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Why is this a crime?

Submitted by Pat on Thu, 07/29/2010 - 9:23am

So in France, a woman has just admitted murdering 8 of her children, immediately after they were born. The Telegraph newspaper in England says that this is "France's worst ever case of infanticide." According to reports, the woman hid her pregnancies from her husband and everybody else, killed each infant as it was born, wrapped them in plastic bags, and buried them in the back yard, without anybody else's knowledge.

So here's my question... why is this such a horrible crime? According to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Dr. LeRoy Carhart,and 4 members of the Supreme Court of the United States, if she had seen a doctor 30 minutes before the children were born, and he had used medical tools to puncture their skulls, crush their bodies, and suction their remains out of her uterus, she would have been merely exercising her constitutionally-protected right to control her own body, and to terminate the parasite in her body (so long as the doctor decreed that the woman's "health" required such a measure). Heck, according to all the lectures I heard during the health care debate, apparently if the woman were poor, we as taxpayers would have some sort of moral obligation to help pay for her to see the doctor and have her infants killed... as long as this was done moments before, rather than after, they passed through her vagina and into the world. How is it that condemning this woman's act is morally righteous, rather than simply conservatives in a tizzy because somebody, somewhere had sex?

So how about it, pro-choicers? Anybody able to say why THIS woman, who killed her children within moments of their birth, without anybody else in the world ever knowing they existed, is a horrible criminal, guilty of infanticide, while if she had gone to see a doctor to kill the infants a day or two before, as long as the doctor would say that her "health" required it, then she would be guilty of nothing, would deserve not even moral shame, because she would merely be exercising her human and constitutional rights over her own body?

Pause

There were at least 8 precious lives lost(there may be more). And this wasn't an octo-mom pregnancy, it looks like Dominique Cottrez brought each pregnancy to term, delivered a live child and then killed the child. Mothers have always had the power of life and death over their children -- and always will have. The novelty of this age is whether the law should support life-snuffing choices and insulate the life-snuffers from guilt and responsibility for the lives lost. Planned Parenthood sees baby snuffing as a mother's sacred right; they urge mothers to consider themselves justified and guilt-free in exercising it. The logical extension of this posture is announcing a Planned Parenthood Reproductive Rights Award for this French couple.
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Right now I think we need to pause and appreciate what a disturbed home this must have been in village of Villers-au-Tertre -- to pray for Grace to overcome the failings on many levels in this tragedy -- and to pray for a way to reach across this dark chasm, to bring the mercy necessary to share and carry the guilt, and to create more hope for each emerging new life to come.

That's a real good question, Pat. As a pro-lifer, I'm with your

point--I've always felt that those who say they are personally opposed to abortion, yet are pro-choice (and appear to a problem with reasonable restrictions on abortions) are not so much insincere, but suffer from cognitive dissonance.

I do feel the need to quibble with your health care point, however. Late-term abortions are not funded in the bill.

because of the number and the timing

I think it's a such a horrible crime because of the number of times it was done and the particularly inhumane manner in which it was done: killed precisely at birth, and with no evolution in moral approach over the course of the instances.

I'm pro-choice, and I feel no conpunction whatsoever to defend the official positions of planned parenthood, the ACLU or Dr Roy Carhart. Or the allegedly detail positions of some members of SCOTUS,

Anybody able to say why THIS woman, who killed her children within moments of their birth, without anybody else in the world ever knowing they existed, is a horrible criminal, guilty of infanticide, while if she had gone to see a doctor to kill the infants a day or two before, as long as the doctor would say that her "health" required it, then she would be guilty of nothing, would deserve not even moral shame...

My impression is that is simply not an accurate description of the mainstream position of the majority of Americans that want abortion to remain as a legal option in America.

I could just as well challenge you to explain why, if abortion is such an egregious moral wrong, it's nevertheless wrong to murder abortion doctors. Because after all, one can construct a fairly logical and defensible rationale starting from the notions that abortion is murder and the hardcore old testament "eye for an eye" rubric.

But then I'd be a jerkwad.

I don't know why anybody

I don't know why anybody worries about abortion being taken away as a legal option. There won't be a day when all abortion of any kind is banned, because the people who support that won't ever get majority support. Not even in the South anymore.

But we're at a point where we need to talk about things such as parental notification laws and restrictions on late term abortions. The United States, despite the scary 'religious right', has some of the most liberal abortion laws in the world, its much more difficult to have an abortion in Europe. Ever wonder why there's a 'religious right' in the US in the first place, and not in Europe? Its not because Europeans are all enlightened liberals.


I could just as well challenge you to explain why, if abortion is such an egregious moral wrong, it's nevertheless wrong to murder abortion doctors. Because after all, one can construct a fairly logical and defensible rationale starting from the notions that abortion is murder and the hardcore old testament "eye for an eye" rubric.

Christians don't believe 'eye for an eye' is a moral standard for justice.

amen

But we're at a point where we need to talk about things such as parental notification laws and restrictions on late term abortions.

I agree with that. Unless you mean to imply that right now we don't have any things like that.

Christians don't believe 'eye for an eye' is a moral standard for justice.

Well, not true Christians anyway. Because Christ is new testament. But there are lots of old testament folks who call themselves Christians.. I really do mean with 100% sincerity that the argument I stated was a jerkwad argument. I absolutely DON'T think that most anti-abortion folks believe murdering abortion providers is justified.

In a way, you're sort of helping me make my point here. Which is this: the majority of pro-abortion folks do not support unfettered abortion until the moment of birth. And the vast majority of anti-abortion folks do not think their crusade ought to extend to killing abortion providers. We can't have a sane discussion when either side characterizes the other as being best represented by its most unyielding extremists.

People are more likely to assume

In a way, you're sort of helping me make my point here. Which is this: the majority of pro-abortion folks do not support unfettered abortion until the moment of birth. And the vast majority of anti-abortion folks do not think their crusade ought to extend to killing abortion providers. We can't have a sane discussion when either side characterizes the other as being best represented by its most unyielding extremists.

People are more likely to assume there are only extremists in the pro-life movement -- that pro-life people are a bunch of religious fundamentalists like Pat Robertson -- and that pro-choicers are just normal people like you and me.

In fact, there are extremists on the pro-choice side, including the organizations named above, and including our current president, who was against the partial birth abortion ban, the born alive bill, and is against parental notification laws.

If we're talking about something to compare to pro-lifers who murder abortion doctors, there are pro-choicers, academic types, who advocate post-natal abortion and argue its ok to kill a baby after its out of the womb. We only hear about the abortion doctor killers, why?

I don't think Pat was assuming that all people who consider themselves pro-choice want unfettered access until the baby is born. He was simply making the point that we need to look at the abortion issue through the prism of stories like this. At some point in a woman's pregnancy, at least, we have to stop thinking of the fetus as part of a woman's body, because the line between being in the womb and out of the womb can't determine morality.

People are more likely to

People are more likely to assume there are only extremists in the pro-life movement -- that pro-life people are a bunch of religious fundamentalists like Pat Robertson -- and that pro-choicers are just normal people like you and me.

I do think that most pro-abortion folks are more likely to assume that there are only extremists in the anti-abortion movement. My experience with anti-abortion folks is that they are very well aware of pro-abortion ideologues, and generally eager to call attention to such folks. My point is that I don't believe that either side's extremists are representative.

I don't think Pat was assuming that all people who consider themselves pro-choice want unfettered access until the baby is born.

Well, I have no problem with you speaking on Pat's behalf, but I wish Pat would speak for himself. While I don't think he was making the assumption you describe, he quite clearly was trying to focus folks' attention on the extremist pro-abortion ideologue's perspective. Personally, I don't think that's especially informative or enlightening. And he did it in a provocative way which seemed to challenge anyone who supports abortion rights to answer for extremist views, views most folks don't hold.

He was simply making the point that we need to look at the abortion issue through the prism of stories like this.

Really? Do we really need to? Just perhaps. folks who are themselves extreme abortion rights ideologues need to do this. But for the rest of us, do we really need to be subjected to the suggestion that the practice of abortion is virtually the same as murdering 9 just-born children in a row over the course of a lifetime? Is that really the prism through which we should look at it?

At some point in a woman's pregnancy, at least, we have to stop thinking of the fetus as part of a woman's body, because the line between being in the womb and out of the womb can't determine morality.

I can agree with that, Brian. My sense is that fetal viability is the actual line in the minds of most folks who support abortion rights despite having reservations about the practice. I am sure I am not alone in being troubled by the idea of requiring all pregnant women to bear every pregnancy to term. But I could be persuaded to accept a rubric where women are allowed to terminate fetuses before they become viable, but are expected to allow their viable fetuses to be developed outside their womb instead of being terminated.

bucyrus, I do think that

bucyrus,

I do think that most pro-abortion folks are more likely to assume that there are only extremists in the anti-abortion movement. My experience with anti-abortion folks is that they are very well aware of pro-abortion ideologues, and generally eager to call attention to such folks. My point is that I don't believe that either side's extremists are representative.

And I think in order to have a balanced discussion on the issue we need to discuss the fact that there are extremists on both sides. Despite that a lot of people on the left are complaining about paranoia from the right, paranoia about the 'religious right' and their plan to destroy science and corrupt our children dominates our political discourse sometimes.

Yet all of the progress on abortion laws recently have come from the pro-life side, who have been pushing very moderate measures in public debate like notification laws.

I can agree with that, Brian. My sense is that fetal viability is the actual line in the minds of most folks who support abortion rights despite having reservations about the practice.

And you realize that a lot of people who identify as pro-life also support the viability standard? Many pro-lifers accept the standard in Roe v Wade, but still think it was bad Constitutional law and should be overturned, and are against later Supreme Court decisions like Doe v. Bolton which established that even in the third trimester things like psychological health can be considered.

There are also other standards besides viability and a lot of people consider viability an arbitrary standard. It could be argued that a more important one is when the law should consider the fetus/baby to be a person. Is personhood determined at viability? Its not a meaningless thing to discuss. That's why I said that there's some sense to discussing abortion through stories like this, they help us talk about the finer points. Is a baby not a person by law a day before its out of the womb, and a person by law the day after its out?

settle for noticing it

And I think in order to have a balanced discussion on the issue we need to discuss the fact that there are extremists on both sides. Despite that a lot of people on the left are complaining about paranoia from the right, paranoia about the 'religious right' and their plan to destroy science and corrupt our children dominates our political discourse sometimes.

I'll settle for acknowledging it and moving on, with a determination not to let either fringe dominate or control the discussion.

I agree that many on the left lack a decent sense of committment to understanding reasonable conservatives. Are folks on the right any better? Our mileage likely varies.

And you realize that a lot of people who identify as pro-life also support the viability standard?

Well, no that hasn't been my impression based on discussions I have had over the years, No. I'm MUCH more used to this idea being challenged. Can you better quantify "alot?" What fraction of prolifers would you say supports some sort of viability standard?

There are also other standards besides viability and a lot of people consider viability an arbitrary standard.

Agreed. And my personal experience has been that more of the folks who don't like a viability standard are pro-life. I don't have any data, though.

It could be argued that a more important one is when the law should consider the fetus/baby to be a person. Is personhood determined at viability? Its not a meaningless thing to discuss.

Definitely not meaningless. I brought it up, right? Obviously, once you bring in the eyes of the law, one has to consider practicality, since once an entity is viewed to be a person, termination becomes murder.

My sense is that humanity relates to sentience, which probably relates to brainwaves and some sense of consciousness beyond the level of let's say bacteria. But I don't have a good exact answer. I suggest viability because I feel that so long as the nascent human entity relies on its human host, the host's will should generally have precedence.

If at some point in the future we can raise a fertilized egg to humanhood without a human host, I'd be fine with requiring all fertilized eggs to be preserved. In the meantime, I'm willing to accept allowing abortions for the first 3-6 months of a pregnancy, subject to the progress of the moving line of viability.

I realize and appreciate that many folks find that unsatisfactory.

But then I don't ever personally declare that human life is itself sacred. Human behavior and the data on our numbers suggest to me that it is not in fact especially sacred. Nor is it truly held sacred by most nearly as much as it is declared. So many folks declare it sacred in the simple concrete form of a developing fetus, yet routinely defile it by a daily lack of true christian love, understanding and compassion.

In my opinion we'd better serve our concerns with the alleged sanctity of human life by looking away from the details of one particular mechanical procedure and focusing more closely on our daily failings. If we could treat each other better every day, then maybe I could live with 1st and 2nd trimester abortions until judgement day. And conversely, I have a sneaking suspicion that even if abortion were wholly ended, we'd still treat each other poorly from day to day.

I have met self-identifying

I have met self-identifying pro-lifers who accept the viability standard. According to a recent Gallup poll, the majority of Americans now identify themselves as pro-life, but at the same time, other polls show the majority don't want abortion illegal in the first trimester. So I don't think those who I've met are alone.

Also, even if you believe viability is arbitrary, it doesn't mean you agree the moment of conception is a good standard either. You can argue, for instance, that abortion should be restricted as soon as the fetus has a functioning brain and signs of consciousness, and say whether or not that fetus is viable outside the womb, its still immoral to kill it and it should be considered a 'person'

For The Same Reason

That you're not allowed to do an autopsy on a person ten minutes before the last breath, but you're allowed to do one ten minutes after that last breath. The same reason Adam was considered clay before God breathed the breath of life into him, and a human being afterward.

In this case, I don't know whether any of them--or all of them--were stillborn or not. If they were, then she's not guilty of 8 counts of infanticide. Lots of other things, yes, but not 8 counts of murder. Otherwise, any woman who had a still birth or a miscarriage would find herself in jail.

If you haven't breathed your first breath, your life hasn't officially begun. (Though you do have my congratulations on being able to read this blog post if such is indeed your case. ;-)

can you keep on?

Suppose you do an autopsy on someone 10 minutes after they die and have been declared legally dead. If you cut into their chest and they wake up and say hey, I'm alive, you can just keep doing the autopsy, right? Because legally, they're dead. Right? Makes sense. LOL

LOL! I'm Not Sure What ScFi Story You're Reading

But in the human species on planet Earth, if someone hasn't breathed in oxygen for a full ten minutes, it's usually safe to say s/he's dead.

Or as Mark Twain liked to say in one of my favorite stories, "Innocents Abroad"; "Is he dead?"

Hi Jean, Well, first of all,

Hi Jean,

Well, first of all, I know at least two people who have been pronounced dead who are still walking among us -- one of whom (who was actually dead for twelve minutes) went on to get his Ph.D. in military history from the University of Michigan, so clearly any long-term brain damage was quite minimal (though that's neither here nor there). I admit that my line of work probably lends me to see more of these people, but they are out there. It's not science fiction -- in these two cases (at least), it is science, fact.

I think you were trying to take the easy way out -- I'm pretty sure you know the point that Brian was trying to make, but instead of addressing it, you wanted to nit-pick his scenario and avoid the ethical dilemma altogether by focusing on the (admittedly) huge improbability of someone waking up on an autopsy table. Nice, clean, and convenient for you, but totally avoiding the point.

So try this scenario instead:

A man has been in a catastrophic accident and is being kept alive by a machine. Being a responsible citizen, he is an organ donor. Having given up hope, his wife agrees to pull the plug and allow his organs to be harvested. The doctors call time of death (he's now been pronounced legally dead) and turn off the machine. They start to harvest his organs. Amazingly, he wakes up. Is it still okay to harvest his organs, since he's been proclaimed legally dead? Or would we all agree that maybe -- just maybe -- that wouldn't be the moral, ethical, or probably even legal thing to do?

--Bobby

Not the same thing

A person that has already been born is a living person, with right to life. The one who is not born yet does not exist-in the legal term. Therefore, having an abortion is not homicide under the legal interpretation thereof. Further, late term abortions are already mostly illegal and are available only under certain specific terms--for example when the life of the mother is threatened.

So I am not sure the point you have tried to make holds up under scrutiny.

IMHO.

Really?

Really? Then why can someone be charged with a double homicide if that person kills a pregnant woman?

It would seem to me that if an unborn child "does not exist - in the legal term" as you put it, then the murderer of the woman could not be charged with two homicides. Yes? No?

Since the murderer can be charged with two murders, does that not mean that the legal system actually recognizes the life of the unborn child and that that life is "protected" under the law? I have stated in the past that I am not a lawyer but this is what the law, as applied, seems to be saying.

In Very Few Jurisdictions, Thank Heavens

I'd say in the rare instances when the murder of a pregnant woman is considered double homicide that it has more to do with the vengeful inclinations of the prosecution than any real decision about fetal "personhood". Otherwise, we'd see women being arrested on suspicion of attempted murder every time they had a miscarriage, graveyards for discarded tampons, etc. As apparently the only person here with the requisite plumbing to actually become pregnant, I'd rather not get hauled into the hoosegow every time my Aunt Flo's visit is a day or so late.

It is not just a few

It is not just a few jurisdictions Blue Jean. This from an article dated March 2010 on the NCSL website.

Currently, at least 38 states have fetal homicide laws. The states include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. At least 21 states have fetal homicide laws that apply to the earliest stages of pregnancy ("any state of gestation," "conception," "fertilization" or "post-fertilization"); these are indicated below with an asterisk (*).

the website I found this on is located at: http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=14386

Judging from what I read the laws generally seem to focus on an attack to the woman that results in the death of the unborn child. Something, as you pointed out, that has nothing to do with the decision to have an abortion. So it seems the laws put the two "acts" into two separate categories.

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