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Mom says daughter is reason to fight abortion

March 10, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

Lori Watts is speaking from experience when she says some doctors are pushing pregnant women with severely ill fetuses into having partial-birth abortions.

Eleven years ago when the Greencastle woman was seven months pregnant, a sonogram showed her fetus had no brain, except some that had developed on the outside of her skull. Doctor after doctor told Watts if she delivered the baby, it would die shortly after.

They said the only solution was a late-term abortion.

"They said nothing else could be done for her," she said.

Watts refused, and after weeks of trying, finally convinced a doctor to deliver her baby through Caesarean section.

"They agreed to deliver because I said, 'All I want you to do is your best,'" Watts said.

The baby, Donna Joy, wasn't supposed to live more than a few days, then doctors gave her a week, a month, a year, but the prognosis was never good.

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But today, Donna Joy shares educational toys with her three sisters, looks forward to receiving a signed photo from actor Scott Bakula on every birthday and volunteers a few times a year at an area thrift store.

She's had eight brain surgeries and been in and out of the hospital for problems relating to holoprosencephaly, which results from incomplete cleavage of the two hemispheres of the brain, and epilepsy.

But she can run and play with her sisters, took private karate lessons and is working on a second-grade level while being homeschooled by her mother. Doctors said she was born without the brain centers to do any of those things, Lori Watts said.

She said Donna Joy is a testament to why most partial-birth abortions should be banned.

Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., is expected to present a bill that will do just that to the Senate this evening, and the Wattses will travel to Washington, D.C., Tuesday and most days this week to appear at press conferences and answer questions from senators.

They did the same thing about five years ago when Santorum presented a similar measure that ultimately did not make it into law.

This time, Santorum has a letter from Donna Joy that he is expected to read from during debates on the bill:

"Dear Sen. Santorum: I think abortion is very mean. I am very glad that my mom and dad did not let me die. I like to sing Karen Carpenter songs. I like to play with my best friend Miriam. I love my family and my church. My favorite actor is Scott Bakula. I love pizza! I love my puppy. Please tell the president and the other senators that I want to be a TV star and a pilot and a U.S. senator. Please tell them I want to live. In Jesus' name, Donna Joy Watts."

It took Donna Joy about three hours one afternoon to painstakingly write the letter, filling several sheets of paper.

"Those were all her own thoughts," Lori Watts said.

The Watts family became involved in the abortion debate after Don Watts saw a politician listing conditions - all of the ones Donna Joy has - as ones that put the mother at risk and require partial-birth abortions. At that time, Donna Joy was 5.

So the family, then living in Hagerstown, contacted U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., who put them in touch with Santorum when they moved to Greencastle.

Lori Watts said no one else should have to go through her experience.

"I'm angry. If (partial-birth abortion) is not a viable option to doctors, I wouldn't have had to spend four weeks begging while (Donna Joy's) health deteriorated," she said.

Lori Watts said doctors have stopped giving a prognosis because Donna Joy already has surpassed all expectations.

"We keep an eye on her general health. Even an ear infection can turn deadly," she said.

Lori Watts said she is confident the bill will pass, and she wants to be present when President Bush signs it into law.

"I'm doing this so with other babies who are not perfect, their mothers will not be strong-armed," she said.

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