Ana Carolina Caceres may look like an average 24-year-old. A recent college graduate, she is a journalist and blogger. She also plays the violin.
But when she was born, doctors believed Caceres would die or be severely disabled. She was diagnosed with microcephaly, a neurological disorder where a baby’s head is significantly smaller and the brain is abnormally developed, according to the Mayo Clinic. The condition is not typically fatal, but it can cause serious health problems throughout the child’s life.
“On the day I was born, the doctor said I had no chance of survival,” Caceres told the BBC. “’She will not walk, she will not talk and, over time, she will enter a vegetative state until she dies,’ he said.”
The young woman proved the doctor wrong. This week, Caceres said she decided to tell her story to the media because she wants to be a voice for babies with the same condition who are being targeted by abortion activists in South America.
Several South American countries are reporting an alarming spike in the number of babies born with microcephaly. The condition is potentially linked to the Zika virus outbreak, though the link has not yet been confirmed, according to the World Health Organization. “Between October 2015 and January this year medics in [Brazil] have registered almost 4,000 cases of microcephaly in newborns, compared to 163 in a normal year,” according to The Pool.
Abortion activists are using the health crisis to push for legalized abortion in the largely pro-life continent. LifeNews reported that the abortion group Women on Waves also is pressuring women in South America who may be infected with the Zika virus to abort their unborn babies with dangerous, mail-order abortion drugs.
Caceres believes that is a big mistake.
“I believe that abortion is a short-sighted attempt to tackle the problem. The most important thing is access to treatment: counselling for parents and older sufferers, and physiotherapy and neurological treatment for those born with microcephaly.”
She criticized Brazil Health Minister Marcelo Castro for perpetuating stereotypes about the disorder and saying that Brazil would have a “damaged generation” because of it.
“If I could speak to him, I would say, ‘What is damaged is your statement, sir,’” Caceres said. “Microcephaly is a box of surprises. You may suffer from serious problems or you may not. So I believe that those who have abortions are not giving their children a chance to succeed.”
Caceres was born in Brazil. The first few years of her life were not easy for her family, but she is alive today because they persevered. Within two weeks of her birth, she had five operations to correct breathing problems, she said. She also suffered from seizures and took medication to regulate them. When her father lost his job, her uncles, aunts and others in the family gave what they could to help pay for her medical bills, she said.
When she was 12, the seizures stopped; and she has never needed the medication since then, she continued. She attended school, took violin lessons and later enrolled in college – all things the doctor never thought she would be able to do.
“I chose journalism to give a voice to people like me, who do not feel represented,” she said. “I wanted to be a spokesperson for microcephaly and, as a final course project, I wrote a book about my life and the lives of others with this syndrome.”
Caceres said she feels personally “offended and attacked” by abortion activists who are lobbying to abort unborn babies with the same condition. She said families of babies with microcephaly need information and resources, not pressure to abort.
“I certainly know that microcephaly can have more serious consequences than the ones I experienced and I am aware that not everyone with microcephaly will be lucky enough to have a life like mine,” she said. “But what I recommend to mothers or pregnant women is that they remain calm. Microcephaly is an ugly name but it’s not an evil monster. …
“I survived, as do many others with microcephaly. Our mothers did not abort. That is why we exist.”