"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on...” Matthew 6:25
24-week-old Baby Chris is now growing at about the same rate he will grow in the first weeks after birth. His inner ear is fully developed, helping his sense of balance so he can stay “right side up” in the womb. This is an important milestone, because 23 to 24 weeks is often considered the age of viability for premature babies. This means that while babies born at 24-weeks or later will need specialist care, the long-term health effects of premature birth have been greatly reduced.
Premature babies born at 23 to 24 weeks are called micro preemies. They usually weigh just over a pound and measure about 8 inches from head to bottom. At this age, their body’s systems are complete, but underdeveloped. The airways we read about last week will need respiratory support. Their hearing, though, is fully developed, so they can hear and recognize their parents’ voices, although loud noises might be overstimulating to their underdeveloped nervous systems.
“According to the premature baby charity Bliss, around 80,000 babies are born prematurely in this country, of whom approximately 17,000 require incubator care. Around 5,000 are born before 31 weeks; fewer than 300 are born between 22 and 23 weeks.” The youngest preemie to survive was Amillia Taylor, born in 2007 at only 21 weeks and 6 days gestation. She is now a happy and healthy 12-year-old. The world’s smallest preemie, born during an emergency C-section when her mother experienced severe pre-eclampsia, is Saybie, born at 23 weeks weighing less than 9 ounces! Born in December 2018, following heroic neonatal hospital care, she is now at a normal weight and is at home with her parents.
The U.S. is one of only seven countries (out of 198) in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy; and nine U.S. states permit abortion up to birth. Both Amillia and Saybie might have been aborted if their mothers had simply asked.
The witness of Scripture is that God cares for the smallest, the weakest and the innocent. The prophets railed against the ways Israel and Judah oppressed the marginalized in their midst. In a time and culture where children were viewed as property, creatures without souls, Elijah and Elisha raised young boys from their deathbeds (I Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:18-37); Paul raised young Eutychus after a fatal fall (Acts 20:7-12); Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from her deathbed (Luke 8:49-56), and welcomed little children to his side when the disciples would have sent them away (Mark 10:14-16). More than 500 times Scripture reminds us to “fear not,” “Be not afraid,” or addresses the anxieties and fears of weak humanity.
When we follow God’s example in our treatment of human life, we see value in each human being, no matter how small, weak or infirm: preborn and born; underdeveloped micro-preemies or frail elders; both Paralympic athletes and the bedridden. All are heroes deserving of our own heroic efforts on their behalf, because they are all one with us.