By John Jalsevac
MELBOURNE, AU, June 9, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In what may be a medical first, doctors at Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne Australia successfully conducted surgery on an unborn child at a mere 22 weeks gestation, reports Australia’s The Age. Typically doctors will wait until at least 28 weeks gestation before conducting such ‘in utero’ surgery, said a representative from Monash according to AFP, due to the high risks involved both to the child and mother.
When Australians Kylie and Terry Bowlen were told, eighteen weeks into Kylie’s pregnancy, that their baby girl suffered from a relatively rare condition known as Amniotic Band Syndrome (ABS), they did not know what to do.
"I was just thinking, ‘What have I done to deserve this? Have I done anything wrong?’" Kylie told The Age.
Amniotic Band Syndrome occurs when amniotic bands wrap around the unborn child, constricting blood flow to various parts of the child’s body. In the case of the Bowlen’s baby girl, Leah, the bands had wrapped around her legs. If the ABS had been left untreated, it could have led to her having her legs amputated after birth, or even to her death.
Tests revealed that, other than the bands wrapped around her legs, Leah was a perfectly healthy child. Her parents decided that, rather than running the risk of their daughter being crippled for life, they would risk ‘in utero’ surgery to remove the amniotic bands.
"It came down to knowing that the rest of Leah was pretty healthy and quite strong," Mr. Bowlen said. "Everything was fine, it was just these legs. We basically came to the conclusion that if she was born with bung legs we could cope with that."
By the time Dr. Chris Kimber, the head of pediatric surgery at Monash, performed the surgery, using a tiny needle to enter the amniotic sack, and a laser to cut the amniotic bands, Leah’s legs were already in bad shape.
"The right leg was so bad that I did not want to touch it," Chris Kimber said. "This foot was as close to dead as you could get, it was dangling on one tiny artery."
However, surgery to remove the bands was successful, and after Leah was born at 30 weeks gestation, doctors were able to perform reconstructive surgery on her foot. Now doctors say that Leah should be able to walk on both feet.
Besides being a fascinating story from the viewpoint of the technological achievement demonstrated by the success of the surgery, the story of Leah Bowlen makes for an interesting study in the media. Whereas mainstream media outlets typically refer to unborn children as "fetuses," in line with leftist linguistic engineering that whitewashes personhood and humanity from any discussion of the unborn child, in the case of Leah all the major news sources spoke of Leah as an "unborn child," and not as a fetus.
The extraordinary advancements of in utero surgery, including numerous moving and detailed photographs of such surgery, has proven to be a powerful tool for the pro-life movement in convincing the world of the unborn child’s inherent personhood and accompanying rights. One photograph in particular, by Michael Clancy, showing the hand of an unborn child reaching through an incision in the exposed uterus of the child’s mother, has gained worldwide notoriety and been widely used by the pro-life movement. In addition, the increasing number of children that are born significantly pre-term, and which have survived, have served to demonstrate that there is little to no difference between a child within the womb and a child that has been born.