As the world’s most premature baby celebrates his first birthday, an opportunity for the nation to celebrate and consider the viability of life at all stages.
The pictures have circled secular media for about a week now: a tiny baby dependent on oxygen smiling in front of a cake that is bigger than his 1-year-old head.
They tell the story of an infant who came into the world when his mother, Beth Hutchinson, was only 5 months pregnant.
The mother delivered her child and then was told the baby would not survive, the mood in the delivery room somber and tragic.
But this baby had a different story to tell, defying all odds and surviving in the Minneapolis hospital NICU unit.
On June 6, 2020, Baby Richard Scott William Hutchinson came into the world weighing 11 ounces, the smallest most premature baby on record in the world. His mother, Beth, was only 20 weeks pregnant. The tiny baby was given 0% chance of survival.
Richard’s father, Rick Hutchinson, said his son is truly a miracle, given what every doctor told them when he was born.
“When Richard was born, they told us he had a 0% chance of survival, and they asked us if we wanted to hold him before he passed away; and after consulting with the neonatologist department there, they agreed to give him a chance — and look!”
Fast-forward to this month, when Baby Richard celebrated his first birthday, now weighing a whopping 16 pounds. Born at just 20-weeks gestation, Baby Richard is now a Guinness Book of World Records record holder. He is the youngest known person to survive.
His mother says he is a darling boy growing every day, saying: “He likes to babble a lot. He’s trying to crawl” and overcoming the daily milestones that young babies and toddlers go through after his first remarkable hurdle.
His father says he can’t imagine what his son’s life might hold, given the story he already has to tell: “I think the future looks bright for him, and whatever he decides to do, he’ll make a big mark.”
This pro-life story offers hope to millions of mothers and families dealing with high-risk pregnancies, learning that a zero-chance of survival rate may not actually be the case. The Hutchinson family is intent upon sharing the story of their son to inspire others concerned about their babies.
“We are actually trying to start a nonprofit for families to give that hope and that outside resource,” Richard’s mother said.
The hospital leadership in Minneapolis has also been impacted by their small patients in the NICU. Just this month, The Mother Baby Center, a partnership between Allina Health and Children’s Minnesota, announced the expansion of its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit services at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, improving access to neonatal experts and allowing the center to care for even more prematurely born babies, as young as 28 weeks or older.
Baby Richard was born in a state that allows abortions up to 20 weeks. This means just a day before he was born, his life could have been taken. These laws are drawn on the idea of viability, that a baby can indeed survive at this mark. Many states in the nation do not even draw these lines, tragically allowing abortions well into the eighth and ninth month of pregnancy.
Viability is an idea that the Supreme Court will consider this fall, as the justices look into a Mississippi abortion-ban case. The high court announced May 17 that it would decide Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, where a Mississippi law banned most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy because, by then, the fetus is capable of feeling pain.
As Catholics, we know that life indeed does begin in the womb, at the moment of conception. Let’s pray that the story of Baby Richard reaches the Supreme Court and permeates into conversations across the country and globe, so life will be protected at all stages, and babies will be given a fighting chance to survive no matter what a calendar might read. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “A person’s a person no matter how small!”
Let’s keep celebrating Baby Richard and other babies who shed light on the reality of the unborn and the miraculous gift of life. Let us bring this moving testimony into the public square as we all light candles for these tiny babies and fight for more birthdays to celebrate.
Happy birthday, Baby Richard!
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