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Sen. Gary Peters shares his abortion story

“It's a story of how gut-wrenching and complicated decisions can be related to reproductive health," the Michigan Democrat said. “These things happen to folks every day.”
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill on Sept. 24, 2020.Tom Williams / Pool via AP

A U.S. senator is sharing his abortion story.

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., told Elle magazine in an interview published Monday how an abortion may have saved the life of his first wife.

Peters, who is running for re-election to a second term in the Senate, said in the interview that he is speaking out because he is concerned that the confirmation of President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, could result in the court's striking down Roe v. Wade.

The senator said that during the late 1980s in Detroit, his first wife, Heidi, was pregnant with their second child, a baby they greatly wanted.

She was four months pregnant when her water broke. The loss of amniotic fluid meant the fetus could not survive, Peters said.

The couple was advised to go home and wait for a natural miscarriage. When that didn't happen, they returned to the hospital the next day. The fetus had a faint heartbeat, but the doctor recommended an abortion because there was no chance it would live.

But as the hospital didn't allow abortions, the doctor again sent the couple home to wait to have a miscarriage naturally.

Again, it didn't happen, and when the couple went back to the hospital the third day, the doctor said that without an abortion Heidi was in danger of losing her uterus or of dying if she became septic.

An appeal to the hospital's board by the doctor to allow an abortion was turned down.

"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 the magazine.

The couple was able to get Heidi into another hospital that performed the abortion.

In a statement, Heidi told Elle, "If it weren’t for urgent and critical medical care, I could have lost my life.”

“It's a story of how gut-wrenching and complicated decisions can be related to reproductive health," Sen. Peters said.

“It’s important for folks to understand that these things happen to folks every day,” he 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' challenger in the election, Republican John James, has publicly stated his opposition to abortion. He tweeted upon the anniversary in 2018 of the Roe v. Wade decision, "I am 100% #ProLife because I believe life begins at conception and ends at a natural death. We will not stop fighting until we end abortion."

The James campaign told NBC News that the candidate supports allowing abortion to save the mother's life, but declined to elaborate further on the candidate's position on abortion rights, pointing to public statements James made against abortion in 2018.

Barrett, in confirmation hearings before the Senate this week, has declined to give her views on Roe v. Wade. In 2006, she participated in a newspaper ad calling for the decision to be overturned and to end its "barbaric" legacy.

Peters told Elle, "This is a pivotal moment for reproductive freedom."