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UNITED IN PAINFUL DETERMINATION : SHARED TRAGEDIES, SHAKEN FAITHS IN GOD, GOVERNMENT BRING THREE VERY DIFFERENT WOMEN TOGETHER IN UNIQUE CAUSE.

Byline: Betty Kwong Daily News Staff Writer

They greeted each other at the doorstep with long hugs. It was the first time they'd been together since April 10, the day President Clinton cried with them in the Oval Office.

That day, they shared with the nation's leader their painful decision to end the lives of babies they each desperately desired. They stood beside the president as he vetoed the bill that would have banned the late-term abortion procedure each had experienced.

The three women, half of a contingent of six women who have crisscrossed the country testifying in support of the controversial medical procedure performed at or after pregnancy's halfway point, got together on a warm afternoon in a Sherman Oaks home recently.

They moaned about the misinformation they say already has been spread. They steeled themselves for the educating of legislators and the public they still had ahead. And they celebrated the children soon to come into each of their lives.

They embraced each other as tightly as sisters. Yet they couldn't be more different.

Coreen Costello, 31, of Agoura, is a stay-at-home mother of two grade-school children. She has campaigned for the Republican Party, believes deeply in Christianity and cringes at the thought of abortion.

Mary-Dorothy Line, 34, of Los Angeles, is a corporate treasurer, a registered Republican and a practicing Catholic who, nevertheless, is firmly in favor of abortion rights.

Claudia Crown Ades, 37, of Sherman Oaks, is a personal manager who has always been a Democrat, is Jewish, and actively advocates abortion rights.

They're fast friends now; they never would have been but for shared tragedies that shook their faiths in their God and their government.

`Talk the truth' Ades: ``When we sat there ... in Washington and listened to people talk about our lives and procedures that were performed on our bodies ...''

Costello: ``None of them had witnessed it. None of them had seen it.''

Ades: ``People who certainly sounded like they were very authoritative, very respectful, very knowledgeable, stood up and lied on the floor of the Senate, on the floor of the House. Lied about our babies, lied about what we had been through, lied about the decisions we had made, lied about the future of our children.''

Line: ``That amazed me. I thought people ... had to talk the truth.''

Ades: ``Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.) stood up and said that my baby could've grown up to be president. And my baby would never have said, `Mommy.' My baby would never have breathed without being in pain and suffering.''

`You feel cursed' The Adeses recently pulled a big cardboard box out of storage, a box filled with baby clothes, lists of names and children's books that had been hastily put away six times in 3-1/2 years - each time she lost a baby.

Claudia Ades finally let herself be hopeful.

``I believe we're going to be parents,'' she said, smiling at the thought of the baby they'll be adopting soon. ``I'm not ready to commit completely. I'm afraid. We've had so much disappointment that I'm just used to things going wrong.''

Tests on four of the Adeses' six babies revealed chromosomal abnormalities. Their first child lived in the womb the longest - 26 weeks. But in most cases, their babies' hearts had stopped beating by the eighth week. When she and her husband, Richard, finally opted for adoption, their unlucky streak continued. They found their first birth mother in December; in January, she also lost her baby.

``You feel cursed. When something like that happens ... it's like, maybe I'm not meant to be a parent,'' she said.

The doubts began three years ago, when she was 26 weeks into her first - and what seemed a perfect - pregnancy. An ultrasound changed everything.

The baby had Dandy Walker syndrome, a condition characterized by too much fluid in the brain. He also had a hole between the chambers of his malformed heart. He had six fingers and six toes. He had hyperteloric, or extremely wide-set, eyes, which is often an indicator of brain damage. He had a large cyst on his chest.

All of his problems were caused by Trisomy 13, a fatal chromosomal disorder.

``It was a horrible decision to make, but it was so obvious that it was the only decision to make,'' she said. ``It wasn't easy, but it was quick. We knew.''

The Adeses had to get through four nights before doctors could begin the three-day intact dilation and evacuation procedure the following Monday.

``We went home that night and he kicked for the first time,'' she said. ``And he kicked and he kicked, all weekend long.''

In the waiting room on the final day of the procedure, Richard Ades sat reading cover to cover anything he could get his hands on, absorbing none of it. He was euphoric when he saw his wife alive and well; she felt only loss.

``When they say that this is just a women's issue or an abortion issue, it's not,'' he said. ``It's about medicine. It's about families.''

The Ades family is expected to grow by one in mid-July, when the second birth mother they found is due to deliver the baby girl the couple will be adopting.

It took the Adeses two years to come to grips with their first loss, the little boy they never named. It took a trip to a cliff at the beach, the same spot where Richard had asked Claudia to marry him, to be the mother of his children.

They sat there, with written messages in hand, and they talked to their son.

``We got to say goodbye,'' her voice fell to a whisper, ``even though we never got to say hello.''

The procedure Through tears, they have told their stories. Before members of the House. Before members of the Senate. And now, to state lawmakers - including the California Legislature - considering similar bans on a form of late-term abortion known as intact dilation and evacuation (D&E).

Late-term abortions are those performed at or after 20 weeks of gestation, which is half of a full-term pregnancy. Medical officials have said that about 13,000, or fewer than 1 percent, of the country's 1.5 million annual abortions are late-term abortions.

Of those abortions, abortion-rights advocates say about 500 are performed using intact dilation and evacuation. This procedure is described quite differently by people on both sides of the debate.

People who favor a ban on such procedures call them ``partial-birth abortions'' and describe them as brutal, gruesome and indefensible. They say a doctor partially extracts a living fetus, feet first, jabs the baby's skull with scissors and suctions out the brain to collapse the skull before completing delivery of the now-dead baby through the birth canal.

``It's a tragic circumstance when someone finds out that a child is sick with a disorder that can't be cured. But we are opposed to mercy killing,'' said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee.

``We think, in a compassionate society, medical science ought to deliver them and make them as comfortable as possible with whatever time is allotted to them,'' Johnson said. ``This can be done - and is done - every day without jeopardy to the mother's health.''

Ades, Line, Costello and other people who want to maintain women's access to intact D&E say it is a compassionate, humane method of delivery that preserves the mother's health and her ability to become pregnant again. They call it a ``necessary medical procedure.''

They say a woman's cervix is dilated over several days. Then, with the woman under heavy sedation, a doctor partially delivers the baby, feet first. He inserts a needle or makes an incision at the base of the baby's neck to draw out excessive fluid to reduce swelling in the child's head before easing the rest of the body out without damaging the birth canal.

The controversy surrounds when the moment of death occurs. Opponents of the method believe the incision and withdrawal of fluid kills the baby; supporters

of the method believe the baby dies - or is numbed - when the mother goes under anesthesia.

``No one jabbed our baby in the head with scissors, and no one sucked out his brain,'' Line said. ``I got involved because I saw how the actual procedure was portrayed, and that offended me. I didn't want them (friends and family) to think that's what we did because it sounds so cruel.''

`God's will' Mary-Dorothy and Bill Line join hands in prayer at their Santa Monica church almost every Sunday.

``Sometimes when I pray now, I wonder why I'm doing it,'' said Mary-Dorothy Line. ``It didn't do me any good the first time.''

The Lines were married 14 years before they started their family. News of her pregnancy was exciting, she remembers. ``You want everything to be perfect.''

But 22 weeks into the pregnancy, they learned that their child, a boy they named Danny, suffered from an advanced case of hydrocephalus. He had so much fluid in his cranium that his head had swollen to the size of a full-term baby's. He had never developed the ability to swallow; his stomach was the size of a seed when it should have been, by then, the size of a quarter.

``My husband almost passed out in that office,'' she said.

Doctors recommended terminating the pregnancy. The Lines had two options: Remove the fetus using intact D&E, which would preserve her health as well as her future chances of getting pregnant. Or, opt for a hysterotomy, which is similar to a Caesarean section. A hysterotomy would be less traumatic to the fetus but carries a higher mortality rate for the mother and complicates her attempts to get pregnant again.

``They would have to slice the uterus in half, lengthwise, when the walls of the uterus are still very thick because they haven't expanded yet,'' she said of the hysterotomy. ``With that procedure, I would be lucky if I could get pregnant now - eight, nine months after the procedure.''

The Lines chose intact D&E. But, Mary-Dorothy Line insists, they did not choose to lose Danny.

``I didn't choose that my baby was going to die. God decided that,'' Line said. ``It was God's will.''

A well-intentioned friend suggested they talk to their priest about their difficult decision and their loss.

But the Catholic church has publicly denounced the intact D&E procedure Line underwent. When Clinton vetoed the bill that would have banned the procedure, Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles said he was ``stunned and dismayed'' by Clinton's decision to back a procedure ``more akin to infanticide than it is to abortion.''

``I'm like, `What are you, crazy? I'm Catholic. I can't go to my church.' Which is just horrible,'' she said. ``They (the church's leaders) could (not) care less if I was left infertile ... because they're just on a crusade against abortion.''

At the time, Mary-Dorothy didn't care whether she lived or died.

A month after the procedure, she couldn't wait to try starting a family again.

She's five months pregnant with a healthy baby now. But much like the unquestioning trust she once had in her church, her blind faith in a problem-free pregnancy is gone forever.

``I can't sleep now, again,'' she said. ``I know how bad it can be, not how good it can be.''

`Things just happen' Ades: ``When I was sitting on that examining table, I was sure that I was the first woman to hear this news. I was sure that no one had ever been told this in her life. I'm an educated woman. I know what goes on in the world. It never occurred to me that something could be wrong.''

Line: ``It never occurred to me either.''

Costello: ``I didn't know that there was this side of society, that babies were born like this, that people go through these horrible tragedies. I had this image that this happens to people who are underprivileged, maybe poor, don't have good health care, take drugs - not normal, healthy people.''

Line: ``It just doesn't happen to people like us, without a reason. ... Our doctor was yelling at us: `It's not because you had one margarita. It's not because you drank a case of diet Coke.' She didn't want us to blame ourselves. These things just happen sometimes.''

`What a gift' Doctors sent the Costellos to an abortion clinic to terminate their pregnancy a year ago.

``Ugh,'' Jim Costello groaned. He leaned against the kitchen counter in their Agoura home and shook his head.

``Yeah. Us, being pro-life,'' Coreen Costello said.

``I kept saying, `If we get bad vibes, we're turning around and walking out,' '' he said.

They envisioned a stark, uninviting building. They pictured picketers circling outside.

Instead, Coreen Costello said that's where she learned an unexpected lesson - to see beautiful children where she once saw only freakish anomalies that have, in many cases, still unknown causes.

Seven months into the pregnancy, the Costellos were told their baby had a lethal neurological disorder that had prevented her from moving in the womb for almost two months. Her body was bent backward, with her feet touching her head. Her lungs were severely underdeveloped. Her vital organs were atrophying. The amniotic fluid she couldn't swallow was puddling inside the womb, causing premature contractions.

Doctors said there was no hope. And, worse, the baby was endangering Coreen Costello's health.

They shared the awful news with their children, 8-year-old Chad and 6-year-old Carlyn.

``They were crying. They said, `We have to name the baby,' '' she said. ``So we got out the baby name book. We picked Katherine, which means pure, and Grace, which represents God's mercy.''

Katherine Grace was baptized in utero. After the abortion, the Costellos held her tiny, lifeless body in their arms for hours.

``Handing her back was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life,'' Coreen Costello said.

A heart-shaped balloon bobbed in the wind over Katherine's grave at a nearby cemetery a few days after what would have been her first birthday. Carlyn set a miniature clay flowerpot on her sister's headstone, next to the ceramic angel, the small teddy bear, the baseball and Chad's contribution on this visit, a bottle of sand art.

Visiting Katherine helps them heal.

``I'm amazed at what a gift going through something like this is,'' Coreen Costello said, her hand moving instinctively to the active child moving in her belly. This one's due in early June. ``You learn that life's a gift.''

`An unbelievable bond' Ades: ``I think all the time that I would rather not know you. But I'm so glad that I do. I'm so glad that if it had to happen, it happened the way that it did. I know we all have formed this unbelievable bond that will live a lifetime. We have a connection, all of us, that no one else could ever understand.''

Line: ``The thing is, it's not even just us. It's everyone who's ever had this.''

Costello: ``This is not about choice. This happens to people. And it can happen to any one of those congressmen, any of their daughters.''

Ades: ``Although I hope and pray this never happens again, it will. And I wish it would happen to somebody that people would listen to ... be it a politician or celebrity. Someone where people would go, `Oh, now I see.' ''

CAPTION(S):

4 Photos

Photo: (1--Cover--Color) Jim and Coreen Costello with th eir children Chad and Carylyn at the gravesite of their daughter Katherine.

(2) Coreen Costello looks at mementos of daughter Katherine Grace. Seven months into the pregnancy, the Costellos were told their baby had a lethal neurological disorder. Doctors said there was no hope, and that the pregnancy was endangering Coreen's health.

Tina Gerson/Daily News

(3--Color) Coreen Costello stands with President Clinton and her son Chad, 8, daughter Carlyn, 6, and husband Jim, as Clinton prepared to announce his veto of a bill that would have banned a controversial late-term abortion procedure.

Associated Press

(4--Color) ``I know we all have formed this unbelievable bond that will live a lifetime. We have a connection, all of us, that no one else could ever understand,'' says Claudia Crown Ades, foreground, pictured with Coreen Costello, top, and Mary-Dorothy Line, left.

Myung J. Chun/Daily News
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 19, 1996
Words:2729
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