Rev. Dr. Amy Butler is the 7th Senior Minister at the Riverside Church in New York City. She is the first female to hold this position since the church opened its doors in 1930.
Butler had a late-term abortion. After being brought to tears while listening to Donald Trump speak about babies being “ripped from their mothers’ wombs,” she decided she needed to speak out about her experience.
Butler says that Trump’s harsh and untrue words made late-term abortions sound as if “ending a pregnancy was a reckless, irresponsible afterthought, my outrage poured down my face in angry tears.” Butler said. “In those moments, Trump, who has never been pregnant and presumably has navigated this far in his life without undertaking any difficult, gut-wrenching, gray-area decisions, used my own pain, deep, deep pain to advance his political agenda.”
As Trump’s words played over and over again in her mind, Butler grew even angrier. To deal with her anger she made the difficult decision to share her story. She wanted to show that what Trump was saying about late-term abortions was completely false and painfully insulting to those who have suffered through one.
It wasn’t easy for her to sit down and write her story. She had never written about it before and even though it brought back a lot of pain it is something she knew she had to do.
“The late-term abortion I chose was the end of a dream. The pain was so real and so consuming that navigating my way through the grief, I never thought that I would have a happy, healthy family that I do today. It was one of the most agonizing experiences of my life and a true lesson in the reality that life is not always as clear-cut and obvious as you might think it is,” Butler shares.
“When my oldest son was a little over a year old, my husband and I got the news that I was pregnant with a second child, a girl. Chasing a toddler while juggling a job and all-day sickness was no picnic, but I was excited about the new addition to our family. As is the case with not-first pregnancies, I handled most of the doctor’s appointments on my own — I knew the drill. Everything seemed to be going well; the baby was active and present in family conversations, her big brother slowly acquiring the language of siblinghood, the lively discussion of her name a frequent topic,” Butler adds.
Everything seemed to be proceeding as it should and the Butler’s were anxious for their new addition to arrive. Sadly, one doctor’s visit toward the end of her pregnancy shattered their dream.
“The doctor looked and looked at the sonogram images, was silent for too long, then told me to hang on — she’d be right back. The moments that followed were filled with one doctor after another entering the exam room, looking at the sonogram screen, then retiring to the hallway and whispered conversation with my doctor. I kept asking what was going on, but nobody would tell me anything. As I sat there in the cold company of beeping monitors, my heart beat so fast and I felt so afraid,” Butler wrote.
After some time had passed all of the doctors returned to her room together and gave her news that shattered her heart.
“They stood around the bed, and told me that my baby was severely developmentally compromised; that she would die at birth, if not before, after a very short, excruciatingly painful few minutes of life; and that continuing the pregnancy to full term would be very dangerous for me.”
The doctors explained to her that the decision was hers, but she needed to decide quickly if she was going to terminate the pregnancy and deliver the baby now or if she was going to wait.
“I went home that night and cried like I did for months and months after that day, but I never had a second thought about the right thing to do,” Butler shares. “For me, it was important that the baby does not experience pain, and that we have a little ability to say our goodbyes in as safe and loving way as we could. It never even occurred to me that someone else — the government? — would have anything at all to say about my own gut-wrenching grief. I didn’t know how we’d survive the loss, but I did know the right course of action for me, my baby and my family. And the ability to move through that goodbye as a full participant was an important part of just surviving during an inconsolable time,”
Butler directly addresses Trump in her story with anger and directness.
“So, Mr. Trump, when you denigrated my experience with your political strategy, I was angry. I take issue with your characterization of my grief as a clear-cut morality test. The words you chose to use did not in any way reflect my experience of a terrible rending the day my heart broke,” Butler wrote.
“I wish I never had to live through the loss of my child, but I am forever grateful for my personal decision being just that: mine. I had a choice, and I chose to make the hardest decision and carry the pain of that decision with me for my whole life to ensure that my child didn’t suffer. Others may characterize that choice as they wish — even presidential candidates seem to be doing that. But it’s my conviction that every woman deserves that right in a situation where there are no easy answers, no pious pronouncements, no political solutions that could ever, ever fix the gaping, aching emptiness in her arms,” she added.
“If Trump’s words made you feel certain — or maybe even a little bit smug — that his position is the right one, then please consider my story, allow for another narrative and, at the very least, reject the political strategy of impugning motives without hearing real people’s stories. Then join me in building an America where every child has what she needs, every little one has arms to hold him tight, and everybody’s story is honored for the holy humanity it reveals about each one of us.”
Under no circumstances should men have any legal rights over women’s pregnancies. Women aren’t children and we do not need permission slips from men in order to exercise a legal right.
Men who want to control what women do with their bodies are generally not men who have any real respect for women.
No man, no politician, no president should ever make a decision that tells a woman what to do with her body.