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Regretting Her Abortion, Author Helps Ill Pregnant Women Find Hope and Healing

My first column for the Knights of Columbus Web site HeadlineBistro.com, published today, tells the story of Ashli Foshee McCall, who emerged from personal tragedy to help others avoid making the mistake she made.

In 1996, Ashli Foshee McCall, 25 years old, married and pregnant with her first child, was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), an extreme form of morning sickness.

According to the Hyperemesis Education & Research Foundation, an estimated 39,000 HG sufferers are hospitalized each year (many more suffer without hospitalization), and at least 10 percent of pregnancies complicated by HG end in abortion.

For McCall, after months of terrible suffering that had her crying out in agony and even hallucinating from the effects of electrolyte imbalance, she took her doctor’s advice and did the only thing she thought she could do to save her own life: She aborted her child in the second trimester.

Only afterwards, when she was well enough to do in-depth research, ” not easy in those days before most medical studies were on the Internet,” did McCall find out the truth: With the right treatment, women can get relief from the sufferings of HG and give birth to healthy children.

McCall continued researching the disease for ten years, during which time she underwent three more pregnancies – one miscarriage, two live births – all with HG. (Women who have the illness during one pregnancy commonly suffer it during subsequent ones as well.) The result is her self-published book “Beyond Morning Sickness,” the first-ever patient’s guide to HG, and its companion Web site, BeyondMorningSickness.com.

Thanks in part to exposure on Paula Zahn’s CNN show, on which McCall told why her abortion was the “biggest mistake” of her life, “Beyond Morning Sickness” has brought hope into the lives of women who were racked by grave illness and fear. [Read the entire column on HeadlineBistro.com.]

McCall’s story of being advised by her doctor to abort, under the mistaken belief that there was no other way for her and her baby to survive HG, is sadly not unique. Women who suffer from HG are often under pressure from their doctor, insurance company or even well-meaning family and friends to “do something” about it, ending their unborn children’s lives.

Americans United for Life works to end such coercion. One of the model bills we make available to state legislatures is our “Coercive Abuse Against Mothers Prevention Act,” which, in the language of the bill, “seeks to make it illegal to coerce or otherwise force a woman or minor into aborting her unborn child and intends to empower all mothers in the State … to exercise their freedom of conscience in choosing life for their pre-born children free of violent and abusive coercion.” The bill is included in the soon-to-be published 2010 edition of our legal handbook Defending Life.