William after his healing, pictured at St. Joseph's Oratory —Photo: Catherine Lavoie
By Joanne of Arc (Quebec Life Coalition)
Catherine Lavoie experienced a conversion to the Catholic faith in 2012. Today, she is a mother of seven children and they all live in Valleyfield with her husband. Catherine has contacted us because she wanted to share her personal story on abortion with Quebec Life Coalition.
Catherine told us the story of William, her son who is now 16 years old, but who could have been aborted when Catherine was a teenager. When she was pregnant with William, at the 20-week ultrasound, doctors discovered abnormalities and transferred her to Sainte-Justine Hospital for more tests. Then, at almost 30 weeks of pregnancy, she was offered a late-term abortion.
This was in 2006 and Catherine was only 16 years old. The following is Ms. Lavoie's testimony.
Catherine Lavoie: It happened at Sainte-Justine Hospital. I know I'm not the only one who was asked to terminate a viable pregnancy (...) I have a friend whose baby was followed at Sainte-Justine Hospital, because he had malformations and the couple decided to do the procedure...
Joanna for CQV: At how many weeks did these abortions take place? Were they late-term abortions?
Catherine Lavoie: Yes. In my case, the anomaly was detected at my ultrasound at 20 weeks, and by the time they transferred me to Sainte-Justine Hospital, I had the ultrasound there, and then got the results, there was a delay (...). I gave birth to my son on February 26th, whereas they proposed to me the date of December 23rd in 2006, which was 2 months before my actual delivery (or 8 weeks), to carry out an abortion they called "theurapeutic"; that's how they call them when the baby seems to have important health problems. They inject a product that stops the baby's heart and then they induce vaginal delivery, as these are advanced pregnancies. One of my friends did this procedure with his partner. She gave birth naturally to a baby that was already dead. It's a procedure that seems to be done regularly for hospitals that specialize in children who have abnormalities.
Catherine Lavoie: [After a moment's pause, she resumes]
For me, it's quite strange how it all happened, because I was very young. I was 16, I didn't really have faith and I was going through a very difficult time in my life. Then, I got pregnant and my parents wanted me to abort my baby from the beginning, so I could continue my studies, but I refused to abort my baby. I didn't want to abort my child.
William's ultrasound —Photo: Catherine Lavoie
My parents said to me:
"You have two weeks to pack up and get out of the house. You want to take your adult responsibilities? Well, you're going to take all of your adult responsibilities from now on."
I had to get organised quickly, because as mentioned before, I was really young. My son's father and I went to live with his parents in Valleyfield during the pregnancy, and then we rented a small house. Soon after that, I had complications during my pregnancy and at 20 weeks I was transferred to Sainte-Justine Hospital. The doctor thought William had trisomy 21, but it wasn't the case, he had a kidney malformation.
I was told:
"Since you are young and we don't know if your baby will live, we suggest that you have an abortion".
In my head I said "No!" I felt my baby moving. I had seen it on the ultrasound, I heard its heartbeat for months at my appointments. I can't believe I'm being offered this! Come on, then! It doesn't make sense!
I told the doctor:
"This is not a toy! That can go back to the shop when it's defective! It's a baby!"
For me this was inconceivable! It was my mother who accompanied me to this appointment after the dust had settled between us and she said:
"If the Good Lord gave you this child, it is because you have the strength to take care of it."
[Catherine continues with tears in her eyes]
I will never regret my decision! Because today my son is going to be 16 in a few days and he is such a beautiful big boy. And yes, he had health problems especially in the first years of his life, but he was born with an incredible faith, this child! In fact, he gave faith to everyone in the family.
When William was very small, he was hospitalized at Sainte-Justine, then he said "I want to go to Saint Joseph's oratory" when he saw it from the hospital room. My mother and I took him there and he put himself in front of Brother André's heart and naturally he started to pray for "the healing of all humanity from all diseases".
Photo 1 and 2: William in the hospital sick during the first years of his life; Photo 3: William praying in front of Brother André's heart; Photo 4: William has a "dream day" at Walt Disney with his nurse—Photos: Catherine Lavoie
I thought it was so beautiful. In his childish heart, he didn't just want him to get well, he wanted everyone to get well. He didn't want another child to suffer. Quietly, he was opening my heart. When in suffering, despite the illness, children are happy just to be alive.
One morning, he came out of the hospital and looked out of the window and was amazed to see the snow. William thought it was beautiful, to see the snow falling from the sky:
"Oh Mum, it's like diamonds falling from the sky." - he said.
Some time afterwards at work, someone was complaining about the snow and the long winter in Canada.
I said to her:
"You know, there are little children who are very sick in their hospital rooms and don't have the chance to see the snow every day. Life is short and fragile, you just have to be thankful that you are alive!"
She told me it was true, and that I was right. We don't have control over the weather, but we do have control over what we think and how we live our lives. Even though I was very young, William taught me that life is very fragile and that we really have to take care of it. Wonder is part of that too.
This reminds me, I will always remember when William was told that he was cured of his disease, which was supposed to be an "incurable" disease.
He replied to the doctor:
"It was because I persevered in prayer that Brother André interceded." [She laughs joyfully as she tells this part]
In the hospital, they call these spontaneous healings or spontaneous remissions, but there is no real explanation for them.
He brings us so much, today he is a big brother (...)
1.William serves at Mass to thank God for giving him health 2. William serving at St. Joseph's oratory mass after his recovery 3. William with his sister born on his 12th birthday 4. William receiving his Canadian Legion medal — Photos: Catherine Lavoie
Joanna for CQV: Can you tell us about his incurable disease from which he recovered?
Catherine Lavoie: He tested positive for cystic fibrosis, which is a disease that affects the lungs. He had a very rare mutation. Only 15% of people with cystic fibrosis have a mutation that does not cause problems with the pancreas. He didn't have any enzymes to take and the mutation he had was the first one that was seen in Canada.
Joanna for CQV: What made you decide at the age of 16 to keep this child?
Catherine Lavoie: It was something inside of me, like a very developed maternal instinct. For me, in my heart, it was like a natural law. I don't know... if you know Saint Josephine Bahkita?
Catherine Lavoie: [She resumes after a moment's pause].
Saint Josephine Bahkita was an African slave who was bought. She served with great love, then one day she came to know the Catholic faith and when she came to know the faith she said that it was like a natural law to serve out of love inscribed in her from the beginning. Because God created us out of love, in his image and likeness.
So it was like a law written in me to preserve that life. I was carrying life and I couldn't see myself doing the opposite. No matter what happened, if he was ill, it was not a reason to end his life. We are born, we live and we die, but it is not up to us to decide when we die.
Catherine Lavoie and her family —Photo: Melyssa photographie.ca