Is That Baby Worth Saving? A New Perspective on Abortion

7 Oct

I’ve always believed the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion and considered myself “pro-life.” But I never really knew what that meant until I saw my little niece struggling to live in the neonatal intensive care unit as she was born with a rare condition that required urgent, immediate, and highly skilled medical care. She was two weeks early, but thank God, her organs were fully developed and she was considered “full-term.” For two weeks I watched my sister and her husband ride the waves of despair and hope of the NICU.What really struck me while I prayed and waited each day in the NICU was how precious and tiny the premature babies were. Some babies there were born 6 weeks early, some 3 months early. Many were the size of my hand. Of these little miracles, only some would survive. Yet every modern medical mind and apparatus was bent to keeping them alive, ensuring they gained weight, and assessing and reassessing their care in the twice-daily medical rounds. The difference in age between abortable “fetuses” and premature “babies” is a matter of a few weeks.

In Minnesota, abortion is restricted after 20 weeks gestation to circumstances where the mother’s life requires preservation. Twenty weeks is 5 months along. Babies are generally viable out of the womb between 23 and 27 weeks (with a greater chance to survive the older the baby is). So just a few weeks past 20, and the same baby who was legally abortable is now are taken care of in a NICU by the best and brightest physicians and nurses. It seems to me like abortion doctors supersede the role of neonatologists, the specialists in the NICU, by a mere matter of weeks. That same baby with no right to life at 20 weeks, has unlimited medical resources and every right to live, a few weeks later at 23 weeks.

Thankfully, my niece is home, healthy, and without long-term health damage after a miraculously swift recovery. For me, actually seeing very premature babies in incubators made the ugly reality of abortion that much more real: abortion really does stop a beating heart. And a heart is worth saving, regardless of whether it is beating inside or outside the womb. The Catholic Church’s teachings on life are not simply mandates from the pulpit, but are intimately connected with our lives, our families, and our children. God cares for us all, hearts inside and outside of the womb.

-Nell Alt

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