It’s every expectant parent’s worst nightmare: you go for a routine ultrasound and find out your baby has a life-threatening birth defect. In many of these situations, parents have a choice to make. They can fight for their child’s life. They can accept the diagnosis and give birth to their baby, who will pass away peacefully and naturally when the time comes. Or they can have an abortion. The choice to abort is sadly not only common, but women are frequently pressured to take the lives of their preborn children if anything is found to be wrong. Parents who choose life despite this pressure can find themselves under despicable criticism. It takes incredible courage to resist that pressure and choose life for your child instead. And that is exactly what Alysha Kellner did.
At 21 weeks of pregnancy, Kellner learned that her baby had a small sac of fluid around her heart. After following up with a specialist at 23 weeks, they got the earth-shattering diagnosis: a fetal teratoma, a rare tumor. Their baby not only had this rare birth defect, but an even rarer one — a pericardial teratoma that is found on the heart. It was because of the tumor that the fluid, which had grown to a dangerous amount, was around the heart. The fluid could be drained with a needle, but their best hope for their daughter involved making it to 28 weeks. Then, the doctors could perform an EXIT procedure, or ex utero intrapartum treatment: the doctors would operate on the baby while she was still attached to the mother’s placenta, and then deliver her. But if the baby’s tumor grew too quickly, that option would no longer be available to them.
By 26 weeks, the fluid that had been drained had returned. The tumor had gotten significantly larger. The baby would need to have a much more dangerous procedure that carried a lot of risks: performing surgery while the baby was still in her mother’s uterus, and then would sew the uterus back up. It had only been performed a handful of times. The baby could die as doctors operated. She might need to be delivered, leaving her very premature. And even if all went well, Kellner’s uterus could rupture later in the pregnancy, endangering both Kellner’s life and that of her baby’s.
Doctors insisted that she didn’t have to have the surgery. But Kellner had already named her baby girl — Kora Amada. She was told Kora had a 50/50 chance of survival. At the time of the surgery, Kora weighed just two pounds. The tumor was four times bigger than her heart.
Miraculously, the surgery was a success. Kellner and her husband, Ben, both cried when they heard the news. 90% of the tumor had been removed, and the rest could be removed after Kora was born. Kora made it to 35 weeks before being born by C-section, and a week later, doctors removed the rest of her tumor. She’s now seven months old, healthy and happy, with no signs of the tumor reoccurring on MRIs. And it’s all possible because Kellner chose to fight for Kora’s life, rather than sentencing her to death.
At 23 weeks, Kora would have endured a dilation and evacuation — or D&E — abortion. The procedure, which former abortionist Dr. Anthony Levatino explains here, is brutal, violent, and takes place when babies can almost certainly feel pain.
The prospect of a child who could be severely ill or disabled, or even die very young, is undoubtedly terrifying. But it does not take away that child’s inherent right to life. Every person has dignity and value, even those among us who are small, vulnerable, ill, or unwanted. It’s a miracle that Kora was born to parents willing to fight for her — parents who chose life instead of death.