Doctors told Kildare woman Jennifer Kehoe that she should travel to England for an abortion because her baby had a life-threatening congenital heart defect and a rare brain disorder.
Jennifer and her husband John, a GP, were told the baby would have little chance of surviving outside the womb. Their daughter Louise Kehoe, now three years old, defied the odds.
Jennifer and her husband felt "judged" for not choosing termination, the Irish mum told the Independent.
But if they had gone ahead with the abortion, they would never have experience how their "delightful little girl" would "blow us away with love," she says.
The Kehoes' baby was diagnosed in the womb with life-threatening congenital brain malformation called Dandy-Walker Syndrome and a heart defect. They were "advised to have an abortion by an Irish obstetrician on the grounds of foetal anomaly."
“The very first thing our obstetrician suggested was, ‘Go to England'. We decided against that and to give our daughter a shot at life, however long or short that might be,” said Jennifer, a mother of six.
As Jennifer was 42 at the time of her pregnancy, the couple decided to have an amniocentesis or amniotic fluid test to check for chromosomal abnormalities.
“I had loads of miscarriages since the last baby – we had five children and the youngest was six,” said Jennifer, who is from Naas, Kildaire.
“Abortion was never ever what we were thinking of, not even for the single flicker of a second.”
Jennifer said that once the diagnosis was outlined to her, she began to grieve for her unborn child.
“I said to John, ‘I hope that the baby dies soon' so that I could start the grief process.
“But about a day later I started to hope that the baby would get to 24 weeks, so she could get a birth cert. During this time we were handed a card for a bereavement councillor and quite quickly after that I said ‘I want this baby to live, no matter what.'
“If we had made an appointment for England there and then, we wouldn't have had the chance to come to the third point in the thought process – that we would do anything to save our baby.”
According to the amniocentesis, there was no chromosome abnormality.
“It was only then that we got to see a cardiologist,” Jennifer said.
Three-year-old Louis has come through three heart operations, but her cognitive development is normal and she is expected to lead a long and and normal life.
“Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, it is about the pressure that doctors put on you to make a decision,” she said. “The choice isn't being given.
“Doctors are pressuring people to go to England if there is a foetal abnormality and then punishing them if they don't make that decision.
“I think it was a eugenic attitude, that people who are disabled are a drain on resources.
Dandy Walker Syndrome affects one in 2,500 babies. The syndrome can severely impact brain development, speech and movement. Symptoms include slow motor development and progressive enlargement of the skull.
However, Louise has none of these problems.
“If some of the babies have a strange chromosome deletion, there is no way of knowing how the baby will turn out.
“Louise is completely normal, she has this heart condition and she will be monitored all her life.
“We would never have known that Louise was about to defy all predictions, that she was about to defy her genes and that she would grow into a delightful little girl who has reached all her milestones with time to share,” she added.
Jennifer says that she is firmly pro-life and doesn't agree with abortion “in any circumstance."
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