There’s an interesting phrase in the opening sentence of this week’s cover story from TIME magazine. The article is titled, "A Preemie Revolution," and the first sentence reads as follows: "It’s a safe bet that David Joyce knows more than you did when you were his birth age [emphasis added]." Unfortunately, "birth age" is not a designation we hear much. "When I was your age…" is a common descriptor. "When I was your birth age…" is not.
Why the distinction? In the article’s case, it’s because the entire piece focuses on the astounding, medical progress taking place in the realm of preemie care—the preemie revolution! David Joyce was born nearly three months early, on January 28. Between his birth date and due date, close to one million additional babies were born in the United States. According to their birth certificates, all of these babies are younger than David Joyce. In actuality, the vast majority of them are older. David Joyce may have exited the womb first, but most of these "younger" babes have been alive longer.
It is precisely here where the designation, birth age, becomes a helpful one. It reminds us that we’re all older than we think we are; it reminds us that our lives didn’t begin at birth. It may even prompt me to change the way I answer the question, "how old is your son (or daughter)?" "My son was born 11 years ago," is a more factually accurate response than to simply say, "11." It may not always be practical to make such a distinction, but we should at least give pause to consider how the traditional handling of age subtly reinforces the erroneous notion that life begins when we’re born.
Nowhere in the article does the word "abortion" appear, but make no mistake, "A Preemie Revolution" is thoroughly pro-life—though I know nothing of the author’s political position. I call the article "pro-life" because it offers a window into the remarkable world of early human development, and the more you see of this world, the more barbaric abortion becomes. One of the first things author Jeffrey Kluger notes is that despite all of the medical advances that are helping to drive down the age of viability, it is the will of the child that ultimately makes survival possible.
After pointing out that David Joyce’s premature arrival forced him to do things—and learn things—that are almost never demanded of someone his age, Kluger writes, "What all this meant was that if David wanted to stay alive, he’d have to work hard at it, and he has." Think about that. David—and other preemies like him—must work hard to stay alive. They are not born into a comatose state. They are not mere passengers in this journey of survival. They are active participants—despite being three months younger than most newborns. When push came to shove, David demonstrated capacities that went far beyond what babies his age are generally given credit for.
If David had remained in the womb, he could have been legally terminated as a non-person. Instead, he spent those 11 weeks learning how to breathe, learning how to eat, and learning how to cope with "bright lights and cold hands, needle sticks and loud noises." The environment we live in certainly influences our experiences, but it does not influence the essence of who we are. David Joyce would have been the same person inside the womb during his seventh, eighth and ninth month as he was outside the womb during months one, two and three. Why then does the law allow for his violent execution in the first case but not in the second?!
Unborn children are regularly marginalized for a lack of functional capacity—and yet as David shows us, their functional capacities largely mirror those of newborns. They’re just not in an environment that requires their display. According to March of Dimes medical director, Dr. Edward McCabe, "Every decade since the 1960’s, the age of viability has been reduced by a week." In the four decades that have passed since Justice Harry Blackmun’s bumbling majority opinion in Roe vs. Wade, the age of viability has decreased by a month. Kluger writes that, "in 1960 the survival rate for infants under 1,500 g, or 3.3 lb., was 28%. In 2010 it was 78%."
For all the progress that’s been made, I don’t want to give the impression that there’s anything easy about premature delivery or neonatal intensive care. It is a grueling journey for parents and children alike, but there seems little doubt that it’s a journey worth making. Speaking of life in the NICU, Kluger writes, "Almost every set of parents can look around and find a family they envy and a family they ache for. The only families no one wants to be are the ones whose babies are never going home." Not being able to take your baby home is the ultimate tragedy for these families, and yet this is exactly what millions of parents choose for themselves when they settle on abortion.
For the millions of things that can go wrong in the field of preemie care—I couldn’t help but marvel at how often these millions of things go right. Every new birth is a miracle—a remarkable display of unparalleled design and ingenuity. All of these unspeakably complex and intricate functions come together at just the right times to aid in the formation of a brand-new human being. "It’s no accident," Kluger writes, "that infants are hardwired to need cuddling and adults are hardwired to love to oblige." No accident, indeed!
The article closes with the following observation:
In some ways, the work of a NICU will always seem like an exercise in disproportion—an army of people and a mountain of infrastructure caring for a pound of life. But it’s a disproportion that speaks very well of us.
I heartily agree, but before we pat ourselves on the back too much for our commitment to caring for the weak and helpless—even at great cost—let us remember that there is another exercise in disproportion going on that speaks very ill of us. Let us remember that there is also an army of people devoted to destroying the most innocent and helpless members of the human community through abortion. And in the vast majority of these cases, there is nothing wrong with the baby and nothing wrong with the mother—aside from the desire to not be inconvenienced by the demands of an ill-timed pregnancy.
Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.