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Baby Who Survives at 21 Weeks Shows Why SCOTUS Should Uphold This Mississippi Law

By Natalie Allen posted on:
July 29, 2021

Have you heard the incredible story of Baby Richard? Last year, Richard Hutchinson was born at just 21 weeks, making him one of the youngest babies to survive anywhere in the world.

Most hospitals only resuscitate premature babies starting at 22 weeks, but the neonatologists at The Mother Baby Center in Minnesota didn’t give up on Baby Richard. After receiving NICU care for over six months, Richard was finally healthy enough to go home with his parents.

Baby Richard’s story serves as a powerful example of why we need laws like the one Mississippi is now defending before the Supreme Court.

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act protects the health of pregnant mothers, the dignity of unborn children, and the integrity of the medical profession by limiting abortions after 15 weeks in gestational age, permitting them only in medical emergencies or for severe fetal abnormality.

By 15 weeks, a baby has a heartbeat, can move and kick, can sense movement outside the mother’s womb, has eyes and eyelids that are beginning to open, and can hiccup. The people of Mississippi understand that abortion—particularly that late in pregnancy—is barbaric and cruel, so they chose to pass a law to protect these babies.

And what’s more, Mississippi’s law is consistent with what more than 90% of countries worldwide already do!

In fact, the United States is one of only four nations that permits abortion-on-demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy. And we’re one of only seven countries that allow the abortion of a child who can hear her mother’s heartbeat.

Last week, the State of Mississippi filed its opening brief with the Supreme Court, arguing that it has a legitimate interest in protecting babies who can feel pain, and that Roe v. Wade’s and Planned Parenthood v. Casey’s “viability” standard is arbitrary and outdated. Mississippi also argues that the heightened-scrutiny standard from Roe and Casey disregards states’ important interests in protecting preborn life, maternal health, and medical ethics.

Baby Richard’s survival is proof of this: despite some doctors believing that 22 weeks was the earliest they could deliver a baby, doctors were able to save Richard at 21 weeks. Medical advances continue to allow babies to be saved earlier in pregnancy, pushing the very definition of “viability” (which, at the time of Roe, was considered to be between 24 and 28 weeks).

This week, the Supreme Court will hear from several organizations and individuals who will file amici briefs in support of Mississippi and its law. While these groups will put forward a variety of reasons why Mississippi’s law should be upheld, one thing is clear: they all agree that Mississippi and its residents have an obligation to protect pregnant mothers and the unborn babies they carry.

As we follow this case in the upcoming months, we must remember Baby Richard’s story. States like Mississippi should be free to pass commonsense laws that safeguard life, because all babies—including those like Baby Richard—deserve legal protection.

Natalie Allen

Natalie Allen

Legislative Communications & Initiatives Coordinator

Natalie worked as a lobbyist at the Family Foundation of Virginia and a grassroots associate at Heritage Action for America before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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