Amid abortion debate, miraculous rescue of baby in South Africa should remind Americans that life is precious

Two rescue workers are kneeling inside a freshly-dug hole several feet deep into the ground. Their shirts are soaked in sweat under the blazing sun. They are searching for something in the drainage pipe beneath them, which they had to break open with a chisel and hammer.

All around them you can hear a gaggle of voices shouting orders: “Stand clear!…Rope out!…Are you ready?”

And then, an unmistakable sound emerges out of the depths of the ground – a baby cries. Seconds later, one of the men draws out of the drainage a newborn baby girl. As he places her gently on a white blanket, a coworker is holding, the crowd of rescue workers erupts in cheers.

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This scene, which took place in Durban, South Africa, was captured in a video that went viral last week. According to reports, the baby was discovered when a passerby heard her crying, which itself is a miracle. Durban is a noisy city – it has the busiest port in sub-Saharan Africa, and its metro area consists of an estimated 3.4 million people.

The rescue team had to dig more than 20 feet into the ground to reach the baby. After nearly four hours, they were able to extract the baby and airlift her to a hospital, where she was treated for hypothermia.

The story of the miraculous rescue of this baby would make most people teary-eyed. But the detail that made me stop cold in my tracks was this: When the rescuers pulled her out of the ground, she still had her umbilical cord intact. She couldn’t have been more than three days old.

At a time when America is debating how far we can push abortion laws – sometimes even up to the point of birth – this story flips the whole debate upside-down. Think about it: Over half a dozen rescue workers in South Africa spent hours digging and searching in a storm drain, and then called a helicopter, to save a baby that clearly was not wanted. Had the baby not survived, the whole mission would have been considered a failure.

When it comes to these types of situations, we always give life the benefit of the doubt. If someone is trapped in a building that has caught fire, firefighters don’t stop and debate if the person is worth saving. They rush into the burning building, putting their own lives at risk, to save the other. In fact, they would get in trouble if they didn’t act.

But when it comes to abortion, we suspend this sense of urgency to protect life. We turn it into a debate about when a life becomes worth saving.

This logic falls apart quickly when you ask: What is the difference between a fully-formed baby who is a few inches away inside the mother’s womb, and a three-day-old baby who is 20 feet underground in a storm drain?

For me, there’s only one clear choice in this debate: We must protect life, in all its forms and stages. From the womb all the way to the tomb, life is inherently valuable. It’s a holy gift from God.

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I hope that’s what the people of South Africa were reminded of when they rescued this precious baby.

According to the news story, the baby was named Sibanisethu, which means “our light,” though the people of the community where she was rescued call her Gabriella, which – intentional or not – means “God is my strength.” I find both names apt, for they capture the preciousness of life.