My Reproductive Freedom Has Been Critical to My Life Choices

As the Supreme Court prepares to release a decision on June Medical Services v. Russo—a case challenging a medically unnecessary admitting privileges law in Louisiana that seeks to shutter the state’s few remaining abortion clinics—I can’t help but look back at the enormous role that my reproductive life and freedom have played in shaping who I am today. 

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A group gathers in front of the Supreme Court as June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo on March 4, 2020. (Victoria Pickering / Flickr)

I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I love children and was a babysitter, camp counselor and tutor as a teenager. I met my husband when I was 35, and when we got married, I began my journey to motherhood. It came easily the first time around, and at 38, I had a baby boy. I knew with unwavering certainty that I wanted a sibling for my son.

But, as it turned out, the quest for baby number two was not going to be easy. I had multiple miscarriages and underwent several dilation and curettage procedures, during which the uterus is evacuated surgically after a fetus is no longer viable. This was not my first experience with the procedure; a decade earlier, I experienced this exact procedure in the context of terminating an unwanted pregnancy.

Back then, as a junior associate at a large Manhattan law firm, I was working 60-hour weeks and just beginning adulthood, finally living on my own after law school. When I accidentally got pregnant by my then-boyfriend, I knew it wasn’t the right time for me to become a mother. I realized I was pregnant within 24 hours of my missed period, and after taking a drug store test, I made an appointment with my doctor so quickly that he sent me home and told me to come back in a couple of weeks because it was too early in the pregnancy to terminate. I had the procedure two weeks later; it never crossed my mind that I would do anything else. My boyfriend, my family and my close friends were decidedly supportive, never once suggesting an alternate option. There was never any question about what needed to happen.


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Today, as a wife and mother of two, I realize how lucky I was to have barrier-free access to abortion when that was what I knew I wanted. I moved forward with my professional and personal life, continuing to practice law and ultimately meeting my husband.

I cannot envision my life without having had the ability to make the decision I made. Nor can I imagine a life where I didn’t go on to exercise my reproductive autonomy in creating my family a decade later, when struggles with infertility ended with the birth of my second son. I am grateful every day for my good fortune, and recognize the role that the ability to self-determine—unavailable to so many people—played in bringing my vision for my family to fruition. 

Everyone deserves what I have had over the course of my reproductive lifetime—the right of self-determination. Yet doctrinally-motivated anti-abortion measures threaten this basic human right. Politicians recently tried to obstruct abortion access through the opportunistic use of the COVID-19 health crisis, forcing patients to travel long distances to access abortions, at their peril, and incurring additional costs and health risks.

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A group gathers in front of the Supreme Court as June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo on March 4, 2020. (Victoria Pickering / Flickr)

If the Supreme Court rules against abortion providers in June Medical Services v. Russo, this could become a permanent reality. 

My heart breaks for any woman who finds herself forced to choose between maintaining her personal safety and obtaining a medical procedure she considers essential to her well-being. It is imperative, a critical component of individual autonomy, that all people have the ability to make this kind of fundamental life and health choice for themselves.


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About

Sarah B. Hechtman, Esq., is a family lawyer committed to helping clients resolve their family disputes on their own terms. Hechtman has extensive litigation experience, having begun her career as an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office where she tried street crime cases, including those involving domestic violence and sex crimes. Hechtman later worked as a civil rights lawyer prosecuting class action cases on behalf of children.