Pop Culture

Celebrities and lawmakers share stories of their ‘abortions’ that weren’t actually abortions

Abortion stories from celebrities have been resurfacing or coming to light since the Supreme Court took the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in 2021. As these women share stories of abortion, often out of a desire to advocate for abortion access, several of them have something interesting in common — their experiences aren’t legally considered abortions.

Medically speaking, a miscarriage is referred to as a “spontaneous” abortion. But legally, an abortion is a procedure or drug used with the intent to kill the developing human being. What this ultimately means is that legally speaking, abortion does not include surgery for ectopic pregnancy or the removal of a miscarried, deceased baby who is still in the womb, or the preterm delivery of a child to save the mother’s life. It also does not include an emergency C-section to save the mother’s life, or a preterm delivery due to a condition such as a so-called “incompetent cervix.”

In none of these situations is it the doctor’s or parents’ intent to kill the baby; every pro-life law makes note of this difference. Yet so many women are completely unaware of this, thanks to lack of proper coverage of these laws by major media outlets.

Here is a short list of well-known individuals who believe they had abortions… but actually didn’t.

Halsey

Halsey

US singer Halsey performs during the Nobel Peace Prize concert on December 11, 2016 in Oslo, Norway. (TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Singer Halsey has been outspoken about her three miscarriages, and recently wrote about one of those miscarriages in a July 1 essay for Vogue. “One of my miscarriages required ‘aftercare,’ a gentle way of saying that I would need an abortion,” she said, “because my body could not terminate the pregnancy completely on its own and I would risk going into sepsis without medical intervention.”

She added, “I was desperate to end the pregnancy that was threatening my life.”

She’s correct in that she needed medical intervention because she would have been at risk for infection from the incomplete miscarriage — however, the procedure Halsey underwent is not legally considered an abortion. Halsey’s baby had already died.

Legally speaking, pro-life laws restrict and ban procedures that intentionally cause the death of a preborn child. Treatments for miscarriage do not carry this intent and, therefore, are not banned by a single pro-life law. Halsey did not have an abortion.

Hilarie Burton

Another recent abortion-that-isn’t-an-abortion story was made public last Tuesday by actress Hilarie Burton Morgan. Burton wholeheartedly seems to believe she had an abortion, and medically speaking her pregnancy came to an end with a D&C surgery. While a D&C procedure can also be utilized to deliberately end the life of a child in an abortion, it is used in a miscarriage to remove the remainder of the products of conception along with a miscarried child’s remains.

Alongside a picture of her daughter, Burton wrote, “This is my child. My beloved. My daughter. It is no secret I struggled with infertility. Losing multiple pregnancies before her was traumatic. But female bodies are all different and unpredictable. Having an abortion after my fetus died allowed for my uterus to heal in a way that made it healthy enough to carry future pregnancies. It doesn’t matter if you use the term D&C. The official word on the hospital paperwork is abortion. That’s what it was.”

Except it wasn’t — not legally. Burton’s child had already died in a miscarriage before she had the D&C, and therefore, she did not have an abortion. Surgery or treatment for a miscarriage is not an abortion.

Every pro-life law currently in place (see here) specifically states that by outlawing abortion, it is not outlawing miscarriage treatment. For example, Alabama’s law states that an abortion does not include an act or means “to remove a dead unborn child.” Arizona’s law states that abortion does not include “any means… to remove a dead fetus.” Arkansas’ law states that an act shall not be considered an abortion if it is carried out to “remove a dead unborn child caused by a spontaneous abortion” (miscarriage). The list goes on.

It is heartbreaking to know that Burton believes what she underwent was an abortion, when she didn’t — and that she isn’t the only woman who believes this.

Milla Jovovich

abortion

Milla Jovovich Instagram

Actress Milla Jovovich revealed her own heartbreaking story of child loss in 2019, when she shared her personal story. She said that while shooting a film in Eastern Europe in 2017, she was four and half months pregnant, but tragically, she went into labor.

“I went into preterm labor and [was] told that I had to be awake for the whole procedure,” she said on Instagram. “It was one of the most horrific experiences I have ever gone through. I still have nightmares about it. I was alone and helpless. When I think about the fact that women might have to face abortions in even worse conditions than I did because of new laws, my stomach turns.”

After the loss of her child, she said she “spiraled into one of the worst depressions of my life.” She worked hard to climb out of that and called abortion “a nightmare at its best” that “no woman wants to go through.”

But like, Burton and Halsey, Jovovich did not have an abortion as far as the law is concerned. She went into preterm labor, which sadly, can’t always be stopped. Her baby was too young to survive at just about 18 weeks. But Jovovich did not go to an abortionist with the intent of paying him to kill her child. Preterm labor is not an abortion.

Debbie Reynolds

(AUSTRALIA OUT) American actress Debbie Reynolds in Melbourne on Wednesday 26 July. She is here to promote her new all singing, all dancing show. 26 July 2006. THE AGE NEWS Picture by JOHN WOUDSTRA. (Photo by Fairfax Media via Getty Images/Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images)

The late actress Debbie Reynolds shared her tragic story in 1989, but it recently made headlines again.

“I had Carrie and Todd [Fisher] and I wanted to have two other children. I got pregnant, I was very lucky, in that sense, right away,” she told Joan Rivers of growing her family with husband Eddie Fisher. “I was pregnant seven months and the baby died inside of me but I didn’t know it. It just sorta shrunk down a little bit.”

She continued, “And in those days, there were no abortions allowed, whether you were ill, whether you were raped, whether the child died, which is disgusting to think there [are] those laws.”

She said she was told she had to carry the baby to full-term and that the baby “had to abort itself.” But doctors were then “forced” to do the procedure because her life was at risk, said People.

“They couldn’t leave it anymore because now the child is in the sac but, of course, finally after so much time, all the poisons and everything would have killed me,” she explained, adding, “They finally agreed they would try to take this child out. At this point now, it was more dangerous than ever.” When her next pregnancy also ended in miscarriage, she insisted that doctors not force her to continue to carry the baby until her body naturally expelled the child’s remains.

Today, doctors usually give women the choice of waiting to see if their body naturally completes the miscarriage or if they want to have labor induced. There are risks involved with both, but no doctor should force a woman to continue to carry a baby who has died. The current laws post-Roe all allow for such procedures because the child is already deceased.

Debbie Reynolds did not have an abortion. No one intentionally caused the deaths of her children.

Rep. Lucy McBath

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 24: Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), whose son was killed by gun violence, speaks during an event before voting on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in front of the House of Representatives on June 24, 2022…. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

During a U.S. House judiciary committee hearing in May, Rep. Lucy McBath shared a pregnancy loss story. She had already endured one miscarriage when she became pregnant with a second child, whom she lost at four months.

“I learned I had suffered a fetal demise or a stillbirth. For two weeks, I carried my dead fetus and waited for me to go into labour… for two weeks, I carried a lost pregnancy and the torment that comes with it,” she said. “I never went into labour on my own. When my doctor finally induced me, I faced the pain of labor without hope for a living child.”

She added, “So I ask, on behalf of these women: After which failed pregnancy should I have been imprisoned? Would it have been after the first miscarriage, after doctors used what would be an illegal drug to abort the lost fetus? Would you have put me in jail after the second miscarriage?

“I ask because the same medicines used to treat my failed pregnancies are the same medicines states like Texas would make illegal,” she said. Yet pro-life laws do not make certain drugs or procedures illegal — the intent to use such drugs or procedures to intentionally kill a preborn child is what is illegal.

There are many medications in existence that could kill a person if used unethically or in an illegal manner — but the medication itself is not illegal. Likewise, surgical tools could be used to kill someone, but used in the right manner, they help doctors to save lives. The same is true for the instruments and drugs that many abortionists use to kill. It is not the instruments and drugs that are illegal, but the act of murder.

Rep. Jackie Speier

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 08: Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) speaks during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on gun violence on June 8, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images)

Tragedy struck Rep. Jackie Speier when she was 17 weeks pregnant. She shared the story on the House floor as she threw her support behind legalized abortion. But her tragedy does not appear to have been an abortion.

“I had a procedure at 17 weeks pregnant with a child who moved from the vagina into the cervix. I lost the baby,” she continued. “And for you to stand on this floor and suggest that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought, is preposterous.”

In a piece for Elle, she wrote, “I was 40 years old when I had my abortion at 17 weeks. The fetus had slipped through the cervix into the vagina. They put me upside down in a hospital bed, trying to have the fetus return to the uterus, and it just wasn’t happening. So I decided that it was time to have the abortion. The majority of women who have abortions are mothers. I was a mother. I wanted that baby, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

Again, preterm labor is not an abortion — it’s a miscarriage. Speier tragically lost her baby. She didn’t go to an abortion facility to have a doctor kill her child through an abortion. Pro-life laws are clear and future laws should be clear that what is banned is the use of instruments or drugs to intentionally kill a living, preborn child prior to delivery.

But Speier is wrong that women don’t undergo abortions “cavalierly” or “without any thought,” as the majority of abortions are completely elective — and many women “shout” their abortion with joy, and call it “freedom.”

As more states move to create pro-life laws, legislators must be aware that such situations are not unethical “abortions” that pro-lifers are working to restrict, but tragedies that medicine could not prevent.

Outlawing any of the treatments these women received would be a grave mistake. Currently, all pro-life laws are clear that these are not abortions, and every law restricting or banning abortion should be as clear on that as possible.

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