In a Portland hospital in 1970, Dr. Russell Sacco took a photograph that continues to fuel the Pro-Life Movement to this day.
Convinced of his pro-life convictions but disturbed by the lack of education he received in medical school regarding fetal development, Dr. Sacco began studying the issue and discussing it with colleagues.
In 1970, he visited a friend at a hospital in Oregon, where abortion had been legal since the year prior. This friend, a pathologist, was responsible for disposing of the bodies of aborted babies. Being pro-life and unwilling to do such a task, he instead placed their tiny bodies in formaldehyde.
Dr. Sacco, at first disgusted by the inhumane fates these children met, eventually realized that their tiny preserved bodies gave him the opportunity to contribute meaning to their tragically lost lives. As a self-taught student of fetal development, Dr. Sacco could identify the ages of the children and use photographs to educate the public about life inside the womb.
Camera in hand, Dr. Sacco held up the tiny feet of a 10-week-old child in the other hand to demonstrate the size in comparison. Suddenly, however, the reality of the situation, the gravity of the loss of human life, hit him in the gut.
“All of a sudden,” he said, reflecting back, “I saw these tiny feet; these perfectly formed tiny feet, with little toes, little wrinkles and creases and I held them between my fingers and took the picture. I was crying because I felt so bad.”
In 1971, Dr. Sacco attended the California Pro-Life Council, where Dr. John Willke, an obstetrician and later National Right to Life president, was speaking. Dr. Sacco showed his photographs to Dr. Willke, who, like Sacco, saw both tragedy and opportunity. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Willke printed the photographs in his book, Handbook on Abortion, and in various pro-life pamphlets.
The photograph of the child’s tiny feet rose to fame by the name “Precious Feet.” More than 20 million Precious Feet pins have been distributed worldwide. At a symposium in Ireland in 1979, the Precious Feet design was elected the International Pro-Life Symbol. To this day, the photograph remains an icon for the steadfast and presently rising Pro-Life Movement.
Though he may not live in breath and blood, that poor lost child, whose name is forever known to no one but God, lives on in legacy as an emblem representing the millions upon millions of children who have been violently and barbarically slaughtered in the womb since the dreadful year of 1973.