For Michigan Senator Gary Peters, the battle over the morality of abortion access and later abortion is a deeply personal one. In an interview with Elle, Peters told the magazine that his first wife received a life-saving abortion four months into her pregnancy following a sudden complication.
His ex-wife Heidi’s water broke five months early, leaving the fetus without amniotic fluid. The fetus could not survive this way, and their doctor told the couple to go home and wait for a miscarriage. The miscarriage never came.
From Elle (emphasis ours):
They went back to the hospital the next day, and the doctor detected a faint heartbeat. He recommended an abortion, because the fetus still had no chance of survival, but it wasn’t an option due to a hospital policy banning the procedure. So he sent the couple again home to wait for a miscarriage. “The mental anguish someone goes through is intense,” Peters says, “trying to have a miscarriage for a child that was wanted.”
Meanwhile, Heidi’s condition worsened. She was in danger of sepsis for a uterine infection entirely if the fetus wasn’t removed. Despite their doctor appealing to the hospital’s board for an exception, the facility stood firm.
“I still vividly remember he left a message on the answering machine saying, ‘They refused to give me permission, not based on good medical practice, simply based on politics. I recommend you immediately find another physician who can do this procedure quickly,’” Peters recalls.
The Peters were able to get into another hospital right away because they were friends with its chief administrator. Heidi was rushed into an emergency abortion that saved her uterus and possibly her life. The whole experience was “painful and traumatic,” Heidi shared in a statement. “If it weren’t for urgent and critical medical care, I could have lost my life.”
They were lucky ones: The average American doesn’t have those kinds of lifesaving connections. It’s easy to imagine an alternative situation, in which a pained couple is up against the clock and out of options.
“It’s important for folks to understand that these things happen to folks every day,” Peters told Elle. “I’ve always considered myself pro-choice and believe women should be able to make these decisions themselves, but when you live it in real life, you realize the significant impact it can have on a family.”
While the Republican Party revels in describing later abortion as a barbaric act requested by callous women, reality begs to differ. But the party’s push to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, an anti-abortion conservative, to the Supreme Court could make that sentiment the law of the land. Peters expressed concern about the impact Barrett’s politics could have on reproductive rights if confirmed while his Senate race competitor, anti-abortion Republican John James, who compared abortion to “genocide” and said he will “never stop fighting until we end abortion.” James also doesn’t support abortion in cases of rape or incest.
But despite these extremist positions, according to polls, the army veteran and businessman is only trailing incumbent Peters by one percentage point. This, even as Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leads President Trump in the swing state.
Peters’s interview with Elle may not do much to move the needle, but at a time when Republican control in the Senate and a conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court could threaten abortion access for decades to come, Peters’s story emphasizes how important preserving Roe v. Wade and other abortion laws are—in many cases, it’s a matter of life or death.