Fetal Surgery Affirms Personhood

I suppose there are many ways to interpret the remarkable story of Macie Hope McCartney. This precious baby girl is alive today because a team of fetal surgeons was able to operate on her at six months of gestation, thus making it possible for Macie to survive another 10 weeks in the womb. Had the courageous doctors not done what they were confident could be done, the tumor that they removed would have killed this little one.

The entire news report and the accompanying video are well worth your time, as are the many stories of such victories over potentially terminal conditions in utero. In addition to the remarkable surgical team at Texas Children's Hospital who saved Macie, there are fetal surgery centers located in other major cities, such as the Fetal Care Center of Cincinnati and the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

If anything, it should be an inspiration to each of us that doctors are able to do everything possible to treat the preborn child, as they would any other patient at any age. This miracle of modern medicine affirms that the child in the womb is indeed not only a member of the human family, but someone for whom medical practitioners can work wonders.

The downside of this – and yes, there is one – is that, due to the legal protection granted to the act of abortion, the very same professionals who can treat the child in the womb are compelled by law to explain when and if aborting the baby may be another option. For example, at the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment in Philadelphia, the web site describes the problem of hydrocephalus and its diagnosis in preborn children. In the process of providing the explanation, the web site states that,

hydrocephalus treatments depend on the type of fetal hydrocephalus, rate of progression, gestational age and, ultimately, the family's wishes. Isolated hydrocephalus without associated malformations, detected before the legal abortion limit, may be reason enough to terminate the pregnancy for families who cannot accept the prospect of having a handicapped child.

In other words, the ultimate decision resides with the parents and, all of a sudden, that potential second patient who could receive treatment becomes someone whose life can be snuffed out because that baby's mom and dad cannot accept the child due to his negative prognosis. It is curious to me that the identity of the child in utero is lost in the phrase "terminate the pregnancy." It would seem that not even those who have to abide by the law while being in the business of caring and curing cannot bring themselves to call a thing by its proper name: "Kill the baby prior to birth."

As sad as this is, it is yet another fruit of the tree of evil that grows and prospers in the culture of death. And it should be a stark reminder to us that Macie Hope is a miracle in more ways than one. Her identity as a member of the human family was never in doubt, because her parents loved her unselfishly and had total confidence that, whatever might happen, their child would be cared for. Their hope for the best possible outcome was never in doubt, for as another news report on this remarkable story reads,

Just four months [sic] into Keri McCartney's pregnancy, an ultrasound revealed a tumor growing on the baby's tailbone the size of a grapefruit – nearly as large as the baby herself – that was stealing the baby's blood and weakening her heart. Armed with the hope of just a 10% chance at survival, but facing the certain death of their child if nothing was done, the McCartneys entrusted their unborn daughter's fate to the skillful surgeons at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.

Today Macie is at home with her four siblings, and one day she will hear the amazing story of how she, having been literally "born twice," beat the odds. And we suspect that she will know what a blessing her parents are to her, for she could have just as well become a terminated pregnancy.

To my mind, stories like Macie Hope McCartney's affirm an aspect of personhood that is rarely thought about these days: the value and the power of hope. A person who has confidence that each human being is worthy of whatever it might take to affirm his dignity is a person who loves life, comprehends the fact that a human being is created by God and appreciates what it means to be a person. Within the context of man's ability to hope resides the resolution to defeating the culture of death.

Providing killing as an alternative to living is hopelessness; devotion to elevating the human person to his rightful place as a blessing is hope. For all the Macie Hopes in the world, we raise our voices in praise to God, Who is hope!