WASHINGTON, D.C. A pro-life U.S. congresswoman refused to terminate her pregnancy when doctors diagnosed her unborn child with a condition that was "incompatible with life." Now she has given birth to a daughter who is surviving, and the newborn is being celebrated in headlines across the nation as a "miracle baby."
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R.-Wash., announced in June that her baby had been diagnosed with Potter's Sequence, which prevents the child's kidneys from developing properly and causes an absence of amniotic fluid, which is crucial for lung development.
"Multiple doctors explained that based on medical evidence her condition was incompatible with life and that, if she survived to term, she would be unable to breathe and live only moments after birth," Herrera Beutler wrote on her Facebook page July 29.
"We were also told that dialysis or transplant were not possible. The options we were offered were termination or 'expectant management,' that is, waiting for her to die," the congresswoman said. "Instead, we chose to pray earnestly for a miracle."
In that same Facebook post, Herrera Beutler announced that her daughter, Abigail Rose Beutler, was born July 15 at only 28 weeks gestation and weighed 2 pounds and 12 ounces but is doing well two weeks later.
Herrera Beutler explained that a group of "courageous and hopeful doctors" at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore were willing to inject saline into the womb every week to give the girl's lungs a chance to develop.
"With each infusion, we watched via ultrasound as Abigail responded to the fluid by moving, swallowing and 'practice breathing,'" Herrera Beutler wrote. "The initial lack of fluid in the womb caused pressure on her head and chest, but over the course of the treatment we were able to watch them return to their proper size and shape.
"Her feet, which were clubbed in early ultrasounds, straightened. There was no way to know if this treatment would be effective or to track lung development, but with hearts full of hope, we put our trust in the Lord and continued to pray for a miracle," she wrote.
After five weeks of infusions, the baby was born prematurely in Portland, Ore. The doctors, Herrera Beutler said, were prepared for the worst, "but immediately after she was born, she drew a breath and cried!"
Abigail's lungs had developed well for a baby born so early, and the infusions had stopped the Potter's Sequence. But no local hospital was prepared to perform peritoneal dialysis, which was needed for her lack of kidney function, on a baby so small.
Though Johns Hopkins could do it, the trip would be too far, Herrera Beutler said. A team of doctors at a Stanford University hospital was willing to try, and at 16 hours old the baby traveled to California.
Now on dialysis, Abigail is "active, stable and breathing on her own," the congresswoman said. Doctors believe she may be the first child to have survived her specific condition.
"Although Abigail will need ongoing care after she comes home, we have every expectation that she will lead a full and healthy life," Herrera Beutler wrote. "... We are grateful to the thousands who joined us in praying for a miracle. But most of all, we are grateful to God for answering those prayers."
Herrera Beutler, 34, is in her second term in Congress, and National Journal included her on its list of "The Top 25 Most Influential Washington Women Under 35," according to Fox News Latino. She was named to MSNBC's "Top 10 Latino Politicians to Watch," and she is chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues.