Elouise Simpson’s parents were told to end her life in abortion; today she is alive and well—and even walking! Elouise was diagnosed before birth with spina bifida, a neural tube defect that can result in a wide range of physical disabilities and developmental delays. Doctors advised Elouise’s parents, Bethan and Kieron Simpson, to end their daughter’s life in abortion, even while there is experimental prenatal surgery becoming more widely available each year.
Thankfully, Elouise’s family did not hesitate. Bethan said, “I couldn’t justify terminating a child I could feel kicking.” The Simpson’s said choosing to pursue prenatal surgery for their daughter was a “no-brainer.” The potentially life-saving surgery, in part pioneered in Texas, involves opening the womb and operating on the baby, generally before 25 weeks gestation. The pregnancy then continues with increased monitoring and bedrest for the mother, and babies are generally delivered early by planned caesarian.
Prenatal surgery can be used not only to treat spina bifida but also other complications and potential birth defects. One Texas baby, Lynlee Hope Boemer, underwent a rare open fetal surgery to remove a growth from the base of her spine that threatened her life. Lynlee’s family shares her amazing story to give families hope and show the world that every child in the womb is fully human. Lynlee’s mother, Margaret Boemer, told Texas Right to Life, “To see Lynlee’s perfectly formed body being carefully placed back inside of me, her legs and feet, no one can argue that she is just a clump of cells that should be robbed of the chance at life outside the womb.”
Like Lynlee, after the prenatal surgery, Elouise was born last year “kicking and screaming” with sensation down to her toes. Doctors hoped that, because of the surgery, the effects of spina bifida would be minimal, and that appears to be the case. Bethan Simpson told Live Action News, “She’s doing amazingly well.” Bethan added, “She remains intervention free at 1 year. She’s starting to take steps on her own, walks around furniture and holding on well. Meeting all her little milestones that they once said would be unlikely.”
Thankfully, Elouise continues to beat the odds and is thriving after prenatal surgery, but her story highlights the deadly discrimination against babies who may have a disability. At the time of Elouise’s birth when discussing the advice to abort their daughter, Bethan explained doctors “did say it would be a pretty bleak outcome… very bleak. It was such a raw time,” when they received the diagnosis. Focusing on the worst case scenario and describing potentially disabled children as “incompatible with life” is tragically common in our medical system. Through fear and despair, many parents mistakenly believe that their only choice is abortion. Stories like Elouise’s, and other babies helped by prenatal surgery, are an important way of spreading hope to other families affected by a difficult diagnosis.
Elouise’s parents ultimately recognized the value of her life and were not willing to choose abortion, but, unfortunately, some of the media coverage of her story focused on how the surgery supposedly made her life “worth living.” Her father said, “It was a pretty stark choice. How could we bring a child into this world with such a poor quality of life? She may not have had the use of her lower limbs as well as dysfunctional bladder and kidneys.” Certainly, Elouise’s life is greatly improved by the surgery she received and enriched by the abilities she may not otherwise have had. However, to suggest that a child’s life is not worth living if she cannot walk or grow to function independently is a deadly lie. A child’s abilities do not determine the child’s value or worthiness of Life.
This deadly lie, that a child who may be disabled is better off dead, has led to the discriminatory abortion of an untold number of other babies diagnosed before birth with spina bifida. These babies were no less valuable than Elouise and no less worthy of a chance at Life. The parents of one baby in the UK diagnosed with spina bifida chose to end their son’s life in abortion. The abortion failed and their son was born crying. After crying in his mother’s arms for an hour, the baby boy died of extreme prematurity caused by the attempted abortion.
Elouise’s story of beating the odds is inspiring. Her story is also a reminder that our culture has a long way to go in ending the deadly discrimination against babies with disabilities in the womb.