Rachel Redmond had wanted to be a mother for a long time, ever since she was a little girl.
When she and her husband decided to have a child, Redmond became pregnant quickly.
“Everything was going according to plan, all of my early ultrasounds were perfect,” she said.
Redmond experienced some nausea, but even that discomfort was a thrill. She was just “so happy to be pregnant.”
At 19 weeks pregnant, Redmond went to the doctor for a routine 20-week anatomy scan. She went a little early, since her 20-week mark fell over the Labor Day holiday.
“We had several hours of just being happy about our little baby boy,” said Redmond.
A name for the child, which she and her husband had been struggling to agree upon for weeks, just popped into her head: Emerson.
It was after those hours that her doctor called. There had been multiple anomalies in the ultrasound.
“It didn’t seem real,” Redmond said.
She tried to stay positive.
But after further testing, it was determined that their son had a rare condition called a Dandy-Walker malformation.
Scans showed such severe anomalies that he would never be able to feed himself, to walk, or to communicate in any way. The Redmonds' doctors also said their son might suffer from seizures, and that he would likely need several brain surgeries. Her child, Redmond said, would have had “no life.”
Redmond was presented with a number of options. She chose to have a procedure known as a dilation and evacuation, which is an extractive abortion procedure. The alternative was to induce labor and deliver a deceased baby, which Redmond said was “something I didn’t want in my memory.”
“It was the easiest and most difficult decision of my life. Because I knew what we had to do, as much as we wanted this baby,” Redmond said.
“I don’t regret my choice,” said Redmond, “but I am filled with every emotion.” One of those emotions is an intense need to tell her story. Right after she had her abortion, then-candidate Trump discussed late-term abortion, in graphic and misleading terms, on a debate stage. That event spurred Redmond to want “to tell the story of what it’s really like, for myself and other women.”
Redmond didn’t always have the understanding of the issue that she does now. “I remember years ago hearing the term 'late-term abortion,' and although I’ve always been pro-choice, I thought, that’s a weird term,” Redmond said. Even she had thought, when hearing about these procedures, “there’s something wrong with that.”
Part of what changed Redmond’s mind about late abortions was understanding that the 20-week mark, which many states use as a cut-off to determine whether or not an abortion is “late-term,” is when many women find out about severe fetal anomalies for the first time.
(Note: Michigan does not use 20 weeks as a cut-off point for considering an abortion “late-term.” Instead, Michigan uses the standard of “viability,” which is more variable. Late-term abortions are illegal in Michigan, except in extraordinary circumstances.)
Before the 20-week anatomy scan, there are a lot of unknowns. “Even my 15-week self,” Redmond said, “could not understand my 20-week self that chose to end the pregnancy.”
Redmond and her husband mourned baby Emerson. With the help of a funeral director, they received his cremated ashes. Earlier, during Redmond’s pregnancy, the couple had vacationed at a lake in Northern Michigan. Redmond and her husband returned to that same lake to spread her child’s ashes over the water.
Still, Redmond experiences waves of emotion. Shortly after her procedure, she drove past a group of anti-abortion activists. “I became so angry, I wanted to yell, I wanted to honk my horn,” Redmond said.
But instead, she pulled the car over.
“I said, 'Hi, my name is Rachel, I want to share my story, and I want to see where you have a place for me in your opinions and your mindset,'” Redmond said. She told them the story of Emerson.
Redmond was shocked at their reaction. “They offered me nothing but love and compassion,” she said. One protestor even gave her a hug through the car window. Even though Redmond is Jewish, she and the Christian protestors prayed together.
“It healed something in me,” Redmond said.
Redmond hopes that more people take the time to understand the real people behind this heated issue. “I just think that if people know the stories of what it’s really like to have to be faced with the choice to end a pregnancy, that maybe there will be more awareness around the issue and it won’t be thrown around so insensitively,” she said.
“I understand why women don’t talk about this,” Redmond added. In sharing her story, she wants to make space for more women to come forward.
Ultimately, Redmond does not regret her choice, even as she mourns her loss. “To me,” she said, “I chose my own suffering over the suffering of my child, and I think that is what a mother does.”
Listen to Stateside's interview with Rachel Redmond above.