‘I am 19 weeks old in the womb: please don’t kill me’

Image of a foetus at 20 weeks. From the Society for Protection of the Unborn Child

Image of a foetus at 20 weeks. From the Society for Protection of the Unborn Child

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A woman called Josephine sent this imaginary letter to a children’s charity, written on behalf of her unborn son who died at 39 weeks gestation. The baby was named John Edward.

Edwards’ syndrome, also known as trisomy 18, is a genetic condition caused by an additional copy of chromosome 18. This disrupts the baby’s development and can cause them to be miscarried or stillborn. Babies with the syndrome grow slowly in the womb and will have a low birthweight.

Hi there.

My name is John Edward. I am 19 weeks old in my mum’s womb.

My mum has just been told by the sonographer and the doctors that I have a condition called Edwards’ Syndrome which is in medical terms is considered “not compatible with life”.

What does this mean?

I am still a human being with all the same organs as any ‘normal baby’. I have a brain, a heart, lungs, arms, legs and even 10 fingers and 10 toes.

Why should my life, as short as it may be cut shorter, by a medically induced abortion?

I thank God my mum and dad agreed with me.

I am warm, comfortable, not in any pain, getting all the nutrition I need via my Mum’s blood supply. I am getting bigger, although slowly, and not as quickly as all my fellow human babies of the same gestation (number of weeks).

Please explain to me why I don’t have the right to survive in this cosy environment for as long as possible?

To get rid of me? Kill me? While here in this paradise, it is just the same as killing me inside or outside of my mother’s womb.

It is murder with just a less invasive, sounding name that is termination.

Ok yes, I am know I am probably going to die but you don’t know that exact date.

Sometimes babies like me, although few, do survive after delivery and get to see their mum and dad and their siblings even for a few seconds, few weeks, some months or even years. I so want to meet my mum and dad and my older brother Jamie.

Many babies survive with special needs, with some in wheelchairs, some walking like yourself. Children like us give our families a lot of work but also a lot of love and many moments of happiness.

They say 95% of us will die in the womb and not make it to the outside world. So why shouldn’t even 5% of us even, in our small country of Ireland, be given that chance?

There are quite a few babies like me with Edward’s Syndrome living their life, one such girl surviving until just before her 25th birthday.

I would like to speak out for many other conditions also which are not considered by people like you to be “compatible with life” and that do and can survive, given half the chance.

My mum didn’t just think of herself.

Carrying me to full term was the best gift she could give me and the best gift any mum can give to her baby.

So please just like I was let live for a short time (39 weeks), let others live too, and die with dignity like any other human being.

Don’t kill us, we deserve the best chance we can get.

• PS – I did survive until 10 days short of full term.

I was given an extra 20 weeks of life than if my mum visited your clinic and I know how much she loved and cherished me.

I was born still born at 39 weeks and my mum held me in her arms and she and my dad called me John Edward, or Jed, for short.

They still talk about me and call me Jed for I was part of their life.

This was written by Jamie, aged 14 years, on behalf of his baby brother John Edward (‘Jed’) and their mum, Josephine

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