Mother Rejected Advice to Terminate Pregnancy Given by Priest at Centre of ‘Early Induction’ Scandal
By John-Henry Westen
TORONTO, March 18, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - About six months ago an urgent case came to the attention of pro-life leaders in Canada, involving a pregnant Catholic woman whose unborn baby was diagnosed with serious health problems and who was seeking help. She said she was receiving conflicting advice from Catholic authorities on whether or not she should go for an early induction, which would have caused the death of her child.
Gillian DeSouza told LifeSiteNews.com she received advice through her priest, from Fr. Michael Prieur, the chief ethicist of the London, Ontario diocese, to go ahead and terminate the pregnancy via early induction. DeSouza says that the rationale behind the advice, as explained to her, was that, "It is possible to do it because I’ve been given all this information she’s [the baby’s] not going to make it, even if she’s born she’s not going to live for very long."
Fr. Prieur is known to LifeSiteNews.com readers as the principal author of the controversial guidelines at St. Joseph’s hospital in London, which permits ‘early induction’ of babies with lethal fetal anomalies. (See coverage: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/feb/09022402.html )
According to Gillian, the advice did not sit right with her mother, so they decided to speak to another priest, Monsignor Ambrose Sheehy, who said that even if severely disabled, the child deserved the right to life. He urged her to speak with a Catholic doctor who gave her the same advice - to carry the baby to term. The advice was "totally opposite," recalls Gillian, to that given to her by Fr. Prieur through her priest.
LifeSiteNews.com contacted Gillian’s priest, Fr. John Henry of St. Isaac Jogues parish in Pickering. Father Henry confirmed that he had consulted about Gillian’s case with ethicist Fr. Prieur and advised her based on that counsel. Asked about the advice, Fr. Henry said it was a private matter that Gillian would have to divulge.
According to Gillian, she was informed that "it was not a direct abortion, but an indirect abortion; so basically because she does not have a very long chance of survival anyways, it was okay to terminate." She added, "That’s what my priest found out from Fr. Michael Prieur, that’s the information he found out and passed on to me."
Her baby Jayla is now four months old and could be heard cooing in the background as Mrs. DeSouza was interviewed. Gillian has become an expert on her daughter’s triple X syndrome and heart defects, and uses and explains in detail the terminology involved in the condition. Jayla is doing fairly well after one surgery, with another scheduled. Jayla is neither on a feeding tube nor a ventilator. She is sleeping and eating well, but is having trouble gaining weight.
A complication after birth led to treatment for meningitis, which caused the baby to become profoundly deaf - another blow to the parents. But Gillian remains upbeat, noting that her baby is a candidate for cochlear implants to deal with the deafness.
The child’s resilience even from within the womb was one of the factors which aided Gillian to decide against the advice to terminate. She’s "a fighter" said Gillian, recalling that Jayla, at 20 weeks gestation, "was kicking very hard early on so I wanted to give her a chance."
Doctors advised Gillian to induce the baby at just before 24 weeks gestation, and let the baby die. She was told to decide prior to 24 weeks gestation, and she says she was given the green light by Fr. Prieur.
However, advice from Monsignor Sheehy and Dr. John Shea, as well as the prayers of many in the pro-life movement saved the child’s life.
Msgr. Sheehy, pastor of Blessed Trinity Church in Toronto, recalled that in the conversation with Gillian he stressed that it would not be morally permissible to go ahead with termination, regardless of the severity of disability of the child. The priest was very pleased to learn from LifeSiteNews.com that he had played a part in Gillian’s opting for life.
Gillian recalled Msgr. Sheehy relating a personal experience regarding choosing life. Asked about it, Msgr. Sheehy said: "My own mother was told before she had me that she would die if she had more children. But then I was born and my two sisters after me." He added: "My mother will be 93 next week."
LifeSiteNews.com confirmed with Gillian that neither her life nor her health were in danger from the pregnancy.
Fr. Michael Prieur was asked for comment on this story last week but the call was not returned.
See story of another mother who was advised to undergo early induction but rejected the advice:
LSN EXCLUSIVE: Mother "Pressured" to Terminate Pregnancy of Trisomy 18 Child at Catholic Hospital
See other LifeSiteNews.com reports on this issue:
LifeSiteNews Fully Stands by Original Report in Wake of National Post Whitewash of St. Joseph’s Hospital "Early Inductions"
Ontario Bishop Says ‘Early Induction’ Policy at Catholic Hospital Under Vatican Review
Doctor of Dogmatic Theology and Ob/Gyn Condemn Early Induction Abortions at Catholic Hospital in London Ontario