When the doctor walked in to tell Madison Underwood that her abortion had been cancelled, she was laying on the table getting an ultrasound. She was about 19 weeks pregnant at the time.
As the doctor bent over her shoulder to speak to her fiancé, Adam Queen, nurses followed behind and began cleaning away lukewarm ultrasound gel from her bare tummy. Meanwhile, the doctor was talking to her fiancé.
She remembered that she became silent, and that her body became still. What exactly did they mean when they said that they couldn’t carry out the abortion? They had found out only two weeks previously that her unborn child had a problem that would not enable it to live outside of the womb. Both her and her fiance were devastated by the news. Her physician had warned her that she ran the risk of developing a life-threatening illness or possibly passing away if she persisted in carrying the pregnancy to term. Now they were telling her that she couldn’t have the abortion that she didn’t really desire but desperately needed.
“Are they really going to let me pass away?” she recalls wondering.
She heard the doctor and the nurses talking about a clinic in Georgia that could conduct the surgery now because the legal dangers of executing it in Tennessee were at an unacceptable level. She was surrounded by a haze, but she heard them talking about it.
She overheard her fiance cussing and expressing his exasperation to the attending physician by telling him that this was an idiotic idea. She overheard the physician nod in agreement.
The decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion was made by the Supreme Court of the United States only three days earlier. A court ruling temporarily halted the implementation of a Tennessee legislation that was approved in 2020 and prohibited abortions after around six weeks of pregnancy. However, the statute might now be put into action.
Ms. Underwood had no idea that any of this would have such an impact on her. She was delighted to begin a family with Mr. Queen, who was 24, when she was 22 years old.
Before settling on the decision to end the pregnancy, she and Mr. Queen had gone back and forth over the matter for many days. The impending abortion filled her with dread. She had sobbed on the way to the clinic when they pulled up in the automobile. She was aware that the Supreme Court had decided to overturn Roe v. Wade, but she reasoned that she would still be able to have an abortion since she had already planned the operation before the decision was handed down and before any state prohibition went into force.
Although abortion is legal in Tennessee if a woman’s life is in danger, physicians were afraid to make such choices too quickly for fear of incurring criminal punishment. Because of the rapid pace at which the legal landscape was moving throughout the nation, several abortion clinics had to refuse service to patients either before the laws formally took effect or while legal fights were being fought in state courts.
When these prohibitions, some of which had been on the books for more than a century, were finally enforced, they were almost immediately challenged. As more women from states that had banned abortion looked for other options, the waiting periods at clinics in places where abortion was still allowed increased significantly.
Ms. Underwood, who was pregnant at the time, was sent home despite the fact that the situation was a complete mess. What would take place at this point? Although Georgia had a restriction that was about to go into effect, the doctor recommended that she travel to Georgia since abortions were still lawful up to 22 weeks into a pregnancy in that state.
How will her fiance be able to take the time off from work to go on the trip? Where would they get the money to pay for the hotel and the gas? How much time did she have left before she fell unwell herself? It dawned on her that there was an even more terrible possibility: what if she felt a kick?