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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

Jessa Duggar Seewald Had an Abortion, Even If She Won't Say the Word

Over the weekend, the evangelical Christian disclosed that her latest pregnancy ended in a D&C, which she and several media outlets framed as a miscarriage.

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Jessa Duggar Seewald, wearing a olive green shirt, speaks to the camera in a YouTube video.
Screenshot: YouTube (Other)

Over the weekend, Jessa Duggar Seewald uploaded a heartbreaking 18-minute vlog to YouTube in which the former 19 Kids And Counting star tells her kids she’s pregnant. But at 11 weeks, Duggar Seewald makes a confession to a front-facing camera: She’s had some spotting.

“It does seem a bit concerning,” Duggar Seewald said.

They scheduled an ultrasound for the next day. Once at the appointment, after taking the images, someone told them the amniotic “sac looks good, the baby does not.” Her child, with husband Ben Seewald, would not survive.

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“Nothing could have prepared me for the weight of those words in that moment. I had really allowed myself to become so hopeful in that moment because the spotting had stopped. At that moment I was just in complete shock,” she said. “I didn’t even have words. I just immediately started crying.”

Duggar Seewald would need an abortion.

Except, she doesn’t call it that in the video; instead, the mother of four would possibly “take something” or “pass the baby at home.” But because of her history of hemorrhaging, the doctor was concerned about self-managing the abortion at home. (And because abortion is banned in Arkansas, where she lives, except to save the pregnant person’s life.)

“We decided to go the hospital, get checked in there and go through the process of a D&C,” she said, better known as dilation and curettage. “It was a difficult experience.”

People magazine and other outlets accepted Duggar’s framing of the experience as a “miscarriage”—which would be fine, except that an anti-abortion celebrity literally having an abortion is probably something that’s worth discussing honestly. It’s commendable that Duggar Seewald is sharing her experience of a procedural abortion. She rose to fame—along with her family—on the backs of reality shows promoting evangelical Christianity and its politics. Duggar Seewald’s story is proof that abortion treatment is needed and wanted by even the most anti-abortion among us.

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This has not stopped anti-abortion groups from trying to distinguish miscarriage treatment from an abortion. An abortion is the act of ending a pregnancy, whether by medication or by procedure. An abortion is how a miscarriage is treated, to make sure a patient’s uterus is completely evacuated, that way no further complications (like sepsis!) ensue. Abortion is a medical treatment, and when you outlaw it, you threaten people’s lives.

Louisiana Right for Life, for instance, says the state’s extremely strict abortion ban does allow for a miscarriage exception. However, doctors are failing to treat pregnant patients for miscarriage because they worry about the similarity to abortion—since they often are the same. “It was just a gross misunderstanding of the law from the practitioners handling the case, unfortunately,” Sarah Zagorski from LRL told the Guardian.

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It sounds like Duggar Seewald went through hell when she talks about her conversations with God after she found out her pregnancy was ending. She talks about self-blame a lot. Was her painting project before the positive test to blame? Was it because she didn’t take her prenatals faithfully because she was so nauseous? She described feeling “hallow” and “alone” after.

“I feel like in some ways miscarriages can be so much more jarring, because you don’t have clear signs of something going wrong,” she said. “I mean, I had minimal spotting for 24 hours, and that was it.”

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I hope Duggar Seewald finds support and solace for her abortion story. I hope she also realizes the family of abortion-havers she’s joining, including those who believe in a higher power, too.