Kailee DeSpain, 29, once described herself as “your quintessential pro-life Texan.” Six years ago, when she had a miscarriage at 16 weeks that came with life-threatening health complications due to her blood-clotting disorders, she changed her stance on abortion.
Last November, she became pregnant and found herself in another very high-risk situation, three months in: The fetus had severe genetic heart and brain defects that made it unlikely to survive after birth, and doctors told DeSpain she was “at high risk for severe pregnancy complications, including blood clots, preeclampsia and cancer,” CNN reports. But her physician said she couldn’t get an abortion in Texas, because it had just become illegal.
“I’ve never felt more betrayed by a place I was once so proud to be from,” DeSpain said in an interview with the network.
She and her husband, Cade, had to drive 10 hours to New Mexico to find safe and legal abortion access. The procedure and travel cost $3500, she told CNN, and her insurance company declined to pay for it because Texas severely limits the insurance coverage of abortion, even in severe and life-threatening circumstances.
While Texas law does permit exceptions for abortion in cases where the mother could die, doctors and legal experts say the law is so unclear as to have a chilling effect on medical provision. As Jezebel reported in July, Texas went so far as to sue the Biden administration over the president’s guidance informing doctors of their obligation to provide abortion care in emergency medical situations. The message from the state is clear: Fetuses take legal precedence over the people carrying them.
DeSpain told CNN that her doctor warned her while she was trying to get pregnant that she was taking a huge risk in the Lone Star state. “She said ‘this is not safe,’” Kailee recalled in the interview. “She said, ‘I need you to look at me. I need you to understand that if you get pregnant in Texas and that if you have complications, that I cannot intervene until I can prove that you’re going to die.’”
Now, DeSpain finds herself supporting and advocating for the abortion rights she once found morally problematic. “How could you be so cruel as to pass a law that you know will hurt women and that you know will cause babies to be born in pain?” she said. “How is that humane? How is that saving anybody?”
This story has been updated to more accurately reflect the timeline in which DeSpain became supportive of abortion rights.