When Mary LeQuieu was born in the spring of 1952, her father, George, looked her over thoroughly, counting to make sure she had all ten fingers and toes. He noted her good, strong lungs as she let out a loud cry. She was a healthy baby girl, his and his wife's second child, and the answer to seven months of fervent prayer and anxious waiting.
Many months before, in August 1951 in Salem, Oregon his pregnant wife, Liz, had begun hemorrhaging. She was about 6-8 weeks pregnant with Mary, and her physician, Dr. Brown, was out of town. Instead, his partner, Dr. Greenwood, made a house call. Upon examining Liz, he delivered crushing news: She was losing the baby. If the baby did survive, he warned, the child would be physically and mentally handicapped.
His solution was to terminate the pregnancy.
Devastated, Liz took the pill the doctor had given her, and together she and George sat down and cried.
The next day, the couple got a call from Liz's regular physician, Dr. Brown. He had read his colleague's report and completely disagreed with his diagnosis; he believed he could save the baby.
Now Dr. Brown made a house call. According to one of Liz's diary entries from the time, he gave Liz a shot and some medication and put her on bedrest.
The following seven months would be wrought with anxiety and intense prayer, particularly for George.
"I know that my Dad really spent a lot of time praying," says LeQuieu. "It was kind of a significant step in his spiritual journey. He was a believer. He'd accepted Christ when he was 18 years old, but he really had to trust God for the outcome because when you think about it, there are two doctors telling them two different things.
"One doctor is saying the baby's no good, not viable, get rid of it. And then the other is saying, 'No, no, no, we can preserve this life.' So when they made the choice to follow the life-affirming doctor's advice, that was really a leap of faith for them."
That leap of faith ended up saving Mary's life.
"My parents and I, we are absolutely grateful for that doctor's intervention because without it I wouldn't be here," said LeQuieu.
Decades Later, Reversal Efforts Continue to Save Lives
In recent years, hundreds of women have benefitted from an intervention similar to the one that saved Mary LeQuieu's life. Today, Abortion Pill Reversal, pioneered by Dr. George Delgado and Dr. Matthew Harrison, aims to save babies by turning back the effects of the abortion pill.
Otherwise known as a chemical abortion or RU-486, the "abortion pill" is actually a two-pill regimen. The first pill, mifepristone, works by telling a woman's body to stop producing progesterone—a necessary hormone to sustain a healthy pregnancy. The second pill, typically misoprostol, forces her body to expel the baby.
Abortion Pill Reversal can be used up 72 hours after taking the first pill and before taking the second. It works by reintroducing progesterone to the woman's body, either by pill or injection.
Physicians have been using progesterone to prevent miscarriages since the 1950s—around the time LeQuieu was born.
Though the details are now foggy to LeQuieu's 92-year-old mother, she refers to the intervention that saved her daughter's life as a "reversal."
LeQuieu may just have been among the first of many to be saved thanks to reversal efforts using progesterone.
Since Abortion Pill Reversal debuted in 2007, nearly 500 lives have been saved by the protocol. Recently, Delgado had a study published in the medical journal, Issues in Law and Medicine, revealing its success rate.
Up to 68 percent of women who changed their mind about an abortion and started the Abortion Pill Reversal treatment were able to give birth to a perfectly healthy baby.
Another Pregnancy, Another Doctor, a Different Ending
Today, LeQuieu is the executive director of Care Net Pregnancy Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
It wasn't until she began working at Care Net in 2000 that her mother decided to share the story of her incomplete abortion with LeQuieu.
"My mom said to me, 'Well, you know, based on what you do, you probably need to know this,'" LeQuieu said.
By that time, LeQuieu herself had already gone through the trials of having her own abortion many years before—in 1973, the year Roe v. Wade was decided, repealing abortion restrictions in all 50 states.
"It was probably the roughest period of my life because I didn't want to do it and yet I was coerced into it," she said. "You know, I hated doctors for years because the doctor who performed the abortion was such a bully. I mean, he literally yelled in my face to sign the paperwork and stop wasting his time. And refused to answer my questions, by the way. Because I asked out right for a referral to a maternity home and he wouldn't give it to me."
She also asked about her baby's development.
"When I finally pressed him on that he told me, 'It looks like a pre-evolutionary fish,'" she said. "I don't know what the heck a pre-evolutionary fish is."
LeQuieu was 12 weeks along, almost out of the first trimester. By this time, a baby has a beating heart, brain waves, arms, legs, eyelids, toes, and fingerprints. Every organ is in place.
Feeling the intense pressure to abort from both the doctor and her baby's father, LeQuieu went through with the procedure.
The abortionist inserted laminaria in her to begin the dilation process and had her come to the hospital the next day to remove the baby.
But as he started the abortion, a complication struck: LeQuieu began having an allergic reaction to the pain medication.
"The doctor looks up at me and, of course, he's got a mask on so all I can see is his eyes," said LeQuieu. "He looks up at me and says, 'Oh my God. What's happening to her?!' Well, that's not a very comforting thing to hear."
All LeQuieu could see was her right arm.
"I remember turning my head and looking at my arm and I had massive red welts going all the way up my arm," she said.
Eventually, after much commotion, an anesthesiologist arrived and put her under. That is all she remembers of her abortion.
After her traumatic experience, LeQuieu says she was changed.
"The thing that most describes the result of that is that I had an instantaneous personality change," she said. "I went from being a very happy-go-lucky person, just very much of an optimist, very outgoing to being fearful, introverted, distrustful, angry, and just crying. I would cry myself to sleep every night. And that was such a radical change."
Recovery and Gratitude
LeQuieu would spend the next few decades looking for forgiveness. Fortunately, she had loving parents who stood by her during that trying time.
"Here's the good thing: My parents were so forgiving and so...they just loved on me through that period of time," she said. "It was the one spark of hope that showed me that God could forgive me, but it was a very long process."
Years later, that process would lead her to Care Net.
Unfulfilled by her work selling furniture, she began praying with her husband for a way she could get into women's ministry, particularly for women facing unplanned pregnancies.
Her opportunity came in 2000 when she was hired as Director of Client Services at Care Net.
After beginning her work at Care Net, LeQuieu took the center's Forgiven and Set Free class, an extensive Bible study that addresses post-abortion recovery.
For LeQuieu, the recovery process was liberating.
"I was telling somebody the other day that women who walk away from post-abortion healing ministries...it feels like they have been carrying a burden of heavy weight and when they walk away from those, the weight is gone," she said. "Freedom is a good word for it."
Today, LeQuieu sees divine purpose in her story. From surviving an abortion to being coerced into one as a young woman, she has been deeply impacted by the practice. But she is hopeful that her story has made a difference in the lives of others.
"My story is kind of complex, but it is what God has used to intervene in other people's lives and for that I'm very thankful," she said. "I mean, you know, I'm thankful that a doctor was willing to step out of the comfort zone and intervene to save my life."
In 2018, doctors like Delgado, Harrison and the Abortion Pill Reversal network of medical providers continue this work, intervening to save lives like Mary's from the pain of abortion, as well as women like Mary from the regret of abortion.
Abortion Pill Reversal Hotline: 877-558-0333
More information: AbortionPillReversal.com