She wanted an abortion, and now she has twins: how the Texas abortion ban is changing women's lives (and not for the better)
Brooke Alexandra found out she was pregnant 48 hours before the Texas abortion ban went into effect. This 18-year-old girl from Texas wanted to have an abortion. Now she has two twins, reports TheWashington Post.
Brooke Alexandra turned off her breast pump at 18:04 p.m. and brought two fresh bottles of milk to the bed, where her three-month-old twins lay on their backs, red-faced, crying.
After sleeping for four hours, the 18-year-old tried to feed both babies at the same time, holding Kendall in her arms while she tried to get Olivia to eat too, propping up the bottle with a pillow. But the bottle kept slipping out and the baby kept crying. And Brooke's boyfriend, Billy High, won't be home for another five hours.
She peeked out of a room big enough for a full-size mattress and realized she'd hardly seen the sun all day. The windows were covered with blankets, pinned shut to keep the room cool. Brooke rarely went into the rest of the house. Billy's father took them in when her mother kicked them out, and Brooke didn't want to get in his way.
The hours without Billy were always the hardest. She knew he owed him a job since they were totally reliant on the $9,75 an hour he was making at Freebirds World Burrito, but she tortured herself imagining all the girls he could date. And she also wanted to have somewhere to go.
Brooke found out she was pregnant late on August 29, two days before the Texas Heartbeat Law banned abortions after an ultrasound detected heart activity, about six weeks into her pregnancy. It was the most restrictive abortion law to go into effect in the United States in nearly 50 years.
For many Texans who have needed abortions since September, the law has been a major inconvenience, forcing them to travel hundreds of miles and pay hundreds of dollars for a procedure they could once have done at home. But not everyone was able to leave the state. Some people couldn't get away from work or afford gas, while others, faced with a long journey, decided to leave the pregnancy. After almost 10 months of Texas law, they began to have children they never planned.
Texas provides a glimpse of what much of the country would face if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer, which many expected after a draft opinion was leaked last month. If the historic precedent fails, roughly half of the nation's states are expected to drastically limit or ban abortion, forcing many to become parents.
Sometimes Brooke imagined her life if she hadn't gotten pregnant and if Texas hadn't banned abortion just days after she decided she wanted to have one. She would be at school, rushing from class to her shift at a Texas hotel, looking for a real estate license that would finally get her out of Corpus Christi. She imagined an apartment in Austin and enough money to travel to Hawaii, where she would swim with dolphins in water so clear she could see her toes.
When both babies finally started eating, Brooke pulled out her phone and reset the timer, which had been running almost continuously since the day they were born. She had two and a half hours before they needed to eat again.
Brooke and Billy first met at a downtown skatepark with a large group of friends one clear night last May. They didn't speak the first day, but Brooke noticed how easily Billy jumped into the quarterpipe, how his blond hair came out from under the red cap. She followed him on Instagram and she felt joy when she saw that he followed him back.
They soon began to spend almost every day together, throwing themselves into the Gulf of Mexico on Padre Island and watching the sun go down over the pier. At the skatepark, he helped her do tricks she was afraid to do alone.
"Pinkie, promise me you'll do it," he said, looking at her with blue eyes as she peeked over the edge of the ramp. As soon as he touched her little finger, it was impossible to retreat.
Billy was different from the other guys Brooke knew. He took her hand in public and introduced her to his father. When she took him to the mall, he smiled every time she left the fitting room, telling her how good she looked in every new crop top she tried on. He made her feel beautiful. "I'm not used to this feeling," Brooke said.
Brooke took a pregnancy test at 11 o'clock on a hot late summer night. When two pink lines appeared, she looked at Billy, then slid down to the bathroom floor, finally piecing together the signs she'd been ignoring for weeks.
Nausea, which she attributed to food poisoning. Two missing cycles of menstruation. That moment a few weeks ago when Billy put his hand on her stomach and asked if she was sure she wasn't pregnant.
Leaving Billy in the bedroom with the pregnancy test, Brooke took the keys and drove to her best friend's house, where they sat on her bed and considered their options.
She told a friend that she could always have an abortion. The friend then reminded Brooke of what she had seen on Twitter: the new law was due to go into effect on September 1st. Brooke had 48 hours to have an abortion.
A South Texas abortion clinic, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Corpus Christi, was empty for the next two days, with patients across the state rushing to get to clinics before the law went into effect. When Brooke called, the woman at the end of the phone gave addresses of clinics in New Mexico, 13 hours from Corpus Christi.
In the meantime, according to the woman, Brooke can get an ultrasound somewhere nearby: if the pregnancy is less than six weeks, they can abort her.
"Let's see what happens," Brooke wrote to her father, Jeremy Alexander, later that night. “See if an abortion is possible.”
"What's the deadline?" - he asked.
“They passed the law today!! she replied early in the morning of September 1st. “What the hell are the odds, I think it’s 6 weeks.”
Brooke found a place to get an ultrasound in no time and made an appointment for 9am.
Whenever a new client comes to the Pregnancy Center, they are asked to fill out a form. After all the usual questions about name, date of birth, and marital status, comes the question employees are most interested in: “If you are pregnant, what are your intentions?”
The Pregnancy Center, which advertises itself as the region's "No. 1 Abortion Information Source," is one of thousands of crisis pregnancy centers in the United States, anti-abortion organizations often associated with religion.
When Brooke came to the appointment with her mother, she had no idea that she was in an institution created to discourage people from having abortions. She also didn't know the significance of her uniform to employees: signaling that she wanted an abortion, she became their first client to be subject to the Texas Heartbeat Law.
Brooke learned about the center from a friend of her mom who knew she needed an ultrasound. This place offered them a free ultrasound. Brooke felt at ease as she sat in the waiting room, lulled by throw pillows and soft watercolor ocean views.
The lawyer assigned to her case, Angie Arnholt, spent a year counseling abortion-minded clients at the pregnancy center. Arnholt, a 61-year-old woman who wears a gold cross around her neck, felt called to do everything in her power to help women "make the right decision," she later told The Washington Post.
Back in the consultation room, Brooke told Arnholt all the reasons she wanted to have an abortion. She just signed up for a real estate class at a local college, and this will be her first time back in class since dropping out of school at 15 three years ago. She and Billy dated for only three months.
Sitting across from Brooke and her mother, Arnholt opened A Woman's Right to Know, an anti-abortion pamphlet distributed by the State of Texas, and flipped to a page titled "The Risks of Abortion." The first of these risks was "death".
As she listened to Arnholt's warnings about depression, nausea, seizures, breast cancer, and infertility, Brooke tried to remain calm, reminding herself that women get abortions all the time. However, Brooke couldn't help but fixate on some of the words Arnholt used: "Vacuum suction. Heavy bleeding. Pierced uterus. Serious complications after an abortion are rare. According to leading medical organizations, abortion does not increase the risk of mental illness, breast cancer, or infertility.
Starting to panic, Brooke looked at her mother. When she found out that Brooke was pregnant, Terry Thomas advised her daughter to have an abortion. Although she was a devout Christian, going to church several times a week and twice on Sundays, she had her own views on this particular issue.
According to her, Thomas had her first child at the age of 20, when she was transferred from a local college.
She hoped to go to law school. According to her, if the time had been different, she could have been a prosecutor. Instead, she jumped from one retail job to another, from Bath & Body Works to Walgreens to Home Depot.
According to Brooke, as a child, she tossed back and forth between her mother's house and her father's house, depending on who was the more stable parent at the time. According to her, she spent her happiest childhood years with her father on a tree-lined street with a ping-pong table in the garage and a trampoline in the backyard. But then Brooke's father started using cocaine.
According to him, although Alexander has been clean for several years, then he could not quit this habit. Around the same time that he stopped paying rent, Brooke moved back in with her mom.
With her mother, Brooke always felt overwhelmed and stressed. If Brooke forgot to turn off the lights or do the dishes, Thomas would start yelling. According to her, Thomas felt that she had every right to react this way because she was the head of the house.
Arnholt ushered Brooke into the ultrasound room, where Brooke stripped to the waist and lay down on the examination table, staring at the large flat-screen TV.
When the lab technician inserted the gel-lubricated probe, Brooke really wanted the fetus to appear on the screen without a heartbeat. The technician sighed. They were twins. And they were 12 weeks old.
"Are you sure?" Brooke asked.
“Oh my God, oh my God,” Thomas wailed. “This is a miracle from the Lord. We will have these children."
It seemed to Brooke that she was floating above herself, watching what was happening below. Her mom called the twins "my kids", promising Brooke she would take care of everything.
Brooke thought that if she really tried, she could make it to New Mexico. Her older brother would probably lend her money to get there. But she couldn't stop staring at the pulsating yellow line on the ultrasound screen.
She wondered: if her children had palpitations, as these women said, did this mean that their termination of pregnancy would be murder? Eventually Arnholt turned to Brooke and asked if she would keep them. Brooke heard her say yes.
Brooke walked out of the pregnancy center that day with an ultrasound picture and a handful of lollipops that Arnholt promised would help her with morning sickness.
Arnholt and the ultrasound technician corresponded with Brooke several times. Brooke scheduled what the pregnancy center called a "prenatal appointment" where she had another ultrasound and then went to a parenting class, earning "points" that she exchanged for a pack of diapers.
Brooke never returned to the pregnancy center after that. She said that the classes seemed like a waste of time to her. Instead, she returned to Billy. A few weeks later, Brooke and Billy had a plan. Brooke waited for him to complete basic training and then follow him wherever he was assigned.
Soon they were discussing baby names. One October afternoon, surrounded by their friends and families, Brooke and Billy fired their floor-revealing cannons in Thomas' backyard, releasing two giant clouds of pink smoke.
"I'm so glad I met you Billy," Brooke wrote in an Instagram post announcing her pregnancy. "Starting a family with you is going to be one of the hardest things I've ever gone through, but I'm glad I can do it with you."
Brooke started real estate in early November and loved everything about school. She usually bought a frappuccino from a vending machine and sat in a chair she thought was hers, opening her textbook to a page she had already colored with yellow marker.
Brooke received an 83 on her final exam, the highest grade in her class.
She wrote to everyone she could think of who would like to hear the news: Billy, her brother, her mother, her father, her grandfather. After three years at school, she couldn't believe she was doing so well. “I felt like I had to be very smart,” she said.
All autumn, Billy was her biggest worry. He remained rather quiet when she was deciding what to do with the babies. Only once did he tell her that he would prefer to have an abortion, but would fully support her in whatever she chooses. He thought about giving the kids up for adoption, but Brooke didn't even think about it.
“I don't think I'm ready for this,” he told her. Billy feared losing what he called "the freedom to be a teenager." After graduation, he planned to continue with the Freebirds.
People respected Billy at the skate park. Whenever he was about to shoot some tricks, everyone else was removed from the bowl.
By November, Billy was paying all of Brooke's bills. She stopped working at a Texas hotel after the smell of meat and fat gave her a stomachache. To pay off Brooke's $330 car, they applied for a WIC card and ate ramen or pancakes for dinner. When they overdrawn Brooke's credit card, Billy worked double shifts until he could pay off.
He began planning to join the Air Force after graduation.
Brooke wanted to work but couldn't get a job as a waitress. In her seventh month of pregnancy, she struggled to stay on her feet for too long and felt completely exhausted even when performing the simplest tasks. She began to fall asleep while doing her homework. Then she skipped class. Then another.
When she decided to drop out of real estate school, she couldn't bring herself to tell her teacher. She told herself it didn't matter. Either way, they'll be leaving soon, and Billy's employers will pay enough to support both of them.
Brooke crammed her real estate textbook into a row of books on a dresser, between What to Expect When You're Expecting and Harry Potter XNUMX. Maybe she will come back to it one day.
Every time Brooke goes out in public with babies, she knows people are staring at her. She was 18 and looked 18, with rosy cheeks and curly blond locks tied with a ribbon. As she struggled to get her double stroller through the doors of Freebirds, she felt like everyone was judging her as an ignorant child and a bad mother.
She was determined to prove them wrong. Somehow, motherhood came naturally to Brooke. Whenever one of the babies started crying, Brooke would scroll through her mental checklist: Is her daughter hungry? Tired? Did she need to be changed?
Brooke takes her daughter in her arms and pulls her close, swaying from side to side, kissing the silky chestnut strands on the top of her head. Almost always, her baby stopped crying.
“I think they feel me,” she said. “And it makes me feel so special.” Brooke knew little things about her daughters that no one else would have noticed. Olivia had a higher cry. Kendall was harder to calm down. She could always tell when they were about to wake up because they would start smiling.
To be or not to be
Looking at her daughters, Brooke struggled to express her feelings about abortion. On the one hand, she said, she absolutely believes that women should have the right to choose what is best for their own lives. On the other hand, she knew that without Texas law, her children might not have been.
“Who said what I would do if the law didn't work?” she said. "I don't want to think about it."
Brooke thought about everything she'd lost: long nights at the skate park, trips to the mall, spending $30 on crab dinner just because she felt like it.
"I just can't be truly free," she said. She sat silent for a while, Olivia's hand wrapped around her finger. “It’s scary to think that I might not have them,” she said.
She said there was only one way to understand it. Losing them now as fully formed human beings would be different than losing them then.
Throughout her pregnancy, Brooke planned to bring the kids to her mom's house, where they would live together until Billy made enough money to pay for the house. Brooke's mom promised to be there for them back in the ultrasound room, and Brooke believed her. But after a couple of weeks, Brooke began to feel that her mother could turn her back on her at any moment.
Thomas reminded Brooke that she lives in her house for free, turns on the TV and air conditioning all night, without paying for electricity. One night in May, Brooke left dirty dishes in the sink. She woke up to her mother yelling at her from the kitchen.
“You don't get a prize for getting pregnant and having a baby,” Thomas screamed. “I don’t know what you think I owe you, but you won’t get a prize for it.” Brooke told her, “You treat me like some random street girl. I am your daughter."
Thomas advised her to find another place to live. Brooke packed some things and took the children to Billy's father's house. Billy's room wasn't quite where she'd imagined raising her daughters, with a stash of skateboard magazines and a giant Freebirds billboard behind the bed advertising 95-cent sodas. But it was a place where she was welcome.
Brooke woke up the next morning to a message from her mother. “I am by no means the perfect person or the perfect mom, but I love you no matter what,” she wrote. "You don't have to stay there."
Brooke would rather have relied on Billy than on her mother, even though in her most anxious moments she feared that he, too, might kick her out.
She often thought about their quarrel, which happened one Saturday in April, when they got too drunk and Billy finally spoke about everything he avoided. He didn't really like the way his life had turned out, he told her. He didn't want to join the Air Force. He just wanted to ride. “It's not my fault,” she told him. “I just got pregnant.”
At some point, she recalls, he suggested that they try to live separately. It's over now, Brooke reminded herself as she hung her clothes in Billy's closet. She placed a bouquet of flowers on his table and lit a candle, filling the room with a fragrance called Eternal Love. Gradually, she will turn Billy's room into a home.
Across town, a woman Brooke has never met will soon share her story, presenting twins as an anti-abortion triumph, just two weeks after a leaked draft decision showed the Supreme Court was on the verge of overturning Roe's decision.
The Coastal Bend Republican coalition met on May 19 for a weekly meeting at a local barbeque bar. Over brisket and coleslaw, participants listened to their guest speaker for the evening: Jana Pinson, Executive Director of the Pregnancy Center at Coastal Bend.
To explain the center's work, Pinson told the story of a girl who came with her mother on the morning the Heartbeat Law went into effect and asked for an abortion. The mother and daughter "were so angry with us," Pinson said. But once they saw the ultrasound, she said, everything changed. “The moment we put this wand on her sweet belly and two babies appeared on the monitor, they completely melted,” she said.
Last year, Pinson said, 583 abortion-prone and abortion-vulnerable women chose to continue their pregnancy after visiting their facility. At a banquet in March attended by over 2800 people from across the region, Pinson and her staff lit 583 candles. One of them was for Brooke.
Three weeks later, the babies stayed at home, while Brooke and Billy drove to the courthouse. Billy was about to leave for a five-month internship at an elementary school and a technical school. In order for Brooke to qualify for military benefits, they had to get married.
At 11 a.m. Monday, they entered the courtroom with an American flag behind a bench, Brooke in a floral sundress, Billy in jeans. She looked for white dresses on Amazon but couldn't justify $30: she was afraid she'd run out of money while Billy was gone.
Loneliness also scared her. She kept imagining the long nights at Billy's house, trying to calm the two crying babies without him. He didn't have a phone during initial training, and she heard from him mostly through letters. She knew that she would have to deal with a small voice in her heart: what if he changed his mind about their life together?
Standing with Billy in front of the justice of the peace, Brooke told herself that one day they would have a "love story moment." She will be walking down the aisle in her wedding dress. Their friends and family will cry and applaud as she and Billy publicly declare how much they mean to each other.
You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants, and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York.
If it wasn't for Texas law, Brooke knew she wouldn't be here. She would probably be studying for her next exam, and Billy would be learning some new quarterpipe trick. She liked to dream that they were still together, spending money on movie tickets and Whataburger instead of diapers and baby wipes.
She told herself that the alternative life no longer mattered. She had two children whom she loved more than anything in the world.
Brooke pulled out her phone as soon as they finished the ceremony: 1 hour 15 minutes. Time to eat and go home. The babies will be hungry.
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