This mother in Texas wanted another child. She was thrilled when she learned she was pregnant. But then the doctor told her that the ultrasound revealed a terrible genetic condition in her fetus. It might die in utero or a few days after birth. What should she do? Should she seek an abortion or let the baby die in utero or die a painful death?

Last year, Farrah Day tried for months to get pregnant with her second child. The 32-year-old San Antonio–area mother hoped to finish building her family in her early 30s, while she was still relatively young. Doing so would allow her to commit fully to attending medical school, building upon her experience working as a medical researcher.

After going through “so many pregnancy tests that I lost count,” Day and her fiancé finally learned in the summer of 2021 that she was expecting. They were thrilled, but hesitantly so. The last time Day had tried to have a child, she’d had a miscarriage; for the first couple of months of this pregnancy, the fear of losing another child lingered.

But by the time she arrived at her doctor’s office for a routine ultrasound at thirteen weeks, Day was feeling healthy and optimistic. She’d announced her pregnancy on Facebook and had begun designing a nursery in the family’s new home. “We were so excited,” Day said. “As someone who reads medical literature, I knew my odds of having complications after twelve weeks were about five percent.”

Her excitement ended during that ultrasound visit. Day recalls the moment when her normally talkative ob-gyn went silent, a look of concern appearing on her face. Within hours, Day was sitting in front of a maternal-fetal specialist trying to wrap her head around devastating news: her unborn baby was suffering from a particularly severe case of hydrops fetalis, a rare condition that causes abnormal amounts of fluid to build up inside a fetus, which can lead to extensive damage of its internal organs.

Should she decide to continue her pregnancy for another six months, the specialist told Day, she would most likely give birth to a stillborn baby. If the baby didn’t die in utero, he said, it was unlikely to live more than a few days outside the womb. She was told that continuing to term could also put Day at risk for developing mirror syndrome (also known as Ballantyne syndrome or triple edema), a condition associated with hydrops in which an expectant mother develops severe swelling and potentially life-threatening hypertension. “I’d never heard of hydrops,” Day said. “When I found out, I couldn’t quite believe that, against all odds, this terrible thing still managed to happen….”

Because she was nearly two months beyond the deadline for accessing legal abortion care in Texas, Day decided her best option was for her and her fiancé to split the driving on the twelve-hour trip from Central Texas to a clinic in Albuquerque. She felt there was no time to spare. The longer she waited, the more expensive, and potentially complicated, the procedure would be. Though abortions conducted after the first trimester are still considered overwhelmingly low-risk, the skill required to perform the procedure increases as pregnancy advances, which partly explainsincreases in cost…

Once arrangements were in place, Day and her fiancé packed into her Jeep and headed west, driving twelve hours overnight, stopping only at convenience stores for food and gas….

After her abortion, the couple planned to race home, but Day began hemorrhaging, a rare and potentially serious complication. Feeling weak, and worried that the bleeding might intensify, the couple lingered at a gas station in Roswell for several hours; otherwise, they risked being caught in the desert without close access to medical care. Looking back, Day fears that her condition was a prelude of tragedies to come. “We were afraid to leave Roswell,” she said. “There’s a real chance that women returning to Texas who experience a medical complication could bleed out in the desert on their way home.”

Nine months later, the grief remains. But Day has no regrets about her decision. She keeps her baby’s ashes and his blanket in a closet at home— one she refers to as the “no-open closet.” It’s still too early, she said. But in the wake of Roe v. Wade having been overturned by the Supreme Court on June 24, she said, some of her grief has turned into rage…

With abortion in Texas now effectively illegal in almost all circumstances, Day knows that even more expectant mothers with unexpected complications during their pregnancies will find themselves in the same position she was in. They’ll be forced to choose between upending their lives to receive a costly abortion somewhere far away and remaining in a state that forces their unborn child to suffer and places their own health—and the family members who rely on them—at risk.

Day is infuriated by the narratives from conservative Texas politicians, in particular, that have long suggested that women approach abortions later in pregnancy casually—a conceit that deliberately strips reproductive choices of the heart-wrenching complexity they so often involve, and which, she believes, made it easier for anti-abortion advocates to demonize the procedure. (According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 percent of abortions were performed at or later than 21 weeks’ gestation in 2019.) Day’s frustration about how abortion is debated partly explains why she’s decided to allow her story to be made public. “Most people don’t know a woman that has gone through an experience like mine,” she said. “I’m happy to be the person that helps people understand how these laws will affect the women you do know.”