Brazilian Anencephalic Baby Shatters Pro-Abortion Myths

Commentary by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

MORRO AGUDO, BRAZIL, June 5, 2008 ( - In announcing that the Brazilian Supreme Court may soon rule on whether to permit abortions for anencephalic babies - infants born without a complete brain - Folha de Sao Paulo columnist Josias de Souza claimed that such children normally die within days of birth.

But tell that to Cacilda Galante Ferreira, whose daughter Marcela was born with anencephaly a year and a half ago in Morro Agudo, Sao Paulo State, Brazil.  The baby is very much alive, quite healthy, and responds to family members. 

"One week I had to go out and I left Marcela sleeping with my other daughter.  When I returned she was agitated and crying.  I can’t stay away from her for one minute," her mother told the newspaper A Cidade in February.

Although she was born without most of her brain, Marcela Ferreira has lived for a year and a half with little extraordinary care.  She receives oxygen supplementation and eats through a feeding tube inserted through her nose, but otherwise lives normally.  She interacts with family members and shows signs of consciousness. Her presence is a joy for all.

"My little dear, the little infant so small and fragile, is today strong and very much loved by everyone," her mother reportedly wrote in a diary entry.  "Little Marcela came into the world to touch our hearts and to show us the true meaning of life."

When Marcela was diagnosed with anencephaly, still in the womb, her mother was given the option to abort the child.  Her doctor, she says, "gave me a week to decide if I was going to continue with the pregnancy.  I responded that it is not right to be so cruel as to kill that small and innocent child."

Myths about anencephaly abound, and if Brazil’s recent decision on embryonic stem cell research is any indication, factual scientific errors about the condition could lead the justices of Brazil’s Supreme Court to condemn thousands of unborn children to an untimely death.

In the stem cell case, concluded last week, approving justices based their ruling on the claim that frozen embryos cannot survive after three years (see LifeSite coverage at  However, frozen embryos have been successfully implanted well after three years in storage, and scientists say that there is no known limit to the viability of frozen embryos.

Abortion advocates promote several fallacies about anencephaly.  The first and most obvious error, similar to the previous one, is that anencephalic infants are not viable outside of the womb.  However they can, and do, survive for weeks, months, even years after birth.  What may be the longest-living anencephalic baby, "Baby K", lived two and a half years in the United States, dying in 1995.

In fact, an ethics report issued by the American Medical Association in 1994 (CEJA Report 5 - I-94) which endorsed the brutal practice of removing the organs of anencephalic babies while still alive, nevertheless admitted that ten percent of such babies survive for more than a week after birth (see full text at

The report went on to confess that, "however, because these neonates often do not receive aggressive treatment, their potential lifespan is probably longer than their actual lifespan."

The report made a second admission that contradicts the conventional wisdom about anencephalic babies.  While abortion advocates claim that tests for anencephaly are absolutely reliable, the American Medical Association acknowledges that "misdiagnoses of infants as anencephalic have been documented in the medical literature and detected by surveillance programs".

The AMA admits that the "possibility of misdiagnoses cannot be entirely eliminated", but assures the reader that "the diagnosis of anencephaly is highly reliable". 

What the AMA is acknowledging is that a certain percentage of babies discarded in the waste disposal of the abortion clinic as "anencephalic" will not be sufferers of the disease at all.  However, the report calls the risk "insignificant".

Risks of misdiagnosis may seem "insignificant" to a doctor, but parents tend to have a different perspective.  A case in point is that of Brandon Kramer, who was diagnosed with a brain defect while still developing in the womb.  His parents, Becky Weatherall and her boyfriend Kriss Kramer were told that their son’s brain was malformed and enlarged, and that fluid had collected in his skull (see recent LifeSite coverage at 

Doctors told the couple that their son would be deaf and blind, and was unlikely to survive long after birth.  Although the pregnancy was at a late stage, they recommended an abortion, an idea that Weatherall and Kramer rejected.

Contrary to the doctors’ claims, the couple’s child was born completely healthy, and normal.

"I feel incredibly guilty thinking that I could have killed him," said Weatherall, "and then I find myself wondering how many other babies are killed who would have turned out to be completely healthy."

It is difficult to know how many false diagnoses of anencephaly and other birth defects occur annually because a high percentage of such children are aborted, resulting in a mutilated corpse that is not examined after the procedure. 

Approximately 95% of anencephalic babies are aborted before birth, according to the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University. This rate is similar for other birth defects.  In northern California, for example, 95% of unborn children diagnosed with cystic fibrosis are aborted, according to the insurer Kaiser Permanente.

What may be the most devastating error regarding anencephaly is the notion that sufferers cannot possibly have consciousness because the parts of the brain in which thinking occurs are absent.  In reality, medical science has shown that a process known as neuroplasticity can "rewire" brain cells to change their function and compensate for the loss of other cells.

The Italian National Bioethics Committee has admitted that this effect could actually allow a degree of consciousness to develop in anencephalic babies, whose brain stem is intact.  Although the brain stem normally acts to maintain the functioning of the body’s organs, its cells could theoretically change function to compensate for the missing upper brain.

"The neuroplasticity of the brain stem could be sufficient to guarantee to the anencephalic infant, at least in the least serious cases, a certain primitive possibility of conscience," the Committee wrote in its 1996 report, "The Anencephalic Neonate and Organ Donation". 

The possibility of neuroplasticity provides a scientific explanation for the fact that little Marcela Ferreira exhibits many signs of consciousness.  According to Luiz Carlos Lodi da Cruz, a Catholic priest and pro-life activist, "Marcela reacts to the touch of her mother.  With her hand, she grabs the fingers of Mrs. Cacilda."

She reacts to light and sound, makes facial expressions, and cries. "When she doesn’t want a particular food, she spits it out.  She recognizes the voice of her mother," writes Lodi da Cruz on his website (

"Doctors will tell you that an anencephalic child can neither see nor hear, nor feel pain, that he or she is a vegetable," says Anencephaly-info, a website maintained by parents of anencephalic children (  "However, that does not match up with the experience of many families who have had an anencephalic child."

"The brain is affected to varying degrees, according to the child; the brain tissue can reach different stages of development. Some children are able to swallow, eat, cry, hear, feel vibrations (loud sounds), react to touch and even to light. But most of all, they respond to our love: you don’t need a complete brain to give and receive love - all you need is a heart!" the site’s authors write.

However, given the severe nature of anencephaly, the disorder is likely to be used by pro-abortion groups as a "wedge issue" to create a precedent for the legalization of abortion in Brazil.  Advocates of abortion for anencephalic babies, such as columnist Josias de Souza, are already disseminating scientific errors, distortions, and exaggerations regarding the issue.

For example, de Souza claims in his recent blog entry ( that anencephalic pregnancies present a "high risk" of harm to the mother.  Although it is true that there is an increased risk of certain complications during such pregnancies, the overall risk to the mother’s health is low.

"The diagnosis of anencephaly in the fetus poses a slightly increased medical risk to the mother," says the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin on its website ( The authors of Anencephaly-info acknowledge that there may be an excess of amniotic fluid and other minor complications, but that otherwise the pregnancy is "normal" and is not dangerous for the mother.

De Souza also highlights the short lifespan of anencephalic infants, and claims that "the possibility of diagnostic error" of anencephaly before birth "is close to zero".  "Close," however, will not be enough to protect the children whose lives will be lost in the false diagnoses that will inevitably occur.

More significantly, De Souza ignores the fundamental moral argument against abortion: that human beings have a fundamental right to live, regardless of their handicap or lack of development.  Pro-lifers contend that no one has the right to kill an innocent human being, because people are not objects to be manipulated and destroyed for the sake of convenience.

Instead of addressing the issue directly, de Souza makes an emotional appeal, disregarding such moral considerations and claiming that the baby is incapable of consciousness and will die shortly anyway. In other words, it doesn’t matter…much.

The difference between the rationale for abortion in this case and in other cases, such as the "psychological and social well-being of the mother" or even her "freedom to control her body" is merely one of degree.  A Supreme Court decision in favor of abortion for anencephalic babies is likely to act as a "wedge", allowing an increasing loosening of restrictions on abortion until it is effectively legal on demand.

The first "wedge" was the Supreme Court’s approval of deadly embryonic stem cell research, which destroys human life at its earliest stage.  It remains to be seen if Brazilian proponents of abortion will be able to insert a second wedge into place.

Related Links:

The Possibility of Consciousness in Anencephalic Babies Acknowledged by Italian National Bioethics Committee (Portuguese Translation of Italian Original):
  The Anencephalic Neonate and Organ Donation, June 21, 1996 (Il neonato anencefalico e la donazione di organi. 21 giugno 1996, p. 11). (Portuguese Translation of Italian Original)

The Smiles of Marcela (Portuguese)

In perfect health, the baby doctors said would be born deaf and blind ...and live only a few hours—live-hours.html

Anencephaly Information (maintained by parents of anencephalic children)

American Medical Association’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs,
  The Use of Anencephalic Neonates as Organ Donors (Report 5 - 1-94)

Federal Supreme Tribunal Hill Judge the Interruption of Pregnancy in Cases of Anencephaly (Portuguese)

  Related Coverage:

Brazilian Supreme Court to Consider Constitutionality of Abortion

Brazilian Supreme Court Upholds Deadly Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Close Vote

Brazilian Supreme Court May Approve Constitutionality of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Baby Born Healthy Defies Doctor’s Abortion Advice

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Prof. Robert Spaemann, a close friend of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, says Amoris Laetitia directly contradicts St. John Paul II’s teaching.
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Pope’s exhortation is a ‘breach’ with Catholic Tradition: leading German philosopher

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien

April 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A prominent Catholic philosopher and close friend of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said Thursday that Pope Francis’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia is a “breach” with Catholic tradition and directly contradicts the teachings of Pope St. John Paul II in his exhortation Familiaris Consortio.

"If the pope is not willing to make a correction, it is up to another pontificate to officially put things back into order."

Professor Robert Spaemann told the Catholic News Agency’s German branch that changing the Church’s sacramental practice would be “a breach with its essential anthropological and theological teaching on human marriage and sexuality.”

“It is clear to every thinking person who knows the texts that are important in this context that [with Amoris Laetitia] there is a breach” with the Church’s Tradition, Spaemann said.

The professor’s remarks were translated by Dr. Maike Hickson in an article at OnePeterFive.

In Familiaris Consortio, Pope St. John Paul II upheld the Church’s longstanding approach to the question of admitting to the Sacraments remarried divorcees, by writing:

…the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

Footnote 351 of Amoris Laetitia seemingly contradicts the above passage by asserting that in certain cases, integrating back into the Church the divorced and remarried and others in “irregular” situations “can include the help of the sacraments.”  The footnote then mentions both Confession and the Eucharist.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan criticized Amoris Laetitia for its lack of clarity on the subject.  “Analyzing some of the affirmations of AL with an honest understanding, as they are in their own context, one finds that there is a difficulty in interpreting them according to the traditional doctrine of the Church,” wrote Schneider.

Spaemann also condemned the exhortation’s seeming embrace of “situation ethics” as opposed to universal norms and its call to not judge people’s actions that directly contradict the Church’s sexual ethics.

“When it comes to sexual relations which are in objective contradiction to the Christian order of life, I would like to know from the pope after which time period and under which conditions such an objectively sinful behavior becomes a conduct which is pleasing to God,” said Spaemann. 

By turning “chaos into principle” with “one stroke of a pen,” Pope Francis is leading the Church “into the direction of schism,” Spaemann said—and he warned that such a schism would not be “at the periphery, but in the middle of the Church.” 

Spaemann also warned that Amoris Laetitia may be used to bully faithful priests. He wrote:

Each individual cardinal, as well as each bishop and each priest is now called to preserve in his field of authority the Catholic Sacramental Order and to confess it publicly. If the pope is not willing to make a correction, it is up to another pontificate to officially put things back into order.


Famed German Catholic philosopher makes waves for criticizing Pope Francis’ ‘autocratic’ style

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The Institute for Family Health, a federally qualified health center, has been running an abortion facility in apparent violation of federal law.
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Federally funded community health center may have illegally performed abortions: Report

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A federally qualified health center (FQHC) apparently performed abortions, although nearly all federal funds are forbidden from being used for that purpose, sources tell LifeSiteNews. Now, pro-life congressmen are demanding further investigations into the use of U.S. taxpayer funds to promote abortion-on-demand.

The issue came to light when a federal inspector general's report found that six Americorps volunteers had been acting as "abortion doulas," giving emotional support to women who chose to have abortions.

The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) allowed the volunteers – who received tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars – to support abortions that took place inside a New York abortion facility run by the Institute for Family Health (IFH).

Americorps “volunteers” illegally supporting abortion at taxpayer expense is an ongoing problem. But there's more to the story.

The IFH proudly advertises itself as a federally qualified health center (FQHC). Federal dollars are restricted from underwriting most abortion at FQHCs, in line with the Hyde Amendment. This does not hold true for the Affordable Care Act, conventionally known as ObamaCare.

To ease qualms raised by pro-life Democrat Bart Stupak and others, on March 24, 2010, Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13535. It states that “the Hyde [Amendment] language shall apply to the authorization and appropriations of funds for Community Health Centers...I hereby direct the Secretary of HHS to ensure that program administrators and recipients of federal funds are aware of and comply with the limitations on abortion services imposed on CHCs by existing law.”

Pro-life groups warned at the time that an executive order was insufficient to prevent taxpayer funding of abortion, and the law itself had to be amended – or defeated.

Stupak, who voted for ObamaCare before retiring from Congress, later said he was “perplexed and disappointed” by President Obama's “double cross” during the law's implementation.

Pro-life experts today say Congress must investigate whether the law is being violated and, if so, if the offense is isolated to IFH.

"For years the Obama administration has claimed that the Affordable Care Act and federally-funded health centers do not subsidize abortion, and the president finally signed additional provisions, passed last year by Congress, to ensure that community health centers do not use federal funds to support abortion,” said Arina Grossu, the director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council. “Now we learn that CNCS is violating the law by helping women obtain abortions.”

“This blatant violation of federal law by CNCS and AmeriCorps demands that Congress investigate government-funded community health centers,” Grossu said. “It's time for this administration to stop foisting its radical abortion agenda on the American people and using their tax dollars to do so.” 

Pro-life advocates have long said that there is no need to fund Planned Parenthood, because federal women's health dollars could be reappropriated to FQHCs, which do not perform abortion.

There are 9,170 federally qualified health centers compared to about 700 Planned Parenthood facilities, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute. FQHCs see 21.1 million patients a year, while Planned Parenthood saw 2.8 million people, the institute reported.

The latest example of federal dollars being channeled to support abortion, the law notwithstanding, has undermined some confidence in the FQHCs.

Rep. Diane Black, a pro-life Republican from Tennessee, said, “NACHC didn’t just break the rules; they broke trust with the American people. My constituents expect that federal funding given to our community health centers will be used to protect and enhance people’s lives, not to be a willing partner in their destruction.”

At least two Congressional leaders – the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the chair of the House Health Subcommittee – have promised they will take action immediately.

“Federal law demands that taxpayer dollars are never to be spent on abortion activities. Not one penny. Period. But a disturbing report from an independent watchdog reveals that was not the case with brazen pursuits by the National Association of Community Health Centers,” said Congressmen Fred Upton and Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania, both Republicans. “The law was violated and this shameful failure of trust will not be tolerated.”

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Abortion lobbyists demand Ted Cruz renounce pro-life leader Troy Newman

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WICHITA, Kansas, April 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The nation's largest abortion providers, an abortion lobbying group, and an ultra-liberal political organization are demanding that Senator Ted Cruz cut ties with Operation Rescue President Troy Newman – something that only proves how effective he has been, Newman's organization says.

Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and People for the American Way are asking Cruz to fire Newman as national co-chair of the “Pro-Lifers for Cruz” coalition, claiming that Newman supports violence.

“Troy Newman’s history of violent rhetoric and harassment toward women’s health providers is truly beyond the pale,” the three say in a letter to Sen. Cruz, linking to quotations from his 2000 book, Their Blood Cries Out.

“What Planned Parenthood and their cohorts call 'violent rhetoric' is really a discussion of Old Testament Bible verses taken out of context,” said Cheryl Sullenger of Operation Rescue and co-author of the book Their Blood Cries Out. The work establishes the sinful guilt of abortion before highlighting the mercy available in the New Testament for those who accept Jesus Christ, Sullenger said.

The letter also cites a report from the National Abortion Federation stating that abortionists have experienced an increase in “hate speech and internet harassment” since the release of CMP's undercover videos of Planned Parenthood, “which Newman was a driving force behind.”

“What they call 'harassment' is peaceful activism that is completely protected by the First Amendment,” Sullenger responded.

Newman has consistently denounced criminal action and violence of any kind during his decades in the pro-life movement, Operation Rescue said of the allegations – many of which were circulated to prevent Newman from entering Australia last year.

“Newman’s position on abortion-related violence is clear. He denounces violence against abortion providers as well as the violence perpetrated by the abortion cartel against innocent babies in the womb and their mothers,” Sullenger said.

“Attacking the messenger is the only way they have to try to discredit the hefty volume of evidence against them. This most recent attack is all about manipulating the public’s perception against those who exposed Planned Parenthood in order to deflect attention from their own crimes.”

But the three groups poured vitriolic scorn on Newman. Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, called Newman's role “completely unacceptable...No politician should be allowed to pander to violent anti-choice extremists without being called out.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said, "Troy Newman is an anti-choice extremist and misogynist ideologue.”

A Planned Parenthood executive said the choice proved Sen. Cruz and his vice presidential choice, Carly Fiorina, are unfit for office.

“It is not surprising to see Ted Cruz embrace this type of violent extremism -- after all this is the same man who has told malicious lies about Planned Parenthood, would criminalize abortion, and tried to shut down the government” to defund Planned Parenthood, said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “This is what the Cruz-Fiorina ticket stands for."

Sullenger dismissed their rhetoric as “a feeble attempt to hurt the presidential candidacy of Sen. Ted Cruz, who they know will seek to enforce the laws against them.”

Cruz has repeatedly stated that, if he is elected president, he will defund Planned Parenthood – before prosecuting them.

Their letter has led to a number of articles in the mainstream media, including Politico, the Huffington Post, and Glamour. The last publication, a feminist magazine aimed at young women, slammed Ted Cruz's choice of Carly Fiorina for vice president, telling its readers to “hold on to your uterus.”

“Not one of these publications bothered to reach out to Newman or Operation Rescue’s staff for their response,” Sullenger said.

This morning and afternoon, both sides of the abortion debate have used the Twitter hashtag #FireTroy to get their message across.

Sen. Cruz has not responded to the call, but the letter implies that purging Newman from the campaign would not satisfy the pro-abortion coalition. “There are a number of coalition members whose records raise serious concerns,” they say.


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