Human Rights

Mother of ‘the boy without a brain’ fights to save babies with disabilities from abortion

Noah Wall is a little boy with spina bifida who has captured the hearts of people around the world.

Nicknamed “the boy without a brain,” Noah’s parents found out at three months gestation that he had not only spina bifida, but also hydrocephalus and chromosomal abnormalities. Most alarmingly, only 2 percent of his brain was present. Noah’s parents were pressured five times to have an abortion, but they repeatedly refused.

Everyone expected Noah to die soon after birth, and his parents planned his funeral during the pregnancy. But he lived, and by age three, his brain had grown, giving him 80 percent of a normal brain. He is paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair, but he currently is going to school, can talk, read, and count to ten. His doctors even think he might be able to walk one day.

Now, his mother has a mission: to stop people like her son from being targeted for abortion.

In the United Kingdom, abortion is banned after 24 weeks of pregnancy… unless the baby has a disability, even one as minor as a cleft lip. Then the mother can choose to have an abortion, right up to 40 weeks of pregnancy. Shelly Wall, Noah’s mom, says that babies with disabilities should have equal rights, from the moment of conception.

“It is not about having the perfect baby. What is a perfect baby?” she asked. “Noah’s a perfect baby to me. Mothers who abort their disabled baby’s life will miss out on a very special relationship. It didn’t cross my mind to contemplate termination. When you create a life with a person you love and you wanted to have a baby with, then you love that child. It was a child conceived in love. Do you love a child any less because it’s disabled?”

Shelly also explained that she cherished every moment she had with Noah through the pregnancy, even knowing that she might lose him soon after birth. “We didn’t know how long we’d have with him – minutes, days, months – we had no idea,” she said. “I feel that all disabled children should be given a chance. Noah is normal to me. He’s my son. We need to treat disabled people with respect and treat them like human beings. Everybody has the chance to abort their baby up until 24 weeks but I don’t think that destroying a child up until birth just because it’s got a cleft palate or just because it has spina bifida is right.”

She has now partnered with Lord Kevin Shinkwin, a disabled U.K. lawmaker who is on a mission of his own. Shinkwin has brittle bone disease, or osteogenesis imperfecta, and has undergone multiple operations, as well as endured multiple fractures. He has been an outspoken opponent of the targeting of disabled babies for abortion. A parliamentary commission pointed out that parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis often are pushed to have an abortion, are not given information about their options, and are not given support or resources.

“I can see from the trends in abortion on grounds of disability that the writing is on the wall for people like me,” Shinkwin said in a speech before Parliament. “People with congenital disabilities are facing extinction. If we were animals, perhaps we might qualify for protection as an endangered species. But we are only human beings with disabilities, so we don’t qualify.”

Shinkwin and Wall have joined together to introduce “Noah’s Law,” which would keep babies with disabilities from being the exception to the 24-week abortion law, which Shinkwin calls a “license to kill” disabled babies. “The tragedy is that some in the medical establishment still see disability as a tragedy to be eradicated by abortion. It’s eugenics,” he said. “What no one can explain is why after birth I’m good enough for the Queen to send me to the House of Lords while before birth I’m only good for the incinerator.”

People with disabilities have just as much of a right to life as any other person, and should not be looked at as less deserving of protection than their typical peers. We can only hope that the rest of Parliament will finally agree, and stop this discrimination against disabled babies.

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