The Unlikely Women Fighting for Abortion Rights

For a long time, many women who had abortions because of catastrophic fetal diagnoses told their stories only privately. Grieving pregnancies they dearly wanted and fearing the stigma of abortion, they sought the closely guarded comfort of online communities identified by the way many doctors had described the procedure — TFMR, or “termination for medical reasons.”

In the two years since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, their pain has been compounded into anger by new abortion bans across the country. While these women account for a fraction of abortions in the United States, they have emerged as the most powerful voices in the nation’s post-Roe debate, speaking out against bans with their stories of being forced across state lines and left to feel like criminals in seeking care.

Many of these women started out opposing abortion, but as they have changed their minds, they have changed the way Americans speak about it. Shifting from private anguish to public outrage, they have also helped shift public opinion toward more support for abortion.

“After going through all this I wondered, why are we not the poster child for abortion rights?” said Riata Little Walker, who traveled from her home in Casper, Wyo., for an abortion in Colorado at 22 weeks, after doctors diagnosed Down syndrome and a heart defect in her fetus, which they said would require surgery and later a transplant if it survived until delivery.

“Yes, your body, your choice, but that’s not the story that pulls people in,” she said. “We have to bring our stories to the front because otherwise it’s so easy for those over here to do, ‘But they’re killing babies.’”

Ms. Walker is Catholic and had worked for Wyoming Republicans, including Senator John Barrasso. She opposed abortion, and did not realize she was having one because doctors called it “termination.” In the months that followed, she came to support abortion whatever the reason, and after Roe was overturned in June 2022, she testified against the ban on abortion passed by the Wyoming Legislature.

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