Sharp Mary Birch Hospital, in San Diego, announced that “Baby Saybie” is going home. (Her actual name is being withheld at her parent’s request.) The University of Iowa’s Tiniest Baby Registry, lists her birth weight as 245 grams (8.6 ounces), about one-fifteenth the size of an average newborn and twelve grams smaller than the previous record holder.
Saybie’s mother was 23 weeks and three days pregnant when she arrived at the ER. Diagnosed with preeclampsia, she underwent an emergency C-section. Doctors did not expect the baby to live out the hour, but five months later she went home. One nurse explained, “We do everything we can for each preemie, as well as we can, and after that, it’s really up to our babies.”
Few stories receive such universally positive treatment, but Saybie’s birth has been celebrated around the world on both sides of the aisle. That alone is a reason to cheer. She brought the world together in a singular narrative of life.
The first striking thing about her story is that life remains a mystery. Despite modern medicine’s advancement, medical professionals know that there is a spiritual dimension to life. It remains a gift unattainable by human craft or random chance. We only have the power to protect what is given, but not to create or preserve it.
Saybie teaches something else as well. We are regularly told that abortion is sometimes necessary in order to save a mother’s life. This is false. Abortion is never prescribed to preserve the life of the mother.
Her mother’s life-threatening condition did not require an abortion. She needed, rather, an emergency C-section. This is standard of care because even the safest second trimester abortion is more than double the risk of a C-section. Other methods only increase the risk and take longer.
After her birth, all that medical science could do for Saybie was to approximate the womb. Her own body did the rest. Thus, she is a living, breathing embodiment of everything that America has been debating over the past four months. While Saybie was fighting for her life, America was involved in a screaming match about the unborn and our responsibilities relative to them and to their mothers.
While some were alleging that the unborn are only a blob of tissue, the doctors who extracted Saybie at 23 weeks found a fully-formed human being who could breath, eat, cry and move.
While Ruth Bader Ginsberg is claiming that a woman is not a mother until her baby is born, Saybie’s mother was fighting for the life of her child before the C-section was performed. She was afraid that her daughter would not survive. This is a mother’s love in action, not the cold theories of an ideologue.
Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) reinforced Roe v. Wade’s (1973) holding that after viability the State can regulate and even forbid abortion (Casey, p. 837). Saybie puts a face on this ruling and shows that society’s responsibility to protect human life begins as early as 21 weeks and as small as 8.6 ounces.
In spite of this, New York legalized abortions through the 40th week and similar bills were introduced in Arizona, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, Hawaii and Illinois. Most have failed, but some are still advancing.
Meanwhile 50 attempts have been blocked to bring the “Born Alive Abortion Survivor’s Protection Act” to a vote. This is not an abortion bill. It humanely requires that “any health care practitioner present at the time the child is born alive shall exercise the same degree of professional skill, care and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as a reasonably diligent and conscientious health care practitioner would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age.”
People just like Saybie should have access to the same health care that Saybie did. We have the means to protect them. Federal law already recognizes them as persons protection under the Constitution. It is unjust to deprive them of the health care they deserve.
The world is celebrating the medical team that protected Saybie’s chance to live. Newspapers are publishing the photos of her face and telling the story of her miraculous survival. It’s worth telling. It uplifts all humanity by uplifting the smallest human.