real life

If Hallie knew her daughter had down syndrome, she would have had an abortion. And that's okay.

When Hallie Levine was pregnant with her now seven-year-old daughter Johanna, she had no idea that the baby girl she was carrying would be born with down syndrome.

Had she been aware of her daughter’s diagnosis during her pregnancy, she would have chosen to terminate.

Levine’s story highlights how critical it is to have access to safe and legal abortion services, after it was reported that in the coming months a new bill which will make it illegal for doctors to terminate pregnancies where the foetus has been diagnosed with down syndrome is expected to be passed in Ohio.

If the bill is passed, the state – which already has some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the United States – will send a troubling message to prospective mothers by suggesting that some reasons for termination are more valid than others.

down syndrome abortion law
Hallie and Johanna. Image via Twitter.

People with down syndrome are undoubtedly much valued and loved members of our community. However positive diagnosis in a fetus should not mean that a woman who would otherwise choose to terminate should be forced to carry the child to term.

This bill isn't about protecting people with down syndrome - it's about making access to termination even more difficult for American women.

In an essay published by Yahoo, Levine wrote that she found the proposed bill "absolutely appalling."

When Levine was pregnant with Johanna, she requested an amniocentesis but was talked out of the procedure by her physician, who told her that the blood-screening tests she had had where sufficient and boasted a 90% detection rate for genetic abnormalities.

She says she spent the pregnancy - her first - anxious and on edge. After her daughter was born, it appeared her fears had been warranted.

"My daughter arrived a month early, with a shock of dark hair, a huge, lusty cry - and a diagnosis of Down Syndrome," she writes.

"My daughter arrived a month early, with a shock of dark hair, a huge, lusty cry - and a diagnosis of Down Syndrome."

Following the birth, Johanna was rushed to surgery for an intestinal obstruction and Levine was also told that doctors suspected her baby daughter had a heart defect.

Now seven, Johanna is the centre of her mother's world.

But while she loves her life as the mother of a child with down syndrome, her story is not one she would like to see forced on unwilling mothers.

In her essay, Levine states that if she had known her daughter would be born with down syndrome, she would have terminated the pregnancy.


"Today, I am beyond grateful that I didn't. But I cannot ever in any circumstances imagine insisting others not have that right."

Read More: A story of a mother's love for her child with down syndrome.

If she had known that Johanna had down syndrome and been forced to continue with the pregnancy Levine - who suffered from post natal depression after Johanna was born - said that "it would have been a disaster."

"If I had had a prenatal diagnosis, but I had been forced to continue the pregnancy like the Ohio legislators want, it would have been a disaster."

Levine is pro-choice.

Reproductive services that are free from bias and discrimination will allow women control over their fertility and allow them to choose when - and if - they will have a child.

Read More: Don't turn my baby tragedy into an anti-abortion law.

Women in the United States have a constitutional right to safe terminations as a result of the landmark case Roe v Wade, but this access has been slowly eroded over time.

Across the United States, a number of abortion services have been defunded making access - albeit legal - virtually non-existent.

Bills such as Ohio's send a dangerous message to prospective women by implying that their reasons for termination aren't valid.

Roe v Wade gave women in the US a constitutional right to access abortions. Image via iStock.

In the highly politicised world of reproductive law, it's easy for politicians to turn a contentious moral issue into a political battle ground. But it's not fair  to place considerations on when a woman is allowed to terminate.

By suggesting a foetus is capable of being discriminated against, as Republican Sarah LaTourette told the Huffington Post, fails to recognise the myriad of reasons that women often choose to terminate.

But there are a number of reasons why women choose to end their pregnancies - and none are more valid than the other.

We don't have to agree with the choices women make for themselves - but we do have to respect their ability, and their right, to make them.

What do you think about women's access to abortion? 

Tags: wellbeing , health , pregnancy
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