His name is Thomas Gray.
Thomas was born with a birth defect, anencephaly, that caused parts of his brain to not form. Born to Sarah and Ross Gray, Thomas lived for six days before he died. Because the condition was discovered during the pregnancy, Ross and Sarah had prepared for his short life and made arrangement for his organs to be donated.
I heard about Thomas while listening to the Radiolab podcast “Gray’s Donation.” Two years after Thomas’ death, Sarah Gray began wondering what happened to her son’s organs. Were they used for science? Was it helpful? Did it matter that they donated his organs? Were any discoveries made?
The podcast, which details the Grays’ stories, including interviews of the Gray’s, is worth listening to, and I encourage you to do so. Sarah was not only able to find many of the clinics where Thomas’ organs were sent, but she also talked with the very scientists who studied his organs. It’s an incredibly powerful story that will tug at your heart.
As I listened to the podcast I was struck by one thing: His name is Thomas Gray. That isn’t a line from the podcast, but they use his name throughout the show. Sarah went to Duke University because that’s where Thomas’ corneas went. She traveled to Boston to talk with the doctor who received Thomas’ eyes. Back to Duke she went because some of Thomas’ cord blood went to the Duke Center for Human Genetics. The journey ended in Philly to see the lab where Thomas’ retinas were being studied.
I don’t know if jumps out to you yet, but it did to me as I listened to the podcast.
His name is Thomas Gray.
Sarah wasn’t chasing tissue around Eastern United States. She wasn’t inquiring about organs that went to labs. She was asking about Thomas. Thomas went to those labs.
In the wake of the Planned Parenthood videos, where babies were callously referred to as “tissue,” the contrast couldn’t be more stark. This baby had a name. This baby had personhood. He is remembered. Thomas Gray, in the donation of his organs, has a legacy.
Not only does abortion kill the baby, it removes personhood. Clump of cells. Fetal Tissue. These terms negate the personhood of the child, reducing a human to an organic object. This is a great injustice, the same kind we fight against as we fight against racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia. As Christians, we believe all humans are indwelled with the image of God, and we must speak out against any act that denies, diminishes, or destroys that fact.
But let us do so with compassion. Let us not forget the mothers who have had abortions. For they bear the image of God and deserve our grace and love. May our approach to abortion be wholistic. May we care so much about the lives of babies that we care for them after they are born. Yes, let’s work to defund abortions. Then, let us continue to affirm the image of God in these children by making sure they are well cared for after they are born. In one study, 40% of the women surveyed stated financial concerns as the reason for their abortion.
If those on one side of the abortion debate remove the personhood of the child in the womb, all too often those on the other side remove personhood after they are born – particularly if they are born to low income families. Cells and tissue on one side, moochers and freeloaders on the other. Both objectify. Both remove personhood. But if we want to see a decrease in abortions we must be willing to ensure adequate financial resources are available for the mother and child after the birth.
And why wouldn’t we? Because the child has a name. The child has personhood. The child has a legacy.