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Woman's decision to have abortion highlights what's at stake in Supreme Court

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Posted at 10:57 AM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 12:57:03-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio woman's decision to travel to Colorado for an abortion procedure highlights what is at stake as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments in a Mississippi case that could have ramifications for the entire country.

"It's never what I would have imagined this room to look like," Amanda Hicks said from her nursery that'll never be used.

On one level, Hicks' story is about grief, but on another, it’s a story about a decision she made earlier this year when she was 25 weeks pregnant. It's a decision that may evoke strong feelings in you.

Hicks reflected back on that doctor’s visit that changed her life.

"As soon as three doctors walked in, that’s when I knew something was wrong," Hicks said.

It was a follow-up visit to her 18-week anatomy scan. She thought it would be routine. But at this 22-week visit, her ultrasound discovered a medical issue. That led to an MRI and a diagnosis of a rare condition. The brain of her unborn child was missing its CSP.

Hicks says a team of doctors described what that meant.

"The doctors were like, 'she won’t breathe on her own, she won’t swallow on her own, she won’t see,'" Hicks said.

"At that point, I just knew she was not going to live, and I didn’t ask too many questions. I didn’t have the words," Hicks said, choking back tears.

"At that point, we just knew the choice we had to make," Hicks said.

That choice was to have an abortion.

Abortion laws vary from state to state and in Ohio, where Hicks lives, unless the mother’s health is in jeopardy, abortions can’t take place after 20 weeks.

Hicks acknowledges now that it’s a law she didn’t pay too much attention to. She says she has never been particularly political. In fact, she voted for many of the politicians who passed the law.

"It should have been more important to me and it wasn’t," Hicks said.

Because of Ohio’s laws, Hicks and her husband flew to Colorado, a state with some of the least restrictive abortion regulations in the country.

She made a visit to an abortion clinic in Boulder, Colorado. The entire time she was bewildered she couldn’t get the procedure she wanted back home.

"So many tears, so many tears. Telling people we were losing our baby was just devastating, Hicks said.

Supreme Court case soon

While traveling from one state to another for an abortion procedure has been happening for years, the frequency of it occurring could change drastically depending on the outcome of a Supreme Court case that will be argued later this year.

The specific case is out of Mississippi and involves a question regarding when a state is allowed to restrict abortions.

Mississippi wants to limit abortions after 15 weeks and the case could potentially overturn Roe v Wade entirely.

That's because this is the first major abortion case with the current group of justices. On paper, the high court has become more conservative since Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined it last year.

Roe v. Wade is the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide back in 1973.

Overturning Roe would mean state governments could set whatever abortion laws they want to.

"I don’t know that we can make any predictions," said Karen Middleton who leads COBALT, a women’s reproductive rights advocacy group.

Middleton says her organization is preparing for a possible reversal of Roe.

If that happens, she says, more women from conservatives states will flock to liberal-leaning states for procedures.

She is already raising money to help women who can’t afford an airplane ticket. Her group gave Hicks $500 to offset her travel costs.

"I think about any other medical procedure you might be having. Do you have to get on a plane?" Middleton said.

The other side

But it’s important to remember there is another side. The decision to have an abortion, regardless of circumstance, remains unconscionable to many Americans.

"The tragedy of abortion and choice has cost the lives of tens of millions of babies in the United States," said Michael Gonidakis, the President of Ohio Right to Life, an organization that lobbies against abortion.

Gonidakis has been at the forefront of limiting abortions for decades.

"The state movement is really the core of the pro-life movement so far because we can get so much more done," Gonidakis said.

He says plenty of Americans believe the Supreme Court got it wrong decades ago and they have a chance to fix it later this year.

"This is the most pro-life Supreme Court in a generation, certainly in my lifetime. We actually have a punter's chance to win and overturn Roe," Gonidakis said.

Back at Hicks' home, she knows not everyone agrees with her decision. She feels, however, that the difficult choice was the right one for her.

"We are comfortable with the decision we made," Hicks said. "If I couldn’t have gotten the care that I needed to have, I really don’t know if I'd be sitting here."