My dear people of St. Mary’s,
Many years ago my father had the distinction of delivering the first baby born in the New Year in the Borough of Brooklyn. Unfortunately, that year he lost the overall New York City title by less than a minute to an obstetrician and newborn in Manhattan. Each year, when the calendar changes, we are treated to these interesting birth stories. Sometimes twins will be born on either side of midnight, adding an extra dimension of interest. We look at the picture in the paper and read the caption, and then move on. But in 2012, the birth of a set of twins to a couple in Wexford, Ireland, made quite a splash in the media. The reason: the twins were born 87 days apart.
Maria and Chris Elliott were delighted to learn early in 2012 that they were expecting twins. Maria is a psychiatric nurse at Waterford Regional Hospital in Ireland, where the babies were to be born. But on June 1, 2012, Maria went into premature labor just 23 weeks and five days into her pregnancy. Amy was delivered, weighing only 1lb. 3oz., and was immediately rushed into an incubator in Pediatric ICU. Heroic measures were taken, and Amy, four months premature, ultimately survived. But immediately after her delivery, something medically rare occurred with her twin sister still in the womb.
Consultant obstetrician Dr. Eddie O’Donnell was in charge of the delivery team and explained: “Generally when a woman begins delivering twins, the uterus contracts and expels both babies within an hour.” So, after Amy’s premature delivery the doctors began to induce Katie’s birth, but Maria’s uterus suddenly and unexpectedly stopped contracting. The medical team, in consultation with the parents, decided it was safer for the unborn baby to stay where she was and so let nature take its course. Dr. O’Donnell said: “We took an educated decision here as both babies were so small, but Katie had more of a fighting chance staying put.”
Thirteen weeks later, in the 37th week of her pregnancy, doctors induced Maria, and Katie was born healthy and well, weighing 5lbs. 8 oz. In so doing they entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the “Longest Interval Between the Birth of Twins.” At 87 days apart, they beat out Hannah & Eric Lynn of Pennsylvania, born in 1995 & 1996, 84 days apart.
But there is one dimension of this story that is worth noting. Had their parents been American, after Amy’s birth, and while Katie was still in the womb, under current law the one child is considered a person with rights, while the other is considered a fetus with none. Ironically, as doctors labored and used all sorts of extraordinary measures to save Amy’s life, in many states her parents could have decided at that same time to abort her twin sister. In some places, Katie’s abortion could have take place even up until the very moment of her natural birth. The case of Amy and Katie Elliott highlights the absurdity of our abortion laws. What is the difference between the two sisters in those 87 days but merely one of location? Why should one have the right to have extraordinary measures taken to save her life, while her sister’s life remains in jeopardy until exiting the womb?