Last week, two brutal stories brought to
light the fine and tenuous line our culture maintains between legalized abortion
and criminalized murder.
First, a teenage mother of a toddler was
stopped in New York City, suspected of shoplifting. But when security officers
looked in her bag, they found more than stolen merchandise. They discovered the
corpse of a premature baby boy, born the day before, triggering a homicide
The next day, an emigrant from Samoa – who
came to this county to become a Catholic nun – was charged in the District of
Columbia with homicide. According to police, she told investigators she gave
birth to a son and smothered him, afraid to let her superiors know about her sexual
Two mothers who killed their sons now
face murder charges. But either could have avoided incrimination by visiting a
local abortion clinic for a “procedure” prior to birth.
Reports reveal that the baby boy found in
the purse in New York was approaching the end of second trimester, roughly five
to six months into the pregnancy. Abortions are legal in that state up to 24
In the District of Columbia, the Samoan woman
could have had an abortion at any point in her pregnancy – up to the moment the
baby was born.
Given the Supreme Court pronouncements on
abortion, these two women violated the law only because they were tardy in terminating
the lives of their respective babies.
One of the investigators involved in the New
York case indicated that the mother was confused: “She said it was not full-term. She said she didn’t know
what to do with it.” You have
wonder if forgetting to schedule an abortion would be a viable defense for her
in the criminal proceeding.
A couple of years ago, a similar argument
worked in Canada. An Alberta judge let a woman who strangled her newborn and
threw him over a fence go free because of Canada’s stance on legalized
In the decades following Roe v.
Wade, advancements in ultrasounds and
other forms of medical technology have chipped away at the false distinction
between a fetus in the womb and a baby outside it. Knowing what we now know
about the development of the human being in utero, it makes little sense for
the value of life – and the consequences for ending it – to be tied to location
This blurring of illegal killing and legal
termination of life has been noticed by others, most notably, proponents of
infanticide. Dr. Peter Singer, professor of Bioethics at Princeton, has long
championed infanticide on the basis that “there is no sharp distinction between
the fetus and the newborn baby.”
Last year, a pair of “ethicists” from
Australia, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, made the case for
infanticide – or what they call “after-birth abortion” – in the Journal of
Medical Ethics, urging that infanticide ought to be allowed as long as abortion
is allowed. In this piece, the authors point out that Netherlands already
permits the killing of disabled newborns under its Groningen Protocol.
No longer able to differentiate between
abortion and murder, our culture is seemingly at a crossroads. We can either
openly sanction baby killing or condemn it.
Having raised a generation of adults with
abortion on demand, death has become an entrenched part of life. This should
cause us as Christians to lament, but it should also prompt us to get busy.
Government-approved slaying of babies is
not a recent phenomenon. Infanticide was practiced in cultures around the world
throughout history. In some cultures infants were sacrificed to their gods. In
ancient Greece and Rome, it was permissible for fathers to leave infants
outside to die.
In each instance, Christians helped turn
the tide towards life. The apostles taught early
believers to value life, and Constantine, the first Christian emperor in Rome,
made infanticide a crime.
Christian clergy were the ones who formed
the first orphanages, caring for abandoned children and preserving their lives.
Unwanted children in the middle ages were routinely left at churches because
the clergy – as it was widely known – were pleased to take care of them.
If the church did it before, we can do it
Society needs to understand: the answer
to this dilemma is not to legalize infanticide, but to outlaw abortion.