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These women live in red states. Here's how their fertility decisions have been affected post-Roe.

A woman somberly looks at a pregnancy test tool she’s holding in her hand.
How women in red states are navigating a world without legal abortion. (Getty Images)

At her 20-week anatomy scan, Lauren Christensen learned that her baby girl Simone was not going to make it. Her baby tested positive for a chromosomal condition called Turner syndrome, which was causing the unborn child to experience hydrops, meaning fluid was building up in her abdomen and under her skin. Her kidney was failing as well.

“Terminating was the last thing I ever wanted to do,” Christensen tells Yahoo Life of the pregnancy. “I’ll die so she can live.” But Christensen herself was at risk of something called mirror syndrome, which would cause her body to mirror the effects of what was happening to Simone. “There wasn’t really an option where she would live,” Christensen says. “It was either she dies or we both die.”

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022 via the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, it meant the constitutional right to an abortion — the right secured in 1973 — was no longer law. In the year and a half since Roe’s reversal, states across the country have imposed restrictions or bans, making the procedure increasingly difficult to safely access. In 14 states, the procedure is banned in almost all cases.

For Christensen, who was pregnant in North Carolina, the law at the time stipulated that abortion was illegal after 20 weeks (it has now been reduced to 12 weeks). Her doctors said they could refer her out of state for the termination, but they could not do anything to help her where she was.

Having grown up in New York, where abortion remains legal, Christensen decided to return to her mother’s home to receive care and deliver her baby. “By the time we terminated there was no amniotic fluid anywhere around her; it was all absorbed into her,” Christensen says. “We terminated and then I did a vaginal birth, and I got to hold her, and it was the most humane possible way to go.” She adds, “I feel so grateful to the doctors in New York who I had never met before that awful day.”

Across the country, the overturning of Roe v. Wade has led to countless stories about women navigating the unimaginable as they seek reproductive health care. High-profile cases surrounding abortion access have shown that “exceptions” to abortion laws are not being honored, and that miscarriage can put women at legal risk. Consider the Texas case involving Kate Cox — who was denied an abortion even when genetic testing confirmed her fetus was at risk of death, and whose doctors were threatened with prosecution were they to perform the procedure — and Brittany Watts, an Ohio woman who was arrested after miscarrying at home.

A ruling out of Alabama last week has added a further layer of restrictions, stating that frozen embryos are now legally considered “children.” Critics say it sets a dangerous precedent for in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment and those who seek it.

On less public stages, everyday women are struggling to navigate these restrictions during their pregnancies — facing stress at best and danger at worst. As Christensen puts it, “I cannot stop thinking about all the people who cannot just go to their childhood home and find a doctor and pay for whatever they need to pay for,” she says. “It was the best possible circumstances for the worst thing that could happen. And I just don’t know what those women do who can’t leave, and who’d have nowhere to go if they did leave.”

‘I was terrified I was going to die’

Erin Snider, a former professor at Texas A&M University, miscarried in Texas at nine weeks pregnant in 2022. Even though she was in excruciating pain and the outcome of the pregnancy was clear, she says doctors put abortion laws ahead of her care. “I consider myself as having a pretty high pain threshold after everything we’ve gone through — multiple pregnancy losses, seven rounds of IVF — but in that moment I was terrified I was going to die,” she tells Yahoo Life.

Snider began to bleed while at work and went straight to the emergency room. Doctors told her they were 98% sure that she was miscarrying and advised her to go home but come back if she experienced severe symptoms. “The tone of people [at the hospital] was cold and questioning like I might have been doing this on purpose,” Snider says. “Which if you’re someone who’s trying to have a child ... it’s impossible to describe the rage I felt.”

Snider did return to the emergency room once the pain became so intense that she was passing out and unable to move. “That’s when I started feeling more terrified because I was thinking about Dobbs nonstop; I was wondering if I was just going to be allowed to be in the excruciating amount of pain I was in, and that no one was going to help me,” she says. “I asked the attending doctors pretty point-blank, ‘Have you changed the way you respond to this situation since the Dobbs decision?’ and without missing a beat each doctor said, ‘Yes,’ with great sadness.”

Snider is now looking to move out of Texas, particularly as she and her husband are planning to transfer the last embryo they have left from IVF. “I can’t with good conscience stay, given where we are with our journey,” she says.

‘How do we handle this?’

Kimberly (name changed to protect her privacy) is nine months pregnant and living in Arkansas, where abortion is illegal. She tells Yahoo Life that everyone she knows who is of childbearing age has a plan for how to get reproductive care if they need it. “The immediate thing that happened after the repeal was people who can get pregnant talking to each other like, ‘OK, I know this person and their sister-in-law is an ob-gyn in this state,’ ‘I know people you can stay with in Chicago.’ Just these networks, informally forming: ‘How do we handle this?’” she says.

Kimberly says that even though she is actively trying to grow her family, the laws impact how many children she might have. “It’s definitely something that factors into having a second child,” she says of the Dobbs decision. “Like, we made it through this pregnancy, but I’m a little older, I’ve got a couple of risk factors. Is it ridiculous for me to even try again when I know that I’m not necessarily going to be taken care of if something goes wrong?”

‘We’ve got a fund for this in case of emergency’

In South Carolina, Meghan H. is asking herself similar questions. A mom to a 10-month-old boy, she says she and her husband would like a second child but have hemmed and hawed over the decision because of the state’s six-week abortion ban and the potential complications that could bring.

“My husband and I have talked at length about what we would do if I had to have an abortion to prevent any harm from coming to me, or if there was a genetic condition that would negatively impact any future child, and we have made the decision to go to his home state of Pennsylvania and do it there,” Meghan tells Yahoo Life. “They wouldn’t flag us as leaving for that purpose because his family is there, so we would be able to do it without repercussions.” In Pennsylvania, abortion is legal until the 24th week.

She adds that they’re already making financial plans for this hypothetical scenario. “We’ve got a fund for this in case of emergency. That’s how far planned out we are.”

Moving away

As for Christensen, she is still grieving the loss of Simone, even while she celebrates new life. Christensen gave birth to a healthy son earlier this year.

She found out she was pregnant with him back in North Carolina, and quickly decided to move home to New York after that. She delivered her baby in New York. As for why she moved, she says the reasoning is complicated. “There is a mix of personal and legal issues happening that make me feel really emotional about that place,” she says of North Carolina. “A place that I otherwise really loved living in.”