“The mental anguish someone goes through is intense,” Peters, a Michigan Democrat, said in an interview with Elle magazine published on Monday, “trying to have a miscarriage for a child that was wanted.”
But the situation became more critical when Heidi’s health deteriorated, so the couple found a doctor at another hospital who agreed to do the procedure.
In the interview, Peters spoke publicly for the first time about the abortion and the troubling moments leading up to the event, which threatened the life of his ex-wife. Peters now joins a small group of members of Congress who have spoken about their personal experiences with abortion.
“My story is one that’s tragically shared by so many Americans,” Peters tweeted on Monday. “It’s a story of gut-wrenching and complicated decisions — but it’s important for folks to understand families face these situations every day.”
Peters shared the story as he fights to retain his seat in the Senate in a battleground state that President Trump narrowly won in 2016. Peters faces John James, a well-funded Republican businessman and Army veteran.
His challenger supports limiting access to abortions, overturning Roe v. Wade, remains against abortions in cases of rape and incest, and compared abortions to “genocide” in 2018, according to MLive.com.
Peters suggested that his family’s experience colors his own view of abortion access.
“It’s important for folks to understand that these things happen to folks every day,” Peters said. “I’ve always considered myself pro-choice and believe women should be able to make these decisions themselves, but when you live it in real life, you realize the significant impact it can have on a family.”
Peters and Heidi had very much wanted the baby, which would have been their second child, he told Elle. But when Heidi’s water broke five months early, their doctor told them that without the amniotic fluid, the baby had no chance of survival.
Heidi’s health declined in the days that followed, and a doctor warned that if she did not have an abortion immediately, she could lose her uterus or die of a uterine infection that could cause her to become septic. After the hospital’s board rejected an appeal to make an exception for Heidi, the doctor urged the couple to go to another hospital for the abortion.
“I still vividly remember he left a message on the answering machine saying, ‘They refused to give me permission, not based on good medical practice, simply based on politics. I recommend you immediately find another physician who can do this procedure quickly,’” Peters told Elle.
They followed the doctor’s recommendation and Heidi was rushed into an emergency abortion at another hospital. It “enacted an incredible emotional toll,” Peters said.
In a statement to Elle, Heidi described those several days as “painful and traumatic.”
“If it weren’t for urgent and critical medical care, I could have lost my life,” she added.
“It’s important for folks who are willing to tell these stories to tell them, especially now,” Peters said. “This is a pivotal moment for reproductive freedom.”