Orthodox couple fights for 22-week-old son but the Seattle Times doesn't make the connection

I get news alerts from the Seattle Times, which is why I saw this piece posted Saturday afternoon. Sure enough, the story showed up smack in the middle of Sunday’s front page (here’s the PDF), which shows you that the editors must have thought it pretty important.

The headline: “Premature decisions?” It’s about how hospitals are struggling with whether to use drastic measures to save the lives of 22-week-old babies. We’re talking more than four months premature here.

At the center of this particular story is a couple who fought to have one local hospital recognize that their son deserved to live. Read further:

When Gabriel Ruthford was born at Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center in 2012, he was so premature that doctors seriously doubted they could save him -- and almost didn’t try.
The Maple Valley boy arrived at 22 weeks, six days -- one day shy of 23 weeks, then regarded as the lowest threshold at which medical crews should attempt resuscitation. He was so early that in some states, he legally could have been aborted.
Gabriel’s parents, Eric and Miri Ruthford, wanted intensive interventions to save their baby -- including help breathing and keeping his heart beating -- but say they encountered a medical system that actively discouraged such care.
“The doctor said that he advised against resuscitation because the results were just so poor at that stage,” recalled Eric Ruthford, 36. “He said, ‘If you give birth after midnight, I’ll be the one who comes and does the resuscitation, but my heart won’t be fully in it.”

Now, I am glad this reporter wrote about a conundrum that pro-lifers have been complaining about for years: Why is abortion legal at a point where these little lives can be saved? And who decides whether their lives are worth saving? There’s more:

When Miri Ruthford went into labor not quite 22 weeks into her first pregnancy, doctors said she’d have to reach at least 24 weeks for the baby to a chance.
“They kept saying it was too early, too early, too early,” she recalled.
Doctors emphasized that Gabriel likely wouldn’t survive, and if he did, he could have serious problems such as blindness, deafness or severe cerebral palsy. They warned the burden of caring for such a child could be too much for the family to bear.
The Ruthfords said that didn’t sway them. “We’ve always been of the belief that as soon as a child is conceived it’s a child,” Miri Ruthford said. “I’m not going to give up on my child just because it’s hard.”

Today, Gabriel is a fairly healthy 3-year-old.

Sometimes the absence of any mention of faith in a story -- called a religion "ghost" here at GetReligion -- is so massive, it rises up and smacks you. When someone says they believe that life begins at conception, doesn’t that give you a hint of some kind of religious belief that informs that point of view? And wouldn’t one think that by naming their kid after an angel, the parents just might have some interesting religious background?

I did a search on these folks and learned that this couple isn’t just a pair of run-of-the-mill deists. She is the daughter of an Eastern Orthodox priest. He converted to Orthodoxy in mid-life and speaks at Orthodox gatherings. Boundless.org, a Christian web site, gives a succinct bio, then adds that the husband wrote the 2011 book "Heaven Help the Single Christian," which is for young adult Christians wishing they could meet someone at church. He also worked as a financial officer for a homeless shelter in San Francisco that is run by Orthodox believers. Lots of ghosts there and they were not hard to back up with facts.

I did more searching. The baby's father is listed on a web site for Orthodox speakers and was converted to Orthodoxy after doing a stint for the Peace Corps in the Ukraine. Oh, and he has a BA from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU), a local college that, thanks to the L-word in the middle, just might have some connection to religion?  

I chanced on his personal blog and found out that he met his wife at the Old Cathedral of the Holy Virgin in San Francisco nine years ago and got married there in 2007. I searched about a region of the Seattle area where I guessed he might be living and found what I think is his church’s web site. I saw he spoke Oct. 1 at PLU on extremely premature kids “and the challenge of navigating this moral grey area while still following Christian teachings,” according to the lecture description. Thus, he has spoken publicly on the topic and quite recently at that.

So, this couple’s connection to the Orthodox Christian world is obvious to anyone who takes a few minutes to search the Internet. The Orthodox believe life begins at conception.

How could this reporter not know what this couple believed? Did she not visit their home and see icons on the walls? Did they not mention to her what beliefs strengthened them in their struggle to have the hospital save their child? Did the reporter not ask? If she didn't, why didn't an editor put two and two together and figure out there must be a God connection somewhere and tell the reporter to look into it? Or did the reporter mention the couple’s faith but some higher-up excised it?

Whatever the reason, there was a failure on several levels of the Times hierarchy to take the Ruthford's beliefs seriously and make them part of the story.

Please respect our Commenting Policy