‘I Made the Best Decision for Me, My Body and My Family—Even My Unborn Child’: Georgia Rep. Shea Roberts’ Abortion Story

“I took all of the information I received from the doctors, and my husband and I made the decision that was right for us,” said Georgia state Rep. Shea Roberts. “Telling these stories is how we reach those that don’t agree with us.”

Rep. Shea Roberts is a mother of three children. (Courtesy of the Shea Roberts for Georgia campaign)

Amidst the current attacks in the United States on women and abortion, legislators are sharing their abortion stories, demonstrating the importance of safe and accessible abortion.

Georgia state Rep. Shea Roberts (D), a mother, attorney and small business owner, had an abortion over 15 years ago, back when Roe v. Wade was still in effect. After losing her first race for the statehouse in 2018 by 1,200 votes, she went on to win her race in 2020 and has since used her platform to share her abortion story. 

When Roberts was pregnant with what would have been her fourth child, she learned her pregnancy was incompatible with life due to a chromosomal disorder, trisomy 18. Making the best decision for her and her family, Roberts had an abortion. Then, in an attempt to bridge the political divide on abortion, Roberts shared her story on Fox News in 2022. 

Video courtesy of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee

Legislators’ stories not only are not only demonstrative of the deadly effects of the current abortion landscape, but normalize abortion as a necessary part of life. 

Below, Rep. Roberts shares not only parts of her own abortion story, but what the process of publicly sharing her story was like.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Livia Follet: Georgia is operating under a near-total abortion ban. What has this been like for you as a representative and how does this make people’s personal abortion stories especially important? 

Rep. Shea Roberts: I think we’re watching across the country as the personal stories are really starting to get folks to understand that these are real—they could be their daughter, their niece, their granddaughter. 

Women should have the right to decide their futures, and they should not have politicians in their doctor’s appointments. Period.

Follet: Tell me about why you decided to share your abortion story. What was this process like for you?

Roberts: So, my story… I was 37, this would have been our fourth child, but also our first child—my husband and I blended our families when our kids were little. And so we were very excited. 

And unfortunately, at around 12 weeks, we were told that the pregnancy was incompatible with life and had a chromosomal disorder. The results were, it was either going to be stillborn or not live long outside my body. Unfortunately, we had already told our kids. So my 5-year-old at the time was kissing my belly and talking to her little brother or sister. It was just heart-wrenching for my husband and I to think about carrying the baby to term, but also watching my youngest bury her little brother or sister that she had grown to love. 

And so I believe that I made the best choice for me, my body. Both my doctors told me pregnancy is really hard on a body—and especially when you’re over 35 and you have little kids at home, do not risk this. This is not good for your health. So again, I made the best decision for me, my body and my family—even my unborn child, in my opinion. That’s really the only opinion that should matter, right? I took all of the information that I received from the doctors, and my husband and I made the decision that was right for us. And so telling these stories is how we reach those that don’t agree with us.

I didn’t tell my story in 2018, and I regretted it—not because I thought it would necessarily have impacted the results of my race, but I think as elected leaders we have a responsibility to make sure that folks understand they’re not alone, that their stories are similar to ours too. And that because we have those stories, we truly can represent the voice of those who don’t feel like they have a voice right now. 

I always make sure that I say my story is one, but there are so many others. The point is that everyone should have the right to decide if, when or with whom to start a family.

It was just heart-wrenching for my husband and I to think about carrying the baby to term, but also watching my youngest bury her little brother or sister that she had grown to love. 

Follet: When you share your story, what is it you wish people understood about abortion?

Roberts:Well, my particular story I think goes to the dangerous outcome of these abortion bans. We already have a shortage of OB-GYNs in Georgia. More than half of our counties don’t even have an OB-GYN, and we are hearing from med students, residents and doctors that when they graduate they’re not going to stay in Georgia because they want to be able to offer their patients evidence-based care without the fear of losing their livelihood or going to jail. And I frankly can’t blame them. But that puts us in a really dangerous situation.

We’re also hearing reports of doctors having to consult with teams of people, including lawyers to determine if a woman is almost close enough to death to be able to offer life-saving care. This is insane.

We’ve been relegated to second class citizens and we’ve struggled enough with healthcare for women—not enough funding to research a lot of women’s-based diseases. And now we’re being told that a fetus, not a person, inside our body is more important than we are. And that is really hard to take, especially having two young daughters and all of the women around the country watching this. I feel like we were living inside a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode and we can’t get out. It’s crazy—never thought we would be here.

As elected leaders, we have a responsibility to make sure that folks understand they’re not alone, that their stories are similar to ours too.

Shea Roberts narrowly won in 2020 by only 377 votes, turning the Fulton County district blue for the first time since 2004. (Courtesy of the Shea Roberts for Georgia campaign)

Follet: You make an effort to reach people across party lines, noting that you come from a family of varying political views. You wrote an opinion piece for Fox News on your abortion story. What was this like for you?

Roberts:Yeah, it was a little scary. You know, after Dobbs was overturned, I wrote that op-ed piece and was consulting with some comms people and they just said, ‘You know, have you ever thought about putting it on Fox News Digital?’

And I said, ‘Oh, my goodness, that sounds a little scary.’ But then I started thinking about it and I thought, if I just keep talking to the people who agree with me (we get into our own echo chambers) then I’m not really moving the ball forward. But if I am able to speak to a broader audience of people specifically who might not agree with me, then maybe I changed the hearts and minds of a few here and there. 

And I did get a few nasty comments back, but not as many as I expected, to be honest. But I also got a couple of comments from people, women, who said, ‘I’ve never voted Democrat my entire life. You are absolutely right. You’re brave to tell your story. And for the first time I’ll be changing my party or voting for a different party next time.’ So you know, how many were those? Probably not very many, but just to hear that kind of validation.

People keep raising that we didn’t flip very many seats and 2022 after Roe’was overturned. I think a lot of folks were kind of shell-shocked in that moment, because even though I saw it coming, many of my friends and family said, ‘You’re crazy. They would never do that.’

And so I think people were still shell-shocked that it happened. And also, it was too close to the election to really be able to get behind and change up our messaging that closely. But I will tell you in Georgia for 2024, we will be loud.

I am watching women across the aisle reach out on two main issues in Georgia: reproductive freedom and common-sense gun safety regulations. I think they are tired of electing people that are not listening to them. And so hopefully we will have some positive elections around the state. We only have 12 seats left, 13 seats in the state house, until we take the majority and that is our objective going into the next two cycles.

I am watching women across the aisle reach out on two main issues in Georgia: reproductive freedom and common-sense gun safety regulations.

Rep. Roberts with gun safety advocates at the Georgia Capitol to mark Moms Demand Action Day in February 2023. (Facebook)

Follet: Is there anything we should keep an eye on in Georgia ahead of the 2024 elections? What are you working on?

Roberts: I was the lead sponsor of the Reproductive Freedom Act. We filed it both in the House and the Senate—companion bills along with Sen. Sally Harrell—and we worked with a group here in Georgia, Amplify Georgia, that’s a collaborative of a lot of the reproductive freedom organizations. And it was our vision for what we want for reproductive freedom. And that’s not just to go back to Roe, because we know [Roe failed] so many women, Black and Brown women who couldn’t afford all of the care that was available previously. So it’s an expansion on that. It’s increasing access to reproductive care.

The other one that I authored, and was the lead sponsor on—you see the ballot initiatives around the country? Well, Georgia’s Constitution does not allow us to do a citizen-led ballot initiative or referendum. So I surveyed the 24 states that have it and I took pieces from all of it that I thought made it a very high threshold, because I think those should only be used in extreme circumstances. But when you’ve got more than 60 percent of our Georgia population being polled saying they want abortion access, they want common sense guns, they want to protect Okefenokee, they don’t want school vouchers, then we’re no longer a representative democracy. Our representatives are listening to somebody other than the people of Georgia. So, I filed a constitutional amendment and the enabling legislation, but none of those bills even received a hearing. 

That is the problem: They won’t even give us an opportunity to be heard. Now on the Reproductive Freedom Bill, we held our own hearings, but it was filed in 2023, so we filed one then and then we did an update in 2024. We had doctors, ultrasound technicians, faith leaders come and testify about what they’re seeing as a result of the abortion ban, from a health outcome but also a mental outcome. And it was very powerful and we recorded that at least, and have pushed it out. But, that is kind of the answer of Republicans in Georgia: If we don’t agree with you, we’re not even gonna listen to you. 

Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. Yeah, we’re not gonna stop. 

Follet: Is there anything else that you want people to know?

Roberts: There is a huge coalition of us here in Georgia and we will not stop, but we need help in making sure that we elect the right leaders that are going to restore reproductive freedom here in Georgia. 

Editor’s note: Share your abortion story by emailing myabortionstory@msmagazine.com. 

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Livia Follet is an editorial intern for Ms. and a recent graduate from The University of Colorado Boulder where she earned bachelor's degrees in English literature and women and gender studies. Raised in rural Colorado, her interests include environmental justice movements, Indigenous feminisms and reproductive justice.