The Worth of a Life – ES

Miriam Slagle | April 16, 2007

In recent weeks, headlines have flashed tales of British 14-year-olds fancying pregnancy “fashionable”—and following through (England and Wales have the highest teen pregnancy rates in Europe), the European Court of Human Rights awarding $33,250 to a Polish woman whose sight worsened during a pregnancy she was not allowed to abort, and a middle-aged Boston woman filing a wrongful birth suit to force Planned Parenthood to pay for raising her perfectly healthy two-year-old daughter, whom its abortionists failed to kill in utero.

So it is a great joy to celebrate and honor the life of Sharnell Onaga, a brave American woman who recently lost her fight with acute myeloid leukemia. 

Sharnell was not just any leukemia patient. She was a pregnant leukemia patient, diagnosed during a routine blood test when she was nine weeks along. Her doctors advised her to abort immediately. Sharnell said, “That was not even an option.” Her mother relates that Onaga saw her unborn daughter as a blessing–the only reason she was diagnosed in the first place.

During her pregnancy, she became familiar as “the face” of the Hawaii Bone Marrow Registry. She, herself, had joined the Registry three years ago, and was disappointed to learn, mid-disease, that had she been healthy, she would have been a match for someone else in need. While raising awareness, she also challenged her fellow Hawaiians to bank their children’s umbilical cords at birth, in reserve for future medical treatment like that which might have saved her.

In a seeming miracle, Sharnell’s leukemia remained in remission throughout much of her pregnancy, and she gave birth to a healthy third daughter, Sarah, in December. 

Following successful chemotherapy treatment, Sharnell traveled to Seattle, planning to undergo a cord-blood transplant. At the time, she referenced her faith in God, saying, “I’m just going to let Him carry me.” Sadly, an infection sidelined her treatment, the leukemia returned in full force, and she died, with her family, on April 3, 2007.

In a world where babies are a commodity for personal gratification and fertility is taken for granted, Sharnell Onaga’s legacy is unmistakable. She made the ultimate sacrifice in a world that does not require her to do so. When the hard “choice” came, she had already made it: to honor God with her life by celebrating the new life He had created. May her efforts to combat disease in ethical and groundbreaking ways bear fruit in many lives. May her personal sacrifice be a blessing and an inspiration to all those who knew and loved her, throughout her life and because of her life.

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all.’ Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, And let her own works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31: 28-31).