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22-week twin photo spreads hope, sparks controversy
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In November 2014, a Lehi mom gave birth to twins at 22 weeks gestation. They lived 30 minutes. In July 2015, she posted a photo of her babies on Facebook with a simple message: "With all this talk of abortion right now, I want people to know that this is what a 22-week-old child looks like. ... It is legal to abort children at this age in way too many places. While I was holding my babies, wishing they would survive, babies at the same gestation that could have survived are being torn apart and discarded... I hope someone will see this and reconsider their choice." Her message went viral, being shared 90,000 times. Bristol Palin, LifeNews.com and ActionNews.com have all shared her story, spurring hateful comments and stories of hope. - photo by Rebecca Rode
It was a heartbreaking end to a long-awaited pregnancy. In November 2014, Heather Ellis lay in a hospital bed, holding her twins as they passed away. Born at 22 weeks gestation due to their mother's incompetent cervix, Chase and Cooper were simply too young to survive. If they'd been born just two weeks later, medical staff could possibly have saved them. As it was, they lived for about 30 minutes, being held in turn by their mother, father and 6-year-old brother.

Months later, Ellis posted a photo of the experience on her Facebook page. "With all this talk of abortion right now, I want people to know that this is what a 22 week old child looks like," she wrote. "It is legal to abort children at this age in way too many places. While I was holding my babies, wishing they would survive, babies at the same gestation that could have survived are being torn apart and discarded. It makes my heart sad. There are so many better options (adoption being my personal favorite) I hope someone will see this and reconsider their choice."

She didn't expect her message to get far, so she was surprised when weeks later, it had been shared 90,000 times. LifeNews.com and LiveActionNews.com picked up the story, and Bristol Palin reposted Ellis's story on her blog, commenting, "How can we let anyone say that babies like this do not have the right to life? These are clearly and indisputably human beings! God bless this sweet mama for telling her story. I know that God will use the short lives of her two precious boys to inspire other mothers to choose life!"

One commenter, Djinnenjous, said, "As a father who has lost more children to miscarriages than I still have living, this was incredibly painful to read. The pictures ripped at me. I don't know how this couple can be so strong as to share this with the world like that. I have nothing but the profoundest respect and admiration for the Ellises."

"The way I see it is that abortion is taking a child's life," Ellis said about her post's unexpected popularity. "No matter how far along you are, that fetus is a human with a beating heart who will eventually be born. And for those like me who struggle to have children but want them so badly, it's so hard for me to comprehend somebody else not feeling the same way."

The response wasn't all positive, however.

"I have gotten a few negative messages," Ellis said. "They were hurtful people using horrible language and calling my children disgusting but I tried not to let it bother me. On a few of the sites where it has been shared there have been some heated abortion debates, but I haven't read any of those. I try to only look at the positive messages. Like the ones where people told me about their own loss, adoption, or abortion."

There have been plenty of each. Ellis has received hundreds of messages from women around the world thanking her and sharing their stories. Her blog received 60,000 hits in five days. One commenter talked about a girl who was sexually assaulted at 15, got pregnant, and ended up homeless. Her friends and family recommended abortion, but she chose adoption instead. Her little girl is now 3 and happily living with her adopted family.

"I wanted people to connect a face to their unborn fetus," Ellis said. "You wouldn't believe how many women wrote me to say how much they regretted getting an abortion when they were younger. That has been so hard to hear, but I have tried to write everyone back with a personal message, letting them know that it's okay. By opening up, I have allowed others to also feel safe about opening up about their own stories."

While abortion is a hot-button topic on social media right now, Ellis insists that she doesn't judge or condemn those who make that choice.

"I just hope to make people who may be contemplating it to think a little bit more about their choice before doing something so final," she said. "I want them to know that there are other options out there, and that every child is special."