There have been several inspirational cases of women who have chosen to put their children’s lives ahead of their own by continuing with their pregnancy.

The Toronto Star recently reported Thunder Bay, Ont., resident Sadie Stout, who had a rare tumour in her heart from a condition known as cardiac myxoma. The risk was that the tumour could break off at any moment, travel through her bloodstream, and get stuck in her brain, causing a stroke. Stout was given three choices in her treatment at Toronto General Hospital. She could have an immediate surgery to remove the tumour. Surgery had a 30 per cent risk of taking the baby’s life and would probably lead to physical and developmental disabilities. She could also have a C-section ahead of the surgery, two and a half months before the baby was due. The last choice was to wait for the baby to develop more before delivering it and having the operation. Stout decided on the second choice. “I decided I would have him before doing anything with me,” she said to the Toronto Star. “I wanted him to have a chance to survive before me. There was no way I would be able to do the surgery while being pregnant knowing there was a chance he would die from it.” Stout recovered from the operation and the child was still in neonatal intensive care three weeks after the delivery.

In September 2011, LifeSiteNews reported about Pamela Cook, an Australian contestant on the popular reality show, X-Factor. When she was 16-weeks pregnant, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and doctors encouraged her to abort the baby right away. “They said ‘you’d be much easier to treat if you were not pregnant,’ but my partner and I had lost a baby the year before, so that just made it not even on the table.” After delivering her child, Zion, eight weeks early, she had to undergo chemotherapy right away. Luckily, both survived and Cook is now a stay-at-home mom.

Not all stories of maternal selflessness have a completely happy ending, though. As reported by LifeSiteNews in April 2011, Jessica Council, a 30-year-old mother of one, got pregnant at around the same time as finding out that she had throat cancer. She refused the options for treatment – chemotherapy and radiation therapy – because they would pose risks to the child’s life and health. During the third trimester, although doctors stated the risks were minimal because the baby was much more developed, Jessica still refused treatment. “She knew she was going to die anyway,” Clint, her husband, told LifeSiteNews. “She didn’t share that with me until almost when she died … but I think she knew, and she was thinking she was going to give this baby every chance she could.” In the end, the baby was delivered at around 23 weeks because the mother was already near death. Although Jessica died, doctors reported that the baby was doing well. wrote in October about Stacie Crimm, a 41-year-old who was pregnant and later diagnosed with head and neck cancer. “I hope I live long enough to have this baby,” she had written in a text message to her brother. “Bubba, if anything happens to me, you take this child.” After she found out about her illness, Crimm decided not to have chemotherapy in order to guarantee her baby’s life. The baby was delivered pre-term after Crimm’s heart stopped beating. Although resuscitated, she eventually succumbed to the cancer three days after she held her baby for the first time in her arms. The healthy child is now under the care of her brother.

These two cases mirror the experience of St. Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962). While having her fourth child, she was diagnosed with a fibroma in her uterus. She then had to undergo surgery, and she asked the surgeon to save the life of the child. The child survived and she carried out the rest of the pregnancy. Shortly before the child was due, she said, “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child – I insist on it. Save him.” The baby was born on April 21, 1962, but doctors could not save the mother. She was canonized in 2004.

Cancer is not the only instance in which mothers have chosen to put the life of their babies before their own. According to the Daily Mail, in January 2011, U.K. resident Paula Cawte discovered she was pregnant after more than a year of trying to have a baby. At 20 weeks, doctors found that the pregnancy was ectopic – a fatal condition in which the fertilized embryo implants itself outside of the womb. “We had been trying for over a year to have a baby and there was no way I could terminate when I knew she was healthy,” said Cawte. “The doctors said I could bleed to death if she ruptured an organ or an artery. But Paul and I agreed that as long as I was in no immediate danger, we continue for as long as possible to give the baby a fighting chance.” In the end, the baby was born at 30 weeks and survived because the membrane of Cawte’s abdomen created a sort of amniotic sac that allowed the baby’s lungs to develop.

Pro-abortion advocates often focus on difficult cases and set up a conflict between mother and child, but as these instances of selflessness illustrate, while always difficult, the maternal instinct to protect one’s child is sometimes self-sacrificingly made.