February 6, 2009

What's the Big Deal?

Justin Katz

I hate to be plain spoken on an issue regarding which Americans prefer obscurity, but folks, this is abortion:

Eighteen and pregnant, Sycloria Williams went to an abortion clinic outside Miami and paid $1,200 for Dr. Pierre Jean-Jacque Renelique to terminate her 23-week pregnancy.

Three days later, she sat in a reclining chair, medicated to dilate her cervix and otherwise get her ready for the procedure.

Only Renelique didn't arrive in time. According to Williams and the Florida Department of Health, she went into labor and delivered a live baby girl.

What Williams and the Health Department say happened next has shocked people on both sides of the abortion debate: One of the clinic's owners, who has no medical license, cut the infant's umbilical cord. Williams says the woman placed the baby in a plastic biohazard bag and threw it out.

Police recovered the decomposing remains in a cardboard box a week later after getting anonymous tips.

Parsing the moral difference between this incident and a parallel one in which the clinic visit had gone according to plan is like trying to distinguish between a matricidal son who bumps off his wealthy mum in her sleep and one who accidentally allows her to wake up first.

(via the Corner)

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From the article:
"Should prosecutors file murder charges, they'd have to prove the baby was born alive, said Robert Batey, a professor of criminal law at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport. The defense might contend that the child would have died anyway..."

Yeah, but won't we all die anyway? Sounds like a good enough excuse to let out all murderers. Anyone who was ever murdered will die eventually. How about Kevorkian? He was assisting people who were terminally ill, they were going to die anyway, but he was still convicted.

Someone's going to jail for a very long time. And should the girl be charged as an accomplice?

Posted by: Patrick at February 6, 2009 11:23 AM

This is murder.Our new president opposed legislation that would prevent this.

Posted by: joe bernstein at February 6, 2009 12:34 PM

I don't care how big of a whack job you are to be blunt, every arguement I ever heard regarding the legalization of abortion centers around at what point the fetus may be considered living. I think in this case most can agree, and I'd hope all would agree, that upon delivery it is a human being and anything done to interrupt a vital process needed to sustain life constitutes murder.

Posted by: Steve A. at February 6, 2009 1:41 PM

>>and I'd hope all would agree, that upon delivery it is a human being


From non-entity to human being in a matter of minutes, if not seconds.

Dare I say "it's a miracle?"

Posted by: Tom W at February 6, 2009 2:33 PM

Tom W., there is a line that is crossed – there always is no matter how short or thin.

One minute you are single, the next you are married. Same goes for life to death and thus, from “non-entity” to being. For some that line is conception (also in a matter of seconds), for others it is delivery, for some – in-between.

There is some merit to Justin’s analogy between this scenario and the killing of a woman in her sleep versus the accidentally waking of her. For me, a good argument to be made here is that at 23 weeks, the child is viable outside the womb and therefore, any attempt to ‘end the pregnancy’ can be considered crossing that line between abortion and infanticide/murder. I agree that a clear murder was committed in this case.

And that this case is an excellent example for the fair-minded pro-choice people to consider. Because the line between murder and abortion in this case is the clinic visit going to plan rather than the intent. I’d be interested to read a reasoned argument in the defense of this case as “abortion”.

Posted by: msteven at February 6, 2009 2:56 PM

There is simply no rational line after conception, and choosing any particular milestone amounts to a religious faith that a particular bodily organ or developmental milestone somehow makes a decisive difference. Viability? One-year-olds are not independently viable. If somebody responds that I'm cheating by adding the word "independently," then I'll suggest that technology is increasingly such that human beings are viable with assistance from the moment that they're conceived (indeed, the old-fashioned version of this is pregnancy).

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 6, 2009 6:09 PM

Or to place a different (but reinforcing) perspective on what Justin wrote,

In almost all instances, absent the artificial intervention of abortion, after the occurrence of conception a birth event will occur some nine months later.

Trying to identify a point in time in between in which "human being" status is conferred reflects mere arrogance by 'human beings" who've no real "conception" of life. We are living beings sharing life, not the creators of it, or arbiters of its beginning.

Posted by: Tom W at February 6, 2009 8:31 PM

Tom, I believe you are correct in the spiritual or religious sense. The same logic could be applied to all man-made legal decisions since God is the true and final arbiter of judgment. But the question is not one of religious or spiritual or even moral but one of legality. And the line between a private act and one of protecting the unborn may be clear to you but that doesn’t mean it is simple or black and white. I am pro-life. I agree that life does begin at conception. But I also believe that there is a legal distinction between the murder of an 8 year old and the abortion of a 10 week fetus. And I’ll acknowledge that distinction is splitting hairs in the same way as other “developmental milestones” during pregnancy. My point is --- yes, abortion is always tragic, yet there is a legal line to walk between the right to privacy and right to protection. Like most issues of this nature, there are two sides to consider.

Posted by: msteven at February 6, 2009 10:27 PM

What does this "right to privacy" indicate? Is it a right not to be seen pregnant, or is it a right to take a human life outside of the public eye? Ought a family have a right to privacy to implement a bull-whip method of discipline?

I'm not challenging the wording of Roe, here. I'm honestly curious what the legal notion of "privacy" means to you, and what it's weight ought to be.

The law is the law, of course, but it's the very thing under discussion, in the abortion debate. If ours guarantees a right to kill one's offspring for any reason up to the point of birth, then our entire legal system is a fraud and abomination.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 6, 2009 10:39 PM

The issue is that you are asserting that human life begins at conception and should be legally protected to the same degree as it is after delivery. I think the same ‘right to privacy’ logic was used in the Griswold vs. Connecticut case. There are other “right to privacy” issues including current event involving the right to not get medical help for you or your child when it goes against your religious faith. So the difference is that there are those who see a distinction between abortion and murder. I’m no fan of the Roe v Wade ruling because it is completely arbitrary to apply “right to privacy” to abortion yet allow laws against drug use. The harmful line for abortion should certainly be much farther than the line for drug use. Having said that, I don’t believe “right to privacy” is an abomination.

Posted by: msteven at February 7, 2009 12:06 PM

I didn't say that a "right to privacy" is an abomination. I said that a right to kill one's offspring is an abomination. As one who generally seeks a reasonable middle ground, you might want to revisit your elision of the two.

So your answer to my question is that you believe the right to privacy is a right to kill one's offspring up to a certain stage of development. I still don't see how that's a legal line, but a moral and even biological line. If another human being exists, then it's not a matter of an individual's privacy.

The legal line might exist in various forms of punishment of children, but not in whether children are deserving of public protection from extreme punishment at all.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 7, 2009 12:57 PM

I should have and what I meant to say was that the application of the "right of privacy" in this context is not an abomination. Regardless, you are asserting that human life begins at conception and should be legally protected to the same degree as it is after delivery. I am not seeking a "middle ground" as much as I am acknowledging the existence of legal and even moral doubt to your assertion.

Posted by: msteven at February 8, 2009 12:12 PM

It's not an assertion; it's biology. When the egg and the sperm meet and combine, they create a wholly unique organism that will thereafter advance through the stages of a human life cycle. Any legal doubt is founded in abominable obfuscation and/or throwbacks from a more ignorant past, and any moral doubt is founded in wholly faith-based inclination toward the equivocation of our immoral times.

As to your "the same degree" assertion, I'm not sure that's my position. Human beings have different rights at different stages of development. The only one that's been relevant to argue for the pre-born is the basic right to life.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 8, 2009 12:33 PM
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