My son, Richard Scott William Hutchinson, is in the Guinness World Records. Not for running the fastest mile or flying the fastest planes. No, in 2020, he was entered as the most premature baby to ever be born — at 21 weeks and two days old.
Just recently, another little boy surpassed my son's record — and he now holds the current title at 21 weeks and just one day.
These two boys are modern marvels but speak to a larger issue.
In June of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, my wife, Beth, and I were eagerly anticipating the birth of our child, who was due in October. We found out we were having a little boy and started preparing his room, picking out names and thinking about when I'd take him to his first Minnesota Twins game.
Late on June 4, 2020, Beth started experiencing complications and went into labor. We rushed her to Abbott Northwestern Hospital and met our team of doctors who had been guiding us through the pregnancy.
As the agony of the overnight hours leading up to the birth of our son wracked our minds, the doctors came to us and said there would be zero chance of survival and asked if we wanted to hold him until he passes.
Hold him until he passes? Zero chance of survival? What are you talking about? None of this was making sense and we weren't about to give up on our boy. Beth and I cried and prayed. A lot.
Richard was born at 7:17 a.m., June 5, 2020. The delivery went smoothly but there wasn't much hope for his surviving more than a few hours. He weighed 11.9 ounces and was the size of a can of Coke. Among many complications, he had sepsis from an infection in the amniotic sac.
For the next six months, Richard was in the newborn intensive care unit at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis. The doctors and team were amazing. Discharged just before Christmas, he was the best present we ever received.
My son is now 17 months old and getting bigger every day. If not for his feeding tube or oxygen you would never know he was premature.
Of course, this whole experience has been life changing for us. We're overjoyed to be sharing our lives with Richard. Which leads me to a heartbreaking topic:
The legal age of viability in most states is 24 weeks. These two boys, and others, have proved that life before 24 weeks is possible.
A case before the Supreme Court, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, concerning a Mississippi law, will soon determine whether states can limit abortions before the supposed age of viability. The prevailing wisdom of the doctors did not give our son a chance because of the perceived medical age of viability.
The Mississippi law at issue helps give babies close to my son's gestational age a chance at life.
We are a civilized society making great medical advances every day. How is it that the best we can offer mothers and fathers facing challenging pregnancies, is to end a human life as if it is nothing? This is so horribly wrong.
Since Roe v. Wade, our health care system has made great strides that makes existing law outdated and barbaric. When Roe v. Wade was litigated the age of viability was 28 weeks. My son was born seven weeks before that.
If someone is making a choice to end their child's life we need to come together and change our society so that they can make a better choice. There are so many people who want to become parents. Babies my son's age should be given a chance at a great future with parents who will love them.
Beth and I are among the fortunate ones who were given the amazing gift of Richard. Many other parents are not so lucky. Nearly 25% of pregnancies don't come to term naturally. The numbers are worse counting voluntary abortions. It seems we could and should do much better caring for our most vulnerable and innocent population.
My family owes its joy to the incredible advances that have been made by our health care system. I'm hoping the courts will make a similar progressive leap to protect innocent lives, trusting the science that shows that life is sustainable long before 24 weeks.
Richard Hutchinson lives in Somerset, Wis., with his wife, Beth, and son, Richard.