Tennessee woman denied abortion after fetus’ ‘brain not attached’ slams ban

Tennessee woman denied abortion after fetus’ ‘brain not attached’ slams ban

A Tennessee woman who was denied an abortion despite a severe abnormality that meant her fetus would die during the pregnancy says the state’s anti-abortion laws resulted in her losing an ovary, a fallopian tube, and her hopes for a large family.

“The state of Tennessee took my fertility from me,” Breanna Cecil, 34, told The Independent. State lawmakers “took away my opportunity to have a family like my own biological family because of these horrible laws that they put in place.”

The mother-of-one said she has never felt the same since she was told by her doctor in January 2023 that her fetus was diagnosed with acrania, a fatal condition in which the fetus has no skull bones.

Then 12 weeks pregnant, Ms Cecil was getting her first ultrasound. She attended the appointment alone, so when the doctor told her that the fetus was not viable outside of the womb, she steeled herself and asked the doctor what she should do.

Except the state’s near-total abortion ban prevents anyone from getting the procedure if there is still a heartbeat. Her fetus still had a heartbeat.

The law makes no specific exceptions for fatal fetal conditions and also criminalizes physicians who perform the procedure outside of the allowed exceptions, meaning no Tennessee doctor could legally give her an abortion despite it being clear her fetus could not survive.

Ms Cecil recalled the doctor not knowing how to advise her given the circumstances. “That’s something that no one should ever hear,” she noted.

The doctor did, however, set her up with a specialist, where another ultrasound was conducted. That scan was more difficult, she says, because the severity of the fetus’ condition. “I could see the brain not attached,” Ms Cecil said.

The only advice doctors could give her was that their dearly wished for second child would “most likely die inside of me before 20 weeks,” and that she would be forced to deliver a stillborn.

This was heartbreaking for more reasons than the obvious; Ms Cecil said her pregnancy was starting to show. Not only could she not “mentally handle” the well-intentioned questions about the baby’s due date and sex, Ms Cecil said she decided she could not be a “good mom to [her] little boy” if she was forced to go through with her pregnancy, and deliver the stillborn.

She decided to get an abortion.

Breanna Cecil and her husband in 2021 (Handout)

After “sobbing to receptionists” over the phone at roughly 20 clinics and hospitals, trying to get the next available appointment, she finally had success: a hospital in Chicago had an opening. On 3 February, doctors performed a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure.

Just six days after returning back to Tennessee, thinking the worst was behind her, Ms Cecil started experiencing a fever and back pain. Her doctor gave her antibiotics, but something still wasn’t right.

She went back for another ultrasound and the physician found retained tissue leftover from the fetus, which can have very serious consequences. Doctors performed another D&C on Ms Cecil on 17 February.

But the fever persisted. Two days later, she returned to the hospital, where doctors discovered she had a nine-centimeter-sized abscess in her abdomen that encompassed some of her reproductive anatomy.

Doctors had to perform emergency surgery on her, and removed her right ovary and fallopian tube.

Ms Cecil returned home after a grueling 10 days in the hospital.

They had spent nearly a year trying to conceive that pregnancy. “Fertility and infertility is really hard to go through in itself,” Ms Cecil said, noting that the couple thought they’d finally gotten through the difficult stage. So when she found out her baby wasn’t going to survive, she blamed herself, asking the nurses: “Did I do something wrong?”

Since her third D&C, she and her husband have not been able to become pregnant. Ms Cecil doesn’t think it’s a coincidence. She wonder, if she had been able to get immediate abortion care in Tennessee, would she still have her fertility?

“Right now I feel like they took that away from me,” the 34-year-old said, referring to Tennessee lawmakers.

When asked what she would say to Tennessee legislators if she had the chance, Ms Cecil said she wanted to make clear that “abortion is not black and white,” explaining that so much of it is in the gray area on a case-by-case basis.

Like Texas woman Kate Cox, who was also denied the procedure in her home state, Ms Cecil wants a large family; neither woman falls within the stereotype that many on the right are portraying as abortion candidates.

The young mother added that pregnant people who need an abortion shouldn’t feel like they need to beg lawmakers for permissions when they do not have medical backgrounds and have no idea how the patient will be impacted.

Particularly, Ms Cecil noted, that often women in these situation are “deciding if we want our child to suffer” after being born, or are “waiting until they die inside of us.”

She said she still doesn’t feel normal, even more than a year after the pregnancy. Physically, she has a scar that stretches from her belly button down to her pelvic bone that has caused her fat to become displaced. Emotionally, she said, “I think about that baby all the time.”

While she and her husband have been trying for another baby, she often breaks down and thinks, “I just want that baby. Why didn’t that work out?”

Ms Cecil contemplated joining a group of women, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), who were denied abortions and are now fighting the state’s prohibition of the procedure, asking for “clarity” on the ban’s medical exceptions.

The state of Tennessee took my fertility from me

Breanna Cecil

But she decided not to become a plaintiff in the case because she feared others’ opinions of her actions.

On 4 April, a three-judge panel listened to oral arguments from lawyers from CRR and the state about a temporary block of the abortion ban. CRR’s attorneys mentioned a series of heartbreaking stories from the plaintiff — as well as a woman whose baby was diagnosed with acrania.

They were referring to Ms Cecil.

The three-judge panel has not yet ruled on the temporary injunction. It is one of 14 states that has made abortion illegal since the fall of Roe v Wade in June 2022.

After hearing the oral arguments, Ms Cecil decided she wants to join the case. “If someone doesn’t ever want to hire me again because of what happened to me, I just don’t care. I’m not gonna let that bother me anymore,” she said.

She’s lived in Tennessee since she was seven years old. Although she said she is tempted to move out of the state, especially if she gets pregnant again, she refuses to let the anti-abortion bullies force her away from her home.

“I can’t back down and let them win this battle,” Ms Cecil said.

Source: independent.co.uk