. “We don’t support abortion, but the doctors said our baby was going to die.”

“You trust doctors more than God?” He replied.

The couple walked along a steep hill to the entrance of the clinic. He was wearing headphones to drive out the protesters.

After six hours they came out. The parking lot was quiet.

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