Ashley Bridges: true maternal love and the ultimate sacrifice for her unborn child

January 19, 2015
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This post is about the inspiring tragedy of a mother who chooses to die so her baby can live - and who makes that choice long before the baby is ever born. It is a tragedy because it is hard, real death. It is inspiring because it is a witness to the infinite value of even one unborn human life.

If she were Catholic, we would surely call her a saint. But Ashley Bridges doesn't appear to have adhered to a religious faith. At 24 years old, she was cohabiting with her boyfriend and already had a young son.

Then she became pregnant, and 10 weeks into the pregnancy she was told by doctors that she had aggressive bone cancer in her knee. Surgery was planned and she was told to start chemo immediately.

At that point, her unborn baby was barely over an inch long but already growing tiny fingernails. Doctors told Ashley that her baby would likely not survive the chemo treatments. And here is what Ashley says about that:
"They told me what would likely happen to Paisley, that you know, she most likely wouldn't make it and I just knew. It wasn't a choice to me. It was like this is what needs to be done. She's first. I'm not going to kill a healthy baby because I'm sick. There's nothing wrong with her. Her life is just as important as mine if not more important. I mean as a mother my job is to protect my kids."
Wow. Just wow. Not just hats off. A 21-gun salute.

This young woman is a true hero. 

She carried out her resolve. She had no chemo. She gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl. Then she had a full-body scan which revealed that the cancer had spread throughout her body, even into her brain. She cried, but she kept going.

She is still going, hoping each month to make it to the next. She has been given months to live.

Saints are made of this

Ashley's choice is as morally good as it gets. And yet, even if she were Catholic, the Catholic faith would not have morally required Ashley to die in this way. She could have chosen chemotherapy while hoping that her baby would defy the odds and survive.

This is called the Principle of Double Effect, and it leads Catholics to the following conclusion:
...a pregnant woman who is faced with the grim reality of impending death short of the use of, e.g., chemotherapy or hysterectomy, may use these and other morally licit medical treatments an procedures for the reasonably grave reason of saving her life, as long as the death of her unborn child is not directly intended as the end (or purpose) of using these procedures, or is the means by which her life is saved, but only allowed or permitted to happen as an accidental by-product of these medical actions, and no other reasonable medical treatment is available. 
So women are not required to die to save the life of their unborn babies. But making that choice is what saints are made of.

Saints like St. Gianna Molla, a Catholic who made the same decision as Ashley.

How much a baby's life is worth

Ashley's choice is a testimony to the true worth and dignity of an unborn baby's life.

Juxtapose that with the reality that many young women today have abortions for many far less deadly reasons. In fact, of the 1.24 million abortions in America each year, the majority take place between 8-10 weeks of pregnancy.

May Ashley's decision inspire many other young women to do the right thing.

10 weeks gestation.

10-week gestation photo: andrew k via photopin cc

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