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Pa. woman turns sights on new crusade

November 07, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - President Bush's signing of a bill to ban partial birth abortions was the end of a seven-year fight for Lori Watts, who says she is now ready to take on another.

"The next thing I'm going to do is go after all the doctors in this country that have such a pro-death mentality," said Watts, whose 11-year-old daughter Donna Joy has become something of a public face for the movement opposing the late-term abortion procedure.

Several doctors had recommended that Watts get an abortion when it was discovered that the child she was carrying had holoprosencephaly, a condition in which part of the brain is missing and not fully contained by the skull.

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The late-term procedure recommended by the doctors was essentially identical to the procedure banned by the bill signed by the president, according to Watts, who became a licensed practical nurse two years ago.

She said by telephone interview Thursday she also was disappointed with the care Donna Joy received after her birth.

Now she intends to work for legislation, either on the state or national level, to prevent medical professionals from withholding care from newborns with serious birth defects.

The Watts family, including their other daughters Chrissy, Tabytha and Shaylah, got a front row seat for the signing of the bill Wednesday, just a few feet from the president. Their presence at the signing ceremony was arranged by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., one of the primary proponents of the bill.

"I got a fancy new dress" to meet the president, Donna Joy could be heard saying over the phone. The family had to arrive early at the Ronald Reagan federal building in Washington, D.C., to pass through Secret Service security.

Watts said she apparently arrived before protesters and left after they were gone.

"I wish I'd seen them," she said. "I'd have been delighted to talk with them."

Attorney General John Ashcroft and evangelist Jerry Falwell were among the people Watts recognized at the ceremony and some of them, she said, recognized Donna Joy, who has appeared on "Good Morning America," "The NBC Nightly News" and other media outlets over the years.

Relatively few people get the opportunity to meet a sitting president, but Watts said she was left with the impression "of someone of conviction. Someone who is not playing this for politics."

"I thought W would be taller," she added of the president.

During her short life, Donna Joy has undergone eight brain surgeries and numerous other medical procedures. Her mother said the challenges have made her a stronger person.

"She's been at death's door several times, but she's always come back," the mother said. "She's a fighter and I had to become a fighter, too."

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