A Kentucky woman who was told to carry a fetus “without a brain” for 18 weeks has criticized the state’s male-dominated legislature as being out of touch.
The fetus was diagnosed with anencephaly, a condition in which the brain and parts of the skull do not form properly and causes death at birth or the first few days of life.
Heather Maberry, 32, said lawmakers behind the abortion ban – one of the most restrictive in the country – simply “don’t know what it feels like” to hear the worst news an expectant mother could face.
“They will never have to carry a child. They will never have to be in that position,” she said. “They’ll never be the one who carried that baby and went through hell.”
Ms. Maberry — who used to be anti-abortion — was forced to travel 300 miles out of state to Chicago for $7,000 after being told her baby, whom she named Willow, was not viable and brainless.
Heather Maberry, 32, was told her daughter Willow was not viable because she had anencephaly, where the brain was unable to develop properly
She chose to terminate the pregnancy rather than carry the baby for another 18 weeks, after which the child (pictured) would die, but was told to leave the state for the procedure
Mrs. Maberry explained ABC news that before the experience she did not believe in abortion for herself, but was not against others having abortions.
She told a local paper: “They (the legislators) don’t know what it feels like to carry a child, have someone tell you the most devastating news of your life, and then say I can’t even hold her.”
“They stole that from me.”
Kentucky was the first state to make abortion virtually impossible in April last year, forcing all clinics to close.
The state legislature — where 107 of its 138 members are men — has enacted a law banning all terminations after 15 weeks, but also has tough requirements on clinics — such as issuing birth and death certificates — enforcing their closure.
There is a loophole that allows abortions in cases where there is no fetal heartbeat after six weeks, but doctors said this would not help Ms. Maberry as her non-viable baby still had a heartbeat. Nearly half of US states have implemented abortion restrictions since Roe v. Wade was overturned last June.
In Mrs. Maberry’s case, she was excited to try for another child with husband Nick after she tied the knot last year.
She first became pregnant in October 2022, but suffered a miscarriage before finding out she was pregnant again just two days before Christmas.
“We were super excited,” she said, “but we were also really nervous because we’d just lost a baby.” So we just kept trying to take care of me the best we could.”
The pregnancy was complicated, with Ms. Maberry developing hyperemesis gravidarum – a severe form of nausea and vomiting – in the early stages.
She was given medication to relieve this and they then discovered she was pregnant with her fourth girl, whom they named Willow.
However, it was shortly after that that doctors diagnosed her daughter with anencephaly, a serious condition in which large areas of the brain and skull have failed to develop.
It’s caused by the neural tube — the precursor to the brain and spinal cord — not closing properly about 23 to 26 days after fertilization. Estimates suggest that about one in 4,600 babies in the United States has the condition.
Dr. Sadia Haider, an obstetrician at Rush University Medical Center, said, “In this scenario, whether there is a heartbeat or not is irrelevant.
“Anencephaly basically means there is no brain, just as there is no neurological development, which is essential for survival.”
She said the fetus would die during birth or shortly after delivery.
The fetus was diagnosed with anencephaly, a condition in which the brain and parts of the skull don’t form properly — and it causes death at birth or the first few days of life
Mrs. Maberry is pictured above with her husband Nick. She was excited to have another child with him
When she was told the terrible news, Ms Maberry said it felt like she was experiencing the ‘worst nightmare a mother can imagine’.
After talking with her husband, she said she just wanted the chance to kiss her daughter on the forehead and bury her peacefully.
But because of Kentucky laws, doctors said she would have to carry the fetus to full term unless she leaves the state for an abortion.
“The only option I had here was to wear her for another 17 or 18 weeks with the same result,” she said.
“I said, ‘I can’t keep carrying her physically and mentally, knowing she’s never going to breathe, we’re never going to have a life with her.’
“So we came to the decision that we were going to try an abortion.”
She was connected to the National Abortion Hotline, which referred her to a clinic in Chicago for the procedure.
She was paid $3,300 for the termination, but she would also have to cover the costs of flights for herself and her husband, food and accommodation.
This is when the hotline stepped in to help offset the costs, which Ms. Maberry says could have easily exceeded $7,000 without them.
Describing her stance on abortion now, she said: ‘There is so much involved when choosing to go through with the pregnancy, choose to go through the labor as far as physical, emotional and otherwise.
“Letting patients choose how long to keep this up — given the negative outcome they face — is very important.”