Sen. Gary Peters was one of the first sitting U.S. senators to share a personal family abortion story and, with the future of Roe v. Wade in doubt, he told his story to ABC News Live to underscore how devastating the loss of legal abortion will be for the country.
In the late 1980s, Peters’ first wife, Heidi, had to undergo an abortion procedure after her water broke during her second trimester. Peters warned that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, following reports on a leaked Supreme Court draft ruling, it will have a devastating effect on women and families who go through similar life-and-death situations.
MORE: Senator shares family's abortion story, 1st sitting senator to do so
“This is no longer an abstract concept for people. This is real life and it’s going to impact people in real ways,” Peters, D-Mich., told ABC News.
Daniel Shular/APProtesters gather at the steps of the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing, Mich., May 3, 2022, during a rally organized by Planned Parenthood Michigan in response to the news that the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.
In the leaked draft regarding the Supreme Court’s case on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, Justice Samuel Alito contended the constitution “does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion.” The leaked draft indicated that four other Supreme Court justices have sided with Alito.
The document is not final and opinions can change before the final ruling.
Peters first spoke about his family’s story, which took place in the late ’80s, in an interview with Elle magazine in 2020.
His wife’s water broke four months into her pregnancy and their doctor explained that the fetus could not survive.
Bonnie Cash/Pool via REUTERS, FILESenator Gary Peters, a Democrat from Michigan and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, looks on during a confirmation hearing for Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C., Feb. 1, 2022.
“That means the amniotic fluid was gone out,” Peters said. “Even though there’s this heartbeat . . . there’s no protection in the uterus anymore. So it’s a pretty horrible thing that can happen.”
The couple was told to go home to miscarry naturally, according to Peters.
“You can imagine the emotional anguish, that she had to go home knowing that we were going to lose a baby that we wanted and she was going to suffer a miscarriage at some point in the next few hours,” the senator said.
When the miscarriage didn’t happen naturally over the next two days, the couple went back and forth to the hospital but were denied appeals for an abortion procedure even though their doctor said Heidi could lose her uterus or die of sepsis, Peters said.
“I will never forget the recording on the machine. [The doctor] said, ‘Unfortunately, I cannot do this procedure. This is about politics. This is not about medical care. This is not about what we should be doing to protect your health and potentially your life,'” the senator recalled.
The Peters were able to get the abortion procedure done at another hospital. The doctor in the second hospital warned the couple that Heidi was about to go septic, the senator said.
“If it weren’t for urgent and critical medical care, I could have lost my life,” Peters’ former wife said in a statement to Elle in 2020.
ABC News Sen. Gary Peters (D-M.I.) spoke with ABC News live about the latest in the future of abortion access in the country.
Since he shared his wife’s story, Peters said he has received an outpouring of support from mothers who went through similar situations.
“[They] said, ‘We’ve got to make sure we keep politics out of these painful, heartbreaking decisions that families need to make with their doctors,'” the senator said.
MORE: 5 things to know as leaked Supreme Court draft ruling puts focus on abortion
Peters said he’s particularly concerned about his state if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Michigan has a law on the books dating to 1931 that prohibits all abortions with the only exception to save the life of the person who is pregnant.
“For example, if a 17-year-old girl in Michigan is raped, she will have no options whatsoever under this law. It is simply unconscionable. And I can assure you that an incredibly large majority of people in the state of Michigan believe that kind of outcome is unconscionable,” Peters said.
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