Her fetus had a fatal birth defect. She had to fly out of Florida for an abortion

On Monday, February 6, 2023 Congresswomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz comforts Anabely Lopes, a Florida resident who had to leave the state for an abortion. Lopes will be her guest at President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday.

Anabely Lopes wanted a child more than anything, so the 44-year-old was ecstatic when she became pregnant last year — and then devastated when doctors said her unborn child had a fatal abnormality.

After a painful discussion with her husband and her doctors, Lopes decided to get an abortion. But she says undergoing the procedure in Florida proved to be complicated: A new law restricting abortion access had gone into effect days earlier, and Lopes soon found herself on a plane, leaving South Florida to get an abortion at a clinic in Washington.

On Tuesday, Lopes will return to Washington, this time accompanying U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address to spotlight the problems abortion-rights activists say are occurring across the country as states pass more restrictive measures on procedures to terminate pregnancies.

“The state of Florida has put so many hurdles in the path of women to be able to address their unique, potentially dangerous healthcare situations, that it made it impossible for her to be able to do what was best for her own health” and for her baby, Wasserman Schultz said Monday during a news conference in Sunrise.

Many states have passed more restrictive abortion laws since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that made abortion a constitutional right in the U.S. The court’s new ruling gave each state more power to decide its own abortion policy, including outlawing the procedure.

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With opponents of abortion arguing that the procedure amounts to the murder of an unborn child, at least 12 states now have a total ban on abortion, according to Planned Parenthood, which sent a representative to Monday’s press conference. Some conservatives have discussed legislation to make it more difficult to have an out-of-state procedure, as well.

Florida’s current law banning most abortions after 15 weeks was passed prior to the Supreme Court’s momentous ruling. But the state could go further. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis indicated last week during a Tallahassee news conference on the proposed 2023-24 state budget that he would be supportive of signing stricter abortion restrictions.

A ‘Painful Decision’

At Monday’s news conference with Wasserman Schultz, Lopes explained that her pregnancy was considered high-risk due to her age, a previous miscarriage and her history of thrombosis.

Then, when she was 15 weeks pregnant, results from genetic testing confirmed what an earlier blood test had indicated: Her child had Trisomy 18, a genetic condition that affects how a child’s body develops and grows.

Her doctor explained that most babies diagnosed with the condition die before they are born or within 5 to 15 days after birth due to severe defects, said Lopes, who worked as a nurse for 14 years in Brazil. Within days, Lopes and her husband made a decision.

“We felt it was our duty to protect our daughter from neglectful suffering if she were to make it to term. We made the painful decision to end our very wanted pregnancy,” said a tearful Lopes, who said she is Catholic and was torn by the decision.

Lopes, however, says she found herself stonewalled by Florida’s newly passed abortion law, which went into effect on July 1.

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The law includes exceptions to save the woman’s life, prevent serious injury or if the baby has a “fatal fetal abnormality.” Two doctors are required to certify in writing that the abortion is medically needed.

But her doctors, Lopes said, were afraid to write the necessary letters. They submitted exam results and articles about Trisomy 18, she said, but did not write the letters confirming that she needed the abortion.

Instead of undergoing the procedure at a Tamarac clinic, Lopes traveled to Washington and underwent the procedure on July 16, at 16 weeks and 3 days pregnant.

It was a costly feat that not every woman in Florida can afford, said Wasserman Schultz, who accused Republicans of endangering women by restricting access to abortion.

“They have put doctors who are simply trying to take care of their patients and make sure they can give them the best possible healthcare, they put them and their licenses and their freedom — because it’s a criminal prosecution — at risk, and they have put women like Anabely at risk,” said Wasserman Schultz.