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Anabely Lopes was 15 weeks pregnant last year when doctors delivered the devastating news: Her fetus had a fatal birth defect that would result in death within days of birth.

The decision to get an abortion was so difficult for Lopes that she had thoughts of suicide, she said at a news conference Monday.

“I have [suicidal] thoughts because it was very painful for me to decide to do this, and I told my husband it’s better to [die by] suicide than to do this,” Lopes said.

But when the Florida resident tried to get an abortion last July, she was stonewalled by a state law that had gone into effect days earlier banning most abortions after 15 weeks. After she couldn’t find a doctor who would give her a medical exemption in fear of a potential lawsuit, Lopes said she was forced to fly more than 1,000 miles from South Florida to Washington, D.C., to get an abortion when she was 16 weeks and three days.

“We made the painful decision to end our very wanted pregnancy,” Lopes, 44, told reporters in Sunrise, Fla.

Nearly seven months after the procedure, Lopes is returning to Washington as a guest of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) for Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. Lopes is expected to be one of several guests in attendance who were unable to receive treatment due to the wave of restrictive abortion laws implemented by Republican-led states since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer.

“Women have a target on their back right now,” Wasserman Schultz told reporters Monday, adding that Lopes and the other guests would “highlight the extremism” of Republican states.

Among the other guests in attendance will be Amanda Zurawski, an Austin woman who nearly lost her life to sepsis when she miscarried at when she was 18 weeks pregnant and was unable to get an abortion due to a Texas law. Zurawski and her husband, Josh, will sit in first lady Jill Biden’s box, according to the White House. Olivia Julianna, a Texas abortion rights activist who helped raise more than $2 million in online donations for reproductive health care after a viral back-and-forth with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), will be at the State of the Union as a guest of Rep. Nanette D. Barragàn (D-Calif.).

President Biden’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday, the first since Roe was overturned more than seven months ago, is expected to address issues surrounding abortion rights at a time when more than a dozen states have banned most abortions — either outlawing the procedure entirely, with limited exceptions, or after six weeks of pregnancy.

Analysis: The challenge Biden faces

Even with restrictive laws enacted in GOP-led states, more limits could be on the way as Republicans in several states are expected to push for stricter abortion bans. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) indicated to reporters last week that he would favor a proposed measure banning abortions after six weeks. Republicans are expected to pursue a “heartbeat ban,” which would outlaw abortions as soon as cardiac activity is detected, around six weeks of pregnancy.

“I’ve urged the legislature to work, to produce good stuff, and we will sign,” he said at a news conference, according to WFLA.

Abortion is now banned or under threat in these states

When Lopes found out she was pregnant last year, the resident of Hallandale Beach, Fla., was ecstatic that she and her husband were having a girl, she told reporters. Lopes said she knew her pregnancy would be considered high-risk due to her age, a previous miscarriage and her history with thrombosis, a condition where blood clots block blood vessels.

At the 15-week mark of her pregnancy, doctors told her that genetic testing had confirmed earlier blood testing that showed fetus had a fatal birth defect. Doctors told her the fetus had been diagnosed with Trisomy 18 — also known as Edwards syndrome — which is a rare and very severe genetic condition that affects how a child’s body develops and grows. The birth defect has no treatment and results in death either before birth or within the first few weeks of life.

After talking with her husband, Lopes, who worked as a nurse in Brazil before coming to the U.S., said they made the decision to get an abortion in a pregnancy they very much wanted to have.

“We felt it was our duty to protect our daughter from neglectful suffering if she were to make it to term,” Lopes said through tears.

But there was one problem: The state’s restrictive abortion law had just gone into effect. While the Florida law does offer an abortion exemption for women whose babies have a “fatal fetal abnormality,” Lopes told reporters Monday that her doctors were afraid to write a letter saying that she needed a medical exemption, saying they feared getting sued under the new law.

Shortly after realizing she was unable to get what she needed to have an abortion in the state, Lopes traveled more than 1,000 miles to a clinic in D.C. for treatment on July 16, she said.

Wasserman Schultz argued at the news conference that the restrictive laws implemented by DeSantis and Republicans in Florida “made it impossible for [Lopes] to be able to do what was best for her own health” and for the fetus.

“They have put doctors who are simply trying to take care of their patients and make sure they can give them the best possible health care, they put them and their licenses and their freedom — because it’s a criminal prosecution — at risk, and they have put women like Anabely at risk,” the Democrat said.

Toward the end of the news conference announcing her return to Washington for Tuesday’s State of the Union, Lopes cried and reiterated that getting an abortion she had to travel out of state to have done was heartbreaking.

“It was very painful for me to decide to do this,” she said.

Caroline Kitchener, Kevin Schaul, N. Kirkpatrick, Daniela Santamariña and Lauren Tierney contributed to this report.

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