by Steven Ertelt
November 26, 2007
Bristol, TN (LifeNews.com) — Donna Joy Vance celebrated her sixteenth birthday recently but the occasion was "sweet" for a reason that doesn’t normally worry most teenagers. When Donna’s mother Lori was pregnant with her, Lori’s physicians found Donna had a rare disability and advised her to have an abortion. Lori refused.
The Vance family shared their story with News Channel 11 and said a fatal disorder that doctors detect before birth may not turn out as bad as they may think.
"We’re celebrating Donna Joy’s 16th birthday,” Lori Vance told the CBS television station. “It’s a special day because it’s a day the doctors and so-called experts way back when said would never come to be."
When Donna was seven months into the pregnancy, doctors told her mother that she had, or HPE. That’s a type of cephalic disorder characterized by the failure of the prosencephalon (the forebrain of the embryo) to develop.
During normal development the forebrain is formed and the face begins to develop in the fifth and sixth weeks of human pregnancy. Holoprosencephaly is caused by a failure of the unborn baby’s forebrain to divide to form bilateral cerebral hemispheres (the left and right halves of the brain), causing defects in the development of the face and in brain structure and function.
Doctors told Lori that her daughter would be blind, deaf, no face and no ability to swallow or move her arms and legs. As such, they recommended an abortion.
"Basically, everything that makes you a human being was going to be missing," Vance told News Channel 11. "They wanted to terminate the pregnancy because they said she was going to die anyway."
But Lori told the television station she was determined to give Donna a chance at life despite what doctors at three hospitals told her. Vance said they would only help her arrange an abortion.
"Even if it was only for a few minutes—to give her some dignity, wrap her up in a pretty blanket. Say ‘I love you’ and let her go," Vance said.
She said she "was going to accept her any way she was."
Vance finally convinced the University of Maryland Hospital to schedule a Caesarean section, and Donna Joy was born about six weeks premature.
But the hard part wasn’t over as doctors then refused to feed her child and she had to threaten a medical malpractice lawsuit to get physicians to give Donna appropriate medical care.
"They were letting her starve to death," Vance said. "Now, thanks to Donna’s notoriety, kids automatically get a feeding tube."
That notoriety includes becoming a national sensation during the debate over partial-birth abortion as the Vance family played in integral part in showing how children who might becomes victims of abortion can lead fulfilling lives.
Now, Donna is proving doctors wrong and the young woman has excelled in life — winning Special Olympics medals, modeling and singing, and participating in beauty pageants.
"She didn’t read the book on this disorder,” Vance said. “No one told her she couldn’t do these things. So she does them anyway."
Life is still difficult for the Vance family as Donna needs continued medical care and their home is in disrepair and needs help. Anyone wishing to provide help to the family should contact East Rogersville Missionary Baptist Church on their behalf.