Human Interest

Trisomy 18 is not an automatic death sentence. These children are proof.

Media has been abuzz this week with the story of Kate Cox, the Texas woman who sued the state so she could abort her preborn child who was diagnosed with Trisomy 18. Cox sought to end her pregnancy simply because of her baby’s diagnosis, as doctors are saying the child has virtually “no chance of survival.” This claim has been parroted by many who believe that Cox should be allowed to get an abortion on the basis that Trisomy 18 is “incompatible with life.”

Many parents are told that Trisomy 18 is a “fatal” condition. Unfortunately, it’s the label itself that often leads to a short life span; once a child is given the diagnosis, doctors are generally unwilling to provide substantial medical care. However, if the child receives proper medical attention, there is a chance. A 2017 study from researchers at Stanford and the University of Arkansas revealed that children with Trisomy 18 diagnosis are more likely to survive if they undergo pediatric heart surgery. In addition, this 2019 study reveals a 90% discharge rate for children with trisomy 18 after having their hearts repaired.

These medical studies call the bluff of naysayers. Even more compelling are the stories of the Trisomy 18 survivors themselves. They are living proof that Trisomy 18 is not an automatic death sentence. Here are just a few children who have beaten the odds and have survived with this diagnosis.

Bella Santorum

The daughter of former Senator Rick Santorum and his wife Karen, Bella turned 15 this year. The pro-life parents refused to abort their daughter even though she had been diagnosed with Trisomy 18 and was deemed “incompatible with life.”

Rick Santorum tweeted about Bella in response to a claim from Ann Coulter, who said that Cox’s abortion should be allowed because “Trisomy 18 is not a condition that compatible with life.”

“Meet my incompatible w life daughter Bella,” he wrote. “Her docs put her on hospice at 10 days old. Other countries have much higher survival rates than US because they treat the baby not the diagnosis. Every kid deserves a shot at life, not be brutally dismembered for not being perfect.”

Wylie Duerson

Wylie’s parents, Karla and Gavin Duerson learned during Karla’s pregnancy that Wylie would likely have Trisomy 18, but they were determined to give their daughter a chance at life. The couple worked with specialists throughout the pregnancy and were overjoyed when Wylie showed her fighting spirit after birth.

Trisomy 18

via Instagram WyliesWarriors

“[W]hen they showed her to me, she was awfully floppy and blue. She didn’t look like a baby who was alive,” Karla said. “But they let my husband hold her, and I will never forget the moment. I’d just given birth and he just says, ‘She’s breathing Karla, she’s breathing!’ And she just kept breathing and kept living.”

Because Wylie has thrived, her doctors have realized that more can be done for babies with the condition. “All the other patients who have had Trisomy 18 that have come behind Wylie — she kind of has helped forge some of those paths for us,” Dr. Lindsay Ragsdale said. “This was kind of a new horizon for us to say, yeah, we should be offering more surgeries and more options for Trisomy 18.”

Verity Jacobson

When Beverly and Ted Jacobson learned that their preborn child, Verity, had Trisomy 18, they were terrified — and given little to no information as to what the future would look like.

Courtesy of Beverly Jacobson

“The information that we were gleaning was that if she were to be born alive, the average lifespan would be five to 15 days. And so, we’re having conversations about where are we going to bury our baby, and what’s the memorial service going to be like. And I just grieved so much,” Beverly told Live Action News in 2021.

To her surprise, Verity did not die right after birth. Today, she is thriving in her own special way.

“Life now is amazing — and it’s not perfect, and it’s not easy, but it’s so much better than we could have imagined,” Beverly said. “And the way she’s enriched our lives is just amazing as well.”

Harper Grace

In a “Special Books by Special Kids” video interview, Harper’s mother said her only goal was to be able to look Harper in the eye and tell her, “I love you,” after birth. To her surprise, she was able to do that and much more, as Harper did not die as doctors predicted. Now, she fights for better treatment of those with a Trisomy 18 diagnosis.


“I hope that her life and her journey, and the fact that she is here at almost five and doing very well, that her legacy will help pave the road for kiddos with her condition in the future to receive fair care, to be given a chance to have this kind of life with their families,” she said. “To have a chance at life and be treated as equal human beings.”

Faith Smith

When Faith’s parents, Brad and Jesi Smith, learned of her diagnosis, doctors encouraged them to abort. When they refused, doctors tried to scare them into ending their daughter’s life, warning that if Faith were born, it would ruin their marriage, devastate them financially, and make life difficult for their other children. The couple refused to listen to the naysayers and instead fought for their daughter’s life. She beat the odds and survived, when doctors said she had no chance.

In a Facebook post celebrating Faith’s 12th birthday in 2020, Brad shared a happy message.

“It’s a Wonderful Life! This is a special day. Faith is 12 years old today,” he wrote. “Our ‘fatal fetal anomaly’ who is ‘Incompatible with Life’ just won’t listen to her critics.”


“We weren’t lucky. We had help from a Mighty God and some great doctors and nurses who have treated her over the years. All life is valuable!”

There is no guarantee that a child with Trisomy 18 will survive, even if they are given the proper medical care. But even if death were certain — and it never is — there is no excuse to brutally dismember a child in the womb. As these families and so many others show, life is always worth fighting for and every human being deserves dignity and respect, regardless of disability.

The DOJ put a pro-life grandmother in jail this Christmas for protesting the killing of preborn children. Please take 30-seconds to TELL CONGRESS: STOP THE DOJ FROM TARGETING PRO-LIFE AMERICANS.

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