Dallas, Texas, Jun 8, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
When her twin girls were born suddenly at only 26 weeks, Anne Ponton said doctors and nurses in her home town of Irving, Texas fought diligently for her babies' survival.
But the twins, born to Anne and her husband Jason in December 2001, “were the same size” as the babies murdered by late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell.
Gosnell, who ran the Philadelphia-based Women's Medical Society clinic, was convicted on three first degree murder charges in May 2013 for killing babies born alive after botched abortions. During the trial, gruesome testimonies from facility workers – who described the procedures as akin to a “beheading” – garnered international media attention.
“They were doing everything in that clinic to kill the exact same size and viability” of babies such as “our girls,” Ponton told CNA in a June 5 interview.
However, “where we were going...they were doing everything in their power to save their lives.”
Ponton recalled how nearly twelve years ago, the first six months of her pregnancy with the twins went smoothly. Yet at 26 weeks, she remembers calling her doctor the next morning after a routine appointment about a slight concern she had noticed.
To her surprise, the doctor told her to get to the hospital right away.
By the time Ponton and her husband Jason arrived, nurses found that she was already in labor and that she was dilated seven centimeters. Medical staff on hand tried to stop labor, but were unable to.
It was at that moment that the doctor “just leaned over and whispered, 'Anne, if you are a woman of faith, pray. You're going to have these babies right now,'” Ponton said.
The girls were delivered via emergency Caesarean section, and immediately both were put on full life support, baptized and taken to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Dallas.
“Each child had their own team of nurses and one doctor ready for them,” she said.
One of the baby girls weighed only one pound, nine ounces and the other weighed one pound, thirteen ounces. Within a few days both babies were operated upon – one twin having heart surgery, the other hernia surgery.
At the intensive care unit, the twins were put into beds covered by “a plastic, transparent...bubble,” meant to closely simulate the conditions of a mother's womb.
While her daughters were at the unit, Ponton would drive back and forth every day with her husband to see them. On the route, the two had to pass a late-term abortion clinic less than a mile from the hospital.
“What we're hoping is that people who are so quick to say yes, Gosnell is a monster, that they see that this act in and of itself, period – whether it’s done in a clean clinic or a disgusting clinic – at 24 weeks or 12 weeks, it’s still killing,” Ponton said.
“I have never met or talked to a NICU doctor who would not argue that the babies that Gosnell was convicted of (killing) are of viability outside the womb and that they’re human beings.”
Ponton recalled that during their time at the hospital, as soon as the twins were healthy enough, doctors put the girls together in the same bed.
“It was amazing, because when one of the girls was having a really hard day, breathing, or not tolerating the feeding well because it was all through feeding tubes…(the nurses) would swaddle them very tightly together and whoever was having a hard day, after being swaddled with her sister, would thrive.”
By the end of the first two weeks, while their eyes were still sealed shut, Ponton said the babies “could even recognize the voice of the doctor or the nurse coming who typically did the blood test every single day.”
The babies began to equate the voice of the nurse who took their blood with pain and when they heard his voice coming down the hall, “their heart rate would immediately shoot up.”
“So to me, that was just one more confirmation that these precious little children do feel pain as they do feel it in the womb,” she said.
After four months at the hospital, both girls were able to come home at the same time without feeding tubes, an apnea monitor, oxygen, or medication.
It was documented as “one of the biggest success stories” in the history of the intensive care unit, Ponton said.
On her healthy, nearly-12-year-old daughters today, Ponton reflected that “we have the proof – we have the fruit, of what it looks like to say yes to life.”
“Our girls are that voice and that face” for what “life looks like when given the chance,” she said.
“That’s our hope for sharing our story, is that people will just come to understand the dignity of all human life, in all its stages.”
Washington D.C., Jun 8, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A lack of information about the dangers of surrogate pregnancy could soon allow the practice to become legal in Washington, D.C., warned the founder of one bioethics organization.
“These issues aren’t on anyone’s radar,” said Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture. “By and large people have accepted third party reproduction. It’s not seen as controversial…because people are woefully misinformed.”
Lahl told CNA that the average person sees nothing wrong with surrogacy, which is the practice of a woman carrying and delivering a baby for someone else. This could explain the lack of opposition to a new bill in that nation’s capital, she said.
Legislation introduced June 3 by D.C. Councilman David Catania would legalize surrogacy in the district. If passed, it would wipe away current local legislation prohibiting surrogacy contracts, which carry penalties of up to $10,000 in fines or a year in jail.
“I don't expect there to be any significant opposition,” Catania told the Washington Examiner. “This is about remedying what I believe to be an imperfection in our law.”
Lahl, who worked as a pediatric nurse for 20 years, said most people are unaware of the negative repercussions of surrogacy. She noted that concerns with legalized surrogacy include a lack of research in the field and a failure to consider the impact on the child and the woman whose womb is being “rented.”
One of the biggest concerns, she warned, is that the relationship between a mother and a child in her womb is ignored.
“So much is going on in that womb,” Lahl explained. “The surrogate mom and child will be linked genetically, and there’s so much we’re learning about genetic diseases and how much the womb plays into that child’s health.”
The connection is more than simply physical, she continued.
“Newborns know one thing – they know who their mother is,” she said. “I’ve known of mothers who sing to their children in the womb or read them books - what happens when you tell a mother to intentionally not bond with a child in their womb?”
California attorney Stephanie Caballero handles surrogacy cases and says 30 percent of her clients are gay. She told the Washington Examiner that with proper screening, money is not the only reason a woman decides to become a surrogate.
“The first reason is because they want to help someone,” she said. “They do it [in part] because they love being pregnant.”
However, as part of a new documentary for the Center for Bioethics and Culture, Lahl has interviewed numerous women who were surrogate mothers. By and large, she said, surrogate women “are women who have financial need – wealthy women are going to be buying the surrogacy contract.”
Raising concerns over the practice of paying women in order to “rent” their bodies and produce children, Lahl argued that women and children end up being exploited.
Surrogacy comes in two forms: traditional surrogacy, when the surrogate mother’s own egg is fertilized and implanted in her womb, and gestational surrogacy, when the commissioning woman’s egg is fertilized and then implanted into the surrogate mother’s womb.
The bill proposed in D.C. allows for both kinds of surrogacy, though there is a legal tendency to favor gestational surrogacy, Lahl said.
“That is the way most surrogacy is moving,” she cautioned. “They don’t want the birth mother to claim any rights to the child, they want her to just be the ‘oven.’ They keep deconstructing who ‘owns’ that child.”
Lahl said this language of surrogacy laws should be enough to cause people to pause.
“This is a contract, we’re discussing who ‘owns it’ – even though we’re dealing with a child,” she said.
“They’re only thinking about goods and services,” she warned. “Nobody’s thinking about the child.”