A mother whose son was born with Amniotic Band Syndrome (ABS), a rare syndrome that inhibits limb growth in the womb, says not having an abortion was the “best decision in her life”.
ABS is a rare congenital condition in which bands of tissue inside the sac of fluid that surrounds a baby in the womb tangle around the baby’s body, causing injury due to reduced blood flow. This happens when there is a rupture in the inside sac and is usually detected by ultrasounds between weeks 12 and 18 of pregnancy. The type and severity of injuries vary but most usually impact the arms and legs.
“I never considered terminating”
Rosie Higgs, 29, who works as a special needs school assistant in London, learned of the possibility of her son’s condition while pregnant. She faced questions from friends and family over whether she would choose to terminate the pregnancy but “never considered” doing so.
Her son Henry was born in May 2020 without legs and with one arm with a webbed hand. Higgs told Teesside Live: “When Henry’s brother first saw him he said ‘Eugh’ – but that wasn’t because of his limbs – it was because of his umbilical cord”.
Henry was delivered by caesarian section at Northwick Park Hospital, and later had an operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital in order to separate his webbed hand.
Higgs said: ”When I was told my baby would only have one arm – and no legs – I was so worried and upset”.
”There was no doubt in my mind that I was keeping him – no matter what I was advised. He’s able to pick things up without any problems which is really surprising. He’s progressing really well”.
”Henry is happy, he loves sitting up in his highchair, but we have to be careful. He’s not able to use a baby walker because it wouldn’t be safe for him because he doesn’t have his bottom limbs”.
“Luckily the midwives were absolutely incredible. I was so stressed throughout my pregnancy and when Henry was born the midwives asked if I wanted to see him straight away because I was nervous”.
‘”Scans can only tell you so much. It was such a build-up and a worry when he first came out I didn’t know what to expect”.
”As [Henry’s dad] passed me my little boy I fell in love”.
Since Henry’s birth, Rosie has received support from charity Reach, which specialises in supporting children with upper limb disabilities.
She added: “Thanks to the charity I’ve been in contact with loads of parents in similar positions”.
”They’ve been amazing. They’ve really helped me get through it. The house is something that we’re going to have to adapt as he gets older because it’s not suitable the way it is at the moment. That is a bit of a worry”.
”But he is such a happy chap and doesn’t let his disability hold him back in any way. He’s a flirt, he’s got a cheeky smile and he’s always laughing. He loves his big sister. He might not have all of his arms and legs, but he’s absolutely perfect to me”.
Abortion available up to birth for disabilities
Currently, abortion is available up to birth in England, Wales and Scotland if the baby is diagnosed with disabilities such as ABS, Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot. If a child does not have a condition, there is a 24-week time limit.
Polling has shown that the majority of people in England, Wales and Scotland feel that disability should not be a grounds for abortion at all, with only one in three people thinking it is acceptable to ban abortion for gender or race but allow it for disability.
Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “Heartwarming stories like Henry’s show that, whether inside or outside the womb, a baby is a baby and deserves to be treated with love and care. Babies must be protected under the law and not experience lethal discrimination simply because they happen to have a disability. By permitting abortion up until birth on grounds of disability, there is an implication that the lives of disabled people are worth less than the lives of others”.