Mother speaks of joy after baby who had spina bifida surgery in the womb learns to walk

The mother of a one-year-old girl who had pioneering spine surgery while still in the womb has told the BBC seeing her daughter walk is “amazing”.

After diagnosing Elouise with spina bifida, doctors had offered her parents a termination, saying the outcome was “bleak”.

Her parents, Kieron and Bethan Simpson, refused and Elouise is flourishing having recently taken her first steps.

‘Hope in the darkness’

The Simpsons were overjoyed when they found out they were expecting a baby, but were left disheartened when a midwife discovered their baby had a disability during the 20-week scan.

However, two days later, a specialist at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) told the couple about the possibility of a ground-breaking new surgery.

Instead of a termination, Bethan and Kieron the parents were able to choose foetal repair surgery in January 2019 and were among the first families in the UK to do so.

“There was a bit of hope in that darkness,” Bethan said.

The mental health nurse underwent a five-hour operation at 25 weeks, during which her womb was opened and a series of tiny stitches were used to close the gap in Elouise’s spine.

Bethan and Elouise were among the first in the UK to undergo the procedure in January 2019.

The successful surgery was funded by a charitable trust between UCLH and Great Ormond Street Hospital, but has since been made routinely available on the NHS.

Since that surgery, Elouise has celebrated her first birthday in lockdown and has recently begun to walk.

Bethan said they would “forever” be in the debt of staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital and University College London Hospital.

Describing seeing her daughter walk, she added: “It makes us feel amazing, she is an absolute joy. She’s everything you could want and more in a child, actually. She’s perfect…”

Dominic Thompson, consultant paediatric neurosurgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: “It is wonderful to see that Elouise is doing so well.

“As a paediatric consultant, it is very special and rewarding to meet someone that you operated on before they were even born, and I still get the wow factor when I get to see these children in clinic for follow up.”

‘Misinformed’

Earlier this year, Bethan raised concerns that pregnant women are being misinformed on spina bifida.

“Since becoming a mum I’ve had the chance to reflect on that traumatic time. My only option was to fight. But most importantly, it was about being informed.”

“There is a lot of negative information around spina bifida.”

“Without being fully informed as parents, Elouise would not be where she is now.”

A better option

Her concerns were shared by a mother who described the relentless pressure she faced to have an abortion after doctors diagnosed her baby with spina bifida last year.

Natalie Halson, who refused an abortion ten times, said doctors “made out like an abortion was my only option and explained that if I went ahead with the pregnancy my baby would be wheelchair bound and have no quality of life.”

“When I got off the phone I went and did tonnes of research and found out that there were options for my little girl – I felt suddenly really angry that they had made out I had none.”

Two women have died after using UK ‘DIY’ abortion service

Two women have died after taking ‘DIY’ home abortion pills according to a leaked “urgent email” sent by a senior chief midwife at NHS England and NHS Improvement on the “escalating risks” of the ‘pills in the post’ service that is being run by UK abortion providers BPAS, Marie Stopes and NUPAS .

One woman died “very quickly” with sepsis whilst seeking urgent care at a hospital’s accident and emergency department after taking ‘DIY’ abortion pills.

A second woman was found dead at home the morning after starting the medical abortion process.

The tragic incidents were exposed at the UK Court of Appeal yesterday, where the Christian Legal Centre was challenging the Government’s decision to permit ‘DIY’ abortions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Murder investigation into baby born alive

The leaked email not only reveals the two maternal deaths but discloses further serious consequences of the Government’s temporary ‘DIY’ home abortion scheme.

These include a murder investigation into the death of a baby aborted alive and medical termination pills being delivered to a woman 22 weeks over the legal limit for ‘DIY’ home abortion.

Not counting the maternal deaths, there are currently three ongoing police investigations linked to these incidents. One of those is a murder investigation as there is a concern that the baby was born alive.

The email also states that “women attending ED [emergency departments] related to the process through ruptured ectopics, major resuscitation for major haemorrhage and the delivery of infants who are up to 30 weeks gestation.”

Tip of the iceberg

As the email was sent on 21 May 2020, it is unclear how many further incidents have taken place.

However, it did reveal that many incidents with the new ‘DIY’ abortion service have not been reported to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) by abortion providers. 

It stated that “the only reporting of incident to the CQC, from this sector are those that are significant, ie babies that are to be a late TOP [termination of pregnancy], as all the other outcomes are seen to be a complication of the process which could occur in any setting.” 

Conflict of interest

The email mentions that a review of these cases has been undertaken by Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). This is despite the medical body having heavily lobbied for the introduction of ‘DIY’ home abortions.

The former RCOG President Dame Lesley Regan, who was recognised in 2019’s New Year’s Honours List, sits on the board of BPAS, the UK’s largest abortion provider. She is joined by the former CEO of the Royal College of Midwives, Dame Cathy Warwick.

Court of Appeal refuses to hear evidence against ‘DIY’ home abortions

Despite the clear harm ‘DIY’ home abortions are having on pregnant women and their unborn babies, the Court of Appeal refused to consider evidence highlighted in the leaked emails.

According to the Christian Legal Centre, Lady Justice King refused, saying that she would give her reason for the refusal later.

The court also rejected an expert witness statement from Kevin Duffy, a former global clinics director at abortion provider Marie Stopes International, who called for ‘DIY’ home abortion services to be withdrawn immediately.  

In his statement, Mr Duffy brought attention to an undercover investigation which found abortion providers were not carrying out basic checks before sending termination pills – including the prescription of termination pills past the 10-week limit.

Significant problems from the onset

Since ‘DIY’ home abortions were introduced on 30 March, a number of significant problems have arisen.

A nationwide undercover investigation found evidence of abortion providers putting women at significant risk by not carrying out basic checks before sending them ‘DIY’ home abortion pills.

The study also discovered ‘DIY’ home abortion pills can easily be obtained and administered to others, potentially in a coercive manner, as more shocking abuses from an undercover investigation have come to light.

In May, it was revealed UK police were investigating the death of an unborn baby after its mother took ‘DIY’ home abortion pills while 28 weeks pregnant.

In addition, abortion provider BPAS announced that it was investigating a further eight cases of women taking ‘DIY’ home abortion pills beyond the 10-week limit, raising questions over what checks are being conducted to ensure the law isn’t being broken and dangerous later-term abortions aren’t happening. 

A number of women have also come forward to share the serious problems they’ve experienced after taking ‘DIY’ home abortion pills.

One woman said she went through “hell” and thought she was going to die after taking the dangerous pills.

Another woman said the pain and physical process was “horrible” and “a lot worse than expected”.

Service must be withdrawn

Mr Duffy said: “None of the scenarios revealed in my survey, or the incidents in the NHS email leak, would have happened under the pre-lockdown abortion process. These cases are a direct result of the move to home abortion and particularly the removal of the clinic visit and routine assessments.

“It is simply not possible to replace the critical clinic-based consultation with a phone call. The telemedicine service leaves pregnant women highly vulnerable and must be withdrawn urgently.”

The Court of Appeal judges have reserved their ruling to a later date.

‘Inherently dangerous’

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said: “Ever since the UK Government permitted ‘DIY’ home abortions, stories of illegal late-term abortions and safety abuses have come to light.

“We, along with other pro-life campaigners, warned it was only a matter of time before a woman died as a result of a ‘DIY’ home abortion. Tragically, that is now the case.

“These cases and the thirteen ongoing investigations are likely only the tip of the iceberg, given the date of the leaked email.

“Abortion providers, such as BPAS and Marie Stopes International, who want to keep ‘DIY’ home abortions on a permanent basis, are unlikely to want to reveal how many complications or serious incidents have arisen as a result of their ‘services’.

“There are also likely many more incidents that abortion providers don’t know about as the majority of women are likely to not come back and tell an abortion provider that they have broken the law using their service or weren’t even aware how far along they were, given they have not had an ultrasound.

“These ‘DIY’ home abortion schemes, which are inherently dangerous and show no concern for babies or vulnerable pregnant women, should be suspended immediately.”

‘DIY’ home abortions causing problems around the world

Earlier this year, it was revealed that one father in the United States had performed ‘DIY’ home abortions on his daughter and stepdaughter to cover up 14 years of sexual abuse.

In May, an Indian woman and her unborn baby died after the use of ‘DIY’ home abortion drugs.According to the Mumbai Mirror, the woman’s husband, with the help of his parents and a friend, obtained the abortion drugs from a medical representative – all have now been “booked” with an intent to cause miscarriage by police in the Indian region of Kashimira.