A Devastating Late-Term Abortion Story That’s Nothing Like Trump Says

Women like Lindsay Bubar, who had an abortion at 22 weeks, were deeply offended by Trump's ignorance

Illustration: Tara Jacoby
Oct 20, 2016 at 6:11 PM ET

There were many upsetting moments during Wednesday night’s final presidential debate, but Donald Trump’s brutal description of a late-term abortion was perhaps the most viscerally offensive. Not only did the GOP candidate get all the facts wrong, he belittled the agonizing choice that most women who find themselves in this situation face.

Many women watched with disgust as Trump described his version of things with a particularly violent choice of words. (“In the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother.”) But for Lindsay Bubar, who was forced to terminate her pregnancy at almost 22 weeks, his callousness was a personal affront.

“[Trump] doesn’t seem to care one bit what families and women have to go through in that decision,” she told Vocativ. “He’s just interested in riling up a really extreme base. Obviously what he said has no basis in fact and he doesn’t care. And for me and my family, that is offensive on the deepest level.”

Bubar said her experiences stands in stark contrast to the violent and cartoonish picture Donald Trump painted during Wednesday’s debate.

Almost three years ago, Bubar was 20 weeks pregnant with her first child, a boy. It was a planned pregnancy, and she and her husband were thrilled. Everything had been going along well so far. She was starting to show, they’d told all their friends and family the exciting news, and had even picked out a name — Evan — for their son, who could be felt kicking occasionally in her belly.

Then they went in for the routine detailed anatomy scan and the doctor discovered a problem with the baby’s brain. After an MRI and a series of doctor’s visits, they were given the devastating news that their son had a malignant brain tumor and a related case of hydrocephaly. After consulting with a world-renowned specialist, they were told that there was nothing that could be done. If she carried the baby to term, he would go into a very risky surgery immediately after birth. And even if he survived the procedure and for a short time after, there would never be a normal life — no seeing, no smiling, no talking— for Evan. Only suffering.

Bubar feels fortunate that the diagnosis was very clear and the doctors were all in agreement. She and her husband felt there was only one path to take. They believe termination was the only way to spare their son from a brief life filled with pain. But before going through with it, they waited an agonizing week and had another MRI just to be beyond certain that nothing had changed.

By then she was 21 and a half weeks along, and it was considered a late-term abortion. In California, where they live, there were no laws forbidding it, and she and her family were able to make the decision that was right for them together with their doctors.

She checked into a nearby hospital (one of only two in Los Angeles that does this particular procedure), and that very day both she and her husband got news alerts on their phones that Senator Lindsey Graham called for a vote on a ban on abortions after 20 weeks.

She describes how reading that drove home the point that even in the middle of this terrible time, they were comparatively very lucky — lucky to have access to the procedure at all, lucky to have access to top-notch doctors in their area, lucky to have the support of family, lucky to be able to pay for the cost of the termination out of pocket, as their insurance didn’t cover it.

The procedure itself bears no resemblance to the horror show Donald Trump shouted about at the debate. There is no violent ripping out of anything; instead it’s a long, drawn out loss. The entire procedure — including the preparation process — kept her in the hospital for three days.

After it was over, Bubar was no longer pregnant, and she and her husband were left to process their grief and spread the devastating news to their friends.

In telling people, they discovered that their story gave many people the chance to share their own painful reproductive experiences, not necessarily with late term abortion (since it’s so rare) but with earlier terminations and miscarriages. This is something that has touched so many people’s lives, yet there is rarely a safe space in which to talk about it.

When asked how it felt like to hear Donald Trump go off on late term abortion in such an ignorant and dismissive way, Bubar told Vocativ, “Horrifying is really the best word. It really felt so deeply personal.” She continued, “Demonizing women and families who have made the most personal and difficult decision of their lives… I almost have no words for it.

It was a relief for many when Hillary quickly dismissed Trump’s erroneous claims by saying, “That is not what happens in these cases” and calling him out for using “scare rhetoric.” She also called late-term abortion, “One of the worst possible choices that any woman and her family has to make, and I do not believe the government should be making it.”

Clinton’s delicate approach was far more palatable to Bubar. She said, “Hillary displayed such empathy, and really you can tell, as she said, she has spoken with families who have made these decisions and who have gone through late term abortions and has really tried to understand the complexities of these decisions.”

For her part, Bubar says she decided to tell her story publicly because it’s the best legacy she could give her son: “To help people better understand what late term abortion is. How difficult that decision is. How personal that decision is. How unique it is for every family.”

For her it’s not just about fighting back against the angry rhetoric that people like Trump propagate. It’s about changing the conversation and ending the misinformation and misunderstanding that so often inform what becomes law. And those laws matter because they’re what threatens to restrict access to care for families like Bubar’s in what is often their most desperate and devastating time.

Lindsay’s story is part of Advocates for Youth’s 1 in 3 Campaign, which helps to share people’s abortion stories.