I wish Sen. Susan Collins could see it — it’s one of my most cherished possessions. Just ink on a worn scrid of paper I’ve carried in my wallet for three decades, it’s a tiny footprint no longer than two nickels side by side with toes at one end.​

It was early during my 28 years serving as a respiratory therapist at MaineGeneral Medical Center. Paged to OB that night, I was part of a team tending to a preemie girl, born at 23 or 24 weeks. Her life hung in the balance. Delta Ambulance readied for transport.

This was in the late 1980s, before Maine Med sent teams to us with neonatologist on board. We also had no high-tech neonate ventilators so any baby we transported was manually ventilated with neonate ambu bag. The pediatrician skillfully intubated this tiny girl, whose head was about the size of an orange. While I provided breaths, nurses established lines and monitors for our ride.

Lastly one nurse made the perfunctory footprints for records as well as for her parents. On some impulse I asked if she would please make a copy for me, and she did. We delicately transferred the baby to a gurney and out to the rig. Then it was a 90-miles-per-hour race down I-95 through the night, lights flashing. And all the way I delivered breaths just large enough to see some rise in her chest and diaphragm. And I quietly prayed. As we exited the elevator and the doors to the NICU swung open, our oxygen cylinder ran empty and the ambu bag went flacid. But she had made it alive. ​

Did she survive? I never heard. In the late 1980s the odds of survival for a 23- to 24-week newborn was slim and grim. Thankfully science and medicine have improved those odds, and we see wonderful survival stories of those born even at 22 weeks. Were those 22- to 24-week preemies non-human in the moments before birth but human after birth? Only magical thinking is under such delusion. Yet magical thinking abounds.

Why do I want to tell her story to Sen. Collins? Here’s why. Because not one member of our team that night questioned the intrinsic worth of that tiny girl. And yet, the very “precedent” Collins claims would prevent her from voting in favor of a Supreme Court nominee who might dismantle some or all of Roe v. Wade is a ‘precedent” that since 1973 has denied almost 60 million of their right to life.

Hillary Clinton has admitted that the unborn, right up to birth, have no Constitutional rights. And a full 30 million plus of those are pre-born female humans. I am baffled how Collins can call herself “pro-woman” and “pro-choice” when time and again she has voted along with those denying any rights to unborn girls — who by the way, if they had a voice, would certainly not “choose” to be terminated inside the supposed security of the womb.

Not one of those unborn girls were any less precious than the untimely born one we tried to save. A woman’s reproductive rights? You mean like those girls in the womb who around the 20th week of gestation have a developed reproductive system, including 6 million to 7 million eggs in her ovaries? And she herself was waiting inside one of her mother’s eggs when her mother was inside her grandmother. A woman’s own body — with separate DNA, blood type, and footprints.​

Yes, Sen. Collins, precedent does matter. On that we can agree. The Dred Scott decision denied blacks any equal dignity by a clear 7-2 margin. It took the 13th Amendment to overturn bad “precedent.”

Sen. Collins, on behalf of those thus far still tucked tenuously in their mother’s womb, won’t you please reconsider your thinking on the rights of unborn humans? Yes, the pro-abortion crowd who are sending you coat hangers may always believe abortion is a sacrament. They want the precedent of Roe to stand.

This is your moment, however, Senator Collins. Please come over to the side of life, and leave your mark on the right side of history.

David Clinard​ is a retired respiratory therapist. He lives in Oakland.

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