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May 15, 2013

Rienzi on Gosnell . . . and the troubling rise in infanticide

"Gosnell's Crimes Not Uncommon" is the title of Prof. Mark Rienzi's piece in USA Today.  Here's a bit:

. . . While murder rates for almost every group in society have plummeted in recent decades, there's one group where murder rates have doubled, according to CDC and National Center for Health Statistics data — babies less than a year old. . . .

. . . Gosnell's actions are readily explainable by a culture that embraces, and in some quarters celebrates, abortion as a constitutional right. Gosnell made his living by performing legal abortions, many of them late in the pregnancy. Is it really all that surprising that he might not have seen a significant moral difference in performing the abortion a few inches inside the birth canal rather than somewhere outside?

The law can be a potent moral teacher, which is a good thing. Laws against slavery and discrimination have helped reduce prejudice. Laws requiring accommodations for people with disabilities have helped them gain visibility and greater acceptance in society. . . .

It would be naive to think that our abortion laws do not carry a similar teaching power. . . . 

Posted by Rick Garnett on May 15, 2013 at 02:10 PM in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

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Rienzi says: "Gosnell made his living by performing legal abortions, many of them late in the pregnancy. "

No, Gosnell performed a great many ILLEGAL abortions. If you read the grand jury report, it tells us that when Gosnell determined the gestational age of the baby, if it was over the legal limit, he would record it as 24.5 weeks and perform the abortion anyway. Over a three-year period, Gosnell's files showed 80 cases of the recorded age of the fetus as 24.5 weeks. If we did not know from his staff (and from ultrasound images) that he falsified these figures, we would still wonder what the odds were that 80 women came to Gosnell just in the nick to have a legal abortion. The grand jury report also notes that it could also be a couple of weeks between the time the gestational age was estimated and the time of the abortion, because the women often took time to come up with the money.

The three abortions after which Gosnell is convicted of killing the born-alive infants were all ILLEGAL abortions. They were done when the pregnancies were past the legal limit. If Gosnell had managed to kill the fetuses while they were still in the womb, he would still have been breaking the law. True, he wouldn't have been guilty of first-degree murder, but abortion has never been prosecuted as murder.

The CDC information on murder rates for babies covers 1989-1998. The total number of infant homicides during that ten-year period was 3,312. The numbers seem to me small and uncertain. But here's an interesting fact: "Among homicides on the first day of life, 95% of the victims are not born in a hospital." Here's another fact, which Rienzi alludes to: "Mothers who kill their infants are more likely to be adolescents and have a history of mental illness."

So are we to believe that Roe v Wade and legalized abortion between 1973 and 1989 led to an increase in the number of adolescents with a history of mental illness who gave birth to their babies outside of a hospital and killed them? How credible is it that the legalization of abortion in 1973 causes more troubled adolescent girls who give birth at home to say to themselves, "Well, I could have had an abortion, so what could be wrong in killing my baby?" We're also told by Child Trends Databank, "The infant homicide rate increased from 4.3 per 100,000 in 1970 to 9.2 per 100,000 in 2000, before declining to 7.9 per 100,000 in 2010." What explains the decline after 2000? (And since the rate is declining, what explains the title, "Rienzi on Gosnell . . . and the troubling rise in infanticide."

Has nothing else changed since 1970 besides abortion (and contraception)? It seems to me that if the figures about the increase in infanticide can be believed, one huge factor may be the dramatic increase in the out-of-wedlock birth rate.

Rienzi says: "This is presumably why Planned Parenthood opposes legislation protecting children born during failed abortions, out of fear that if those babies are protected, the similar babies we allow to be killed inside the womb might have to be protected, too."

This is scarcely even worth discussing, particularly in light of the update to the story Rienzi links to, which is currently titled: "Planned Parenthood Still Opposes Florida Bill to Protect Infants Who Survive Attempted Abortions (Update: Planned Parenthood Withdraws Opposition to Bill)." I have asked this question, and never received an answer to it: In what state or states is it legal to kill a born alive infant, whether from abortion or any other cause? My understanding was the Planned Parenthood did not oppose the entire bill in Florida. They opposed the provisions that terminated the parental rights of a mother whose aborted baby was born alive, and they opposed as impractical the requirement that any born-alive infant had to be taken to an emergency room. If you listen to the infamous testimony of Alisa LaPolt Snow (a hired lobbyist, not a Planned Parenthood official), at one point she says, "We would like to support this bill." Clearly Planned Parenthood opposed only provisions of the bill, not the bill in its entirety.

Posted by: David | May 15, 2013 9:37:55 PM

-"I have asked this question, and never received an answer to it: In what state or states is it legal to kill a born alive infant, whether from abortion or any other cause?"

To answer your question, it's my understanding that it's not legal in any state to kill a born-alive infant. So what? We have overlapping statutes all the time. And why create additional legislation to cover born-alive cases? 1. Because some people don't think that current legislation covers it or act if current legislation doesn't cover it. (eg, Gosnell.) 2. Some people see a distinction between killing a born-alive infant and and not doing anything to a born-alive infant and simply leaving it alone to die. These people could argue that generic murder laws cover shooting an infant but wouldn't necessarily cover standing by while the infant died on the operating room table. "Born-alive" statutes may give additional support to clarify this gray area by stating that the born infant has all legal protections.

-"they opposed as impractical the requirement that any born-alive infant had to be taken to an emergency room"

Isn't this a repugnant position to hold?

Posted by: Thales | May 16, 2013 12:26:39 AM

I browsed over to the Weekly Standard story (now updated) and saw an interesting question:

"'If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?' asked Florida representative Jim Boyd."

I wonder what Florida would do if the child was born with a severe birth defect (perhaps the reason the abortion was sought); would the State of Florida take the child into its custody and provide it with palliative or supportive care the rest of its life?

I ask this as a genuine question. Is the State of Florida committing to taking these children and providing for them what they need and caring for them for the remainder of their lives or until they reach their adulthood? Wouldn't anything other than “Yes indeed.” be a repugnant answer?

sean s.

Posted by: sean samis | May 16, 2013 3:52:27 PM

Thales,

You say: "We have overlapping statutes all the time. And why create additional legislation to cover born-alive cases? 1. Because some people don't think that current legislation covers it or act if current legislation doesn't cover it. (eg, Gosnell.)"

You seem to suggest that if people break a law, it is the fault of the law, and so we should pass additional (and redundant) laws. Note, by the way, that the most serious crime Gosnell was convicted of was first degree murder. Is anyone suggesting Pennsylvania needs new murder laws? The notion that Gosnell (or anyone else) can claim some shred of moral legitimacy for his actions because the law is "confusing" is nonsense. Even if it were a matter merely of where an infant is when it is killed (inside or outside the womb), which is not the case, do you really want to argue that everywhere the law draws a sharp line, there is room for confusion? Take statutory rape, for example. First, the age of consent varies from 16 to 18, depending on the state. Suppose an adult who is attracted to 16-year-olds lives in a state in which the age of consent is 18, but lives very close to a bordering state in which the age is 16. Should the adult be able to say, "If my home were only a hundred feet west, I could entertain 16-year-olds here. I am so confused!" Also, why should one day make a difference to the law? Or one week? Why should it be illegal for a young person and an adult to have sex one day before the 16th, 17th, or 18th birthday (depending on the state) and legal the next day? It's so confusing!

You say: "'Born-alive" statutes may give additional support to clarify this gray area by stating that the born infant has all legal protections."

Well, certainly the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act and the federal version don't clear up this gray area, nor should they attempt to. Whether or not to provide life-extending medical care to *any* individual, be it a newborn, a very elderly person, a terminally ill patient, and so on, is a MEDICAL and ethical decision, not a legal one. It would be grotesque for the law to mandate that every born-alive infant, or every patient of any kind, must receive life-extending care. Decisions are made every day in hospitals whether to to withhold or discontinue care.

You say: "Isn't this a repugnant position to hold?"

Whether to rush a born-alive infant, or anyone else, to an emergency room is a medical decision. What if the infant doesn't *need* to go to the emergency room? What if the infant is pre-viable, and can't possibly survive for more than a few minutes? What if a born-alive infant needs immediate care and the nearest emergency room is an hour away?

I think it is quite acceptable to pass a law mandating that an infant born alive as the result of an abortion is to be given the same kind and level of medical care as an infant of the same gestational age and physical condition as another infant that is born prematurely. But to try to take it much farther than that gets legislatures into the business of practicing medicine.

Posted by: David | May 16, 2013 4:23:53 PM

"Wouldn't anything other than “Yes indeed.” be a repugnant answer?"

sean,
Yes, you're exactly right. Anything else would be a repugnant answer. I presume that Florida, like most other states, has some kind of system set up where they take care of discarded infants or move them to a foster family or something, and that they don't just leave them somewhere to die.

Posted by: Thales | May 16, 2013 9:59:18 PM

David,

"You seem to suggest that if people break a law, it is the fault of the law, and so we should pass additional (and redundant) laws."

Well, yes, in part, it's the fault of the law if people are breaking the law. If the law is unclear or not understood properly, then it will tend to be broken more frequently. The law acts, in part, as a teacher, as a guide for citizens. That's long been recognized as one function of the law. So sometimes, it's good to have redundant laws covering slightly different scenarios, so that it's clear to citizens that both X and Y is improper. Consider: we don't just have a law against stealing or a even a law against stealing money from a bank. Instead, we have a law against robbing money from a bank by force and a law against embezzling from a bank -- we want our law to cover every scenario with clarity, instead of only having a "do not steal" law that is not clear.

"The notion that Gosnell (or anyone else) can claim some shred of moral legitimacy for his actions because the law is "confusing" is nonsense."

You may think that the distinction between partial-birth abortion and infanticide is not confusing, but for some people it is confusing -- after all it can be confusing if you frame the question this way: "why does the law permit me to kill a 26-week human entity, but doesn't let me kill a 24-week human entity?" Now I'm not confused myself, but I can see that it might be confusing to someone like Gosnell. In another thread, Josh DeCuir linked to an article that seemed to indicate that Gosnell was confused.

I have no idea why you're talking about statutory rape and sharp lines. Sorry.

Coming back to the issue of abortion, it seems to me that some abortions like partial-birth abortion (which many believe is completely ethical) present extremely non-sharp lines, not sharp ones.

"Whether or not to provide life-extending medical care to *any* individual, be it a newborn, a very elderly person, a terminally ill patient, and so on, is a MEDICAL and ethical decision, not a legal one."

Sure, whether to provide medical care to someone is a medical and an ethical decision. But that doesn't mean that it can't be a legal one as well. We, as a society, have decided to impose all kinds of legal obligations on the practice of medicine, for when, where, and how a doctor can give or withold treatment. And that's a good thing -- it's good to have medical standards that can bind doctors legally. It would be horrible to have a medical profession where doctors could act or not act in an egregious manner without legal consequence.

Posted by: Thales | May 16, 2013 11:13:52 PM

Thales,

your presumptions are immaterial; does Florida have a system that is more than a cruel joke? Is it something more than a place to dump unwanted children? Many State foster care programs are the source of horror stories; I don’t know about Florida’s; is it something that a moral person would say is satisfactory?

sean s.

Posted by: sean samis | May 17, 2013 9:34:17 AM

An infant continues to be dependent upon their mother and father or some person who can provide appropriate care for them after they come forth from the womb, so the question of viability is disingenuous.

Posted by: Nancy | May 17, 2013 9:37:05 AM

An infant continues to be dependent upon their mother and father or some person who can provide appropriate care for them after they come forth from the womb, so the question of viability is disingenuous.

Posted by: Nancy | May 17, 2013 9:37:06 AM

Nancy,

"Viability" when used to describe an unborn or newly born infant does not mean the ability to live autonomously. It means the capacity to be KEPT alive. All the resources of a neonatal intensive care unit brought to bear on an infant that is not viable will not succeed in keeping it alive. No infant born earlier than 21.5 weeks has ever survived, even with all the care medical science was able to provide.

Posted by: David | May 17, 2013 10:26:39 AM

Thales,

You say: "You may think that the distinction between partial-birth abortion and infanticide is not confusing, but for some people it is confusing . . . "

We are not talking about the distinction between partial-birth abortion and infanticide. We are talking about the distinction between abortion and infanticide. I am bewildered by the idea that anyone could claim Gosnell was "confused." The man was being accused of first degree murder. Do you really expect him to say, "Oh, yes, I understand! You are accusing me of murder because I snipped the spines of newborn babies. I can see why some might mistakenly think of that as killing, but quite obviously they are wrong!"

Have you read the grand jury report? Gosnell committed hundreds of legal, ethical, and medical offenses. As others have pointed out, he JOKED about how big the babies were that he aborted and killed. It's simply incredible that anyone would suggest that the laws are inadequate because someone like Gosnell didn't seem to understand them. (By the way, I have never found any indication that he himself claimed to be confused. That was the term some others used to describe his reaction when he asked to have the murder counts explained.)

Posted by: David | May 17, 2013 4:38:44 PM

sean s.,

I don't understand your point. The two options we are talking about are (1) doing nothing and letting a newborn infant baby die and (1) a State taking the baby into its system and doing anything other than letting it die. I'm confident that Florida does (2), and not (1), because (1) is a mark of barbarism. Let's presume that the State system is horrible... but so what? Even if the State system is horrible, don't you agree that it's still better than (1), or are you one of those Peter-Singer types who thinks it's better to let the unwanted infants die rather than put them into a flawed State foster care program?

Posted by: Thales | May 17, 2013 11:34:34 PM

David,

I don't know what went on Gosnell's mind, but I wonder whether someone like Gosnell could, over time, come to forget or ignore the legal requirements (consider all the laws and regulations for running clinics that he ignored over the years) -- and once you forget about any legal requirements, if you have no moral problem with killing a 26-week human entity in the womb, why would you make a moral distinction with the 24-week human entity outside the womb?

And another thing: You keep on saying that Gosnell must have understood the laws of infanticide, that he could not have been confused. Okay, so then why did he do what he did? Why would he commit murder after murder?

Posted by: Thales | May 17, 2013 11:47:39 PM

Law is a "potent moral teacher," so the conviction of Gosnell hopefully will be beneficial in showing that abortion, like all types of health care, must be performed legally, in safe conditions within the limits of law and humanity.

Gosnell did none of these things. Like a lawyer who violates his/her calling while dealing with a desperate person of limited needs or a religious figure who abuses his or her authority, including by abusing children, he took advantage of his power and the needs of others. The law, if too late (as in many other cases), addressed this. But, none of these should be seen as typical members of their professions. The "lesson" we learn does tend to reflect our pre-existing leanings. For instance, take one of many who have been talking about this for some time, contra to the "not covered" myth:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/13/why-the-women-went-to-kermit-gosnell-were-desperate.html

Reference is made above to "Planned Parenthood" and born alive infants. As David suggests, there is no apparent evidence that "Planned Parenthood" as a whole doesn't care about them. I can cite some church official, e.g., who seemed not to care enough about molestation, but I'm not going to label them "The Church." If born alive, PP does not want them simply to die and opposes horrible medical care, including in all the other areas they are involved in, including when poor women go to clinics for normal prenatal care.

As to sean's comment, I would step back. The book "The Abortion Myth" by Leslie Cannold comes to mind here. In this book, we hear the voices of the women themselves, those from a range of beliefs on the subject. Something that united them was a feeling that they had a special responsibility, apart from the state or even husbands, as potential or actual mothers. This led many of them, on both sides, to reject the option of adoption.

This might seem absurd to some people, but many women who actually aborted will feel differently, but they rather abort (it's a lot easier when -- as is the norm -- they believe an early abortion is different than infanticide) than risk some other person raising the child. Imagine if they had to trust some state institution and the child needed really special care that even moderate effort might not adequately provide. This factors in to why even some very conservative states allow abortions in certain cases or abortion bans left such exceptions. [See, e.g., Doe v. Bolton -- oyez.org -- where the woman lawyer for the state explains the exceptions. Unlike Roe v. Wade, the state put forth a decent case.]

Finally, there are going to be late term abortions that are medically indicated, especially if "late term" is understood to be second trimester. In a past thread, someone told me I should re-examine my morality since I noted when this occurs it should be done using the safest procedure for the women, including to help prevent making it impossible for her to have children in the future. I cited evidence where a disfavored procedure is sometimes medically safest. Even if one wants to try to save the fetus, at risk to the mother at times, there often will be a low chance of survival. But, good, legal, medical treatment would be necessary here. Not Gosnells.

And, sometimes early abortions are medically indicated. Nat Hentoff noted as much when writing twenty years ago about Rust v. Sullivan, against a gag law on public clinics -- clinics where medical personnel, including those who could make much more money elsewhere, generally provide good medical care to those in need. Since the law teachers, Gosnell's prosecution hopefully will show how to provide such care. Anyway, Hentoff is pro-life but noted that sometimes abortion is medically indicated, one reason why the gag was wrong.

http://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1635&context=plr

Since the law teaches, hopefully the prosecutions will show how not to provide good medical care to those in need. Some of the lessons, however, might not quite be as some think they are.

Posted by: Joe | May 18, 2013 7:46:50 AM

Thales,

I’m one of those persons who thinks doing (2) minimally is as barbaric as (1).

“Let's presume that the State system is horrible... but so what?” Really? “So what?” Is that what you’re going with? How is that not barbarous? We wouldn’t keep a dog alive in misery just so we could say “well at least we didn’t kill it”. Why would we do that to a child?

Where’s (3): at least treating the child the way a Legislator should treat their own child? That SHOULD be the answer. It should matter. These children SHOULD matter.

If Florida’s going to interfere in these decisions, then its alternative needs to be something better than barbarous. What could ever justify the barbarity of raising a child little better than an animal?

I don’t know if Florida’s foster care system is barbarous, that’s why I asked the question. But it seems I have found out one thing: for the welfare of these children you don’t care.

sean s.

Posted by: sean samis | May 20, 2013 9:27:07 AM

Thales,

I’m one of those persons who thinks doing (2) minimally is as barbaric as (1).

“Let's presume that the State system is horrible... but so what?” Really? “So what?” Is that what you’re going with? How is that not barbarous? We wouldn’t keep a dog alive in misery just so we could say “well at least we didn’t kill it”. Why would we do that to a child?

Where’s (3): at least treating the child the way a Legislator should treat their own child? That SHOULD be the answer. It should matter. These children SHOULD matter.

If Florida’s going to interfere in these decisions, then its alternative needs to be something better than barbarous. What could ever justify the barbarity of raising a child little better than an animal?

I don’t know if Florida’s foster care system is barbarous, that’s why I asked the question. But it seems I have found out one thing: for the welfare of these children you don’t care.

sean s.

Posted by: sean samis | May 20, 2013 9:27:08 AM

sean,

Of course I care about the welfare of children. I was just presuming, for the sake of argument, that the state system is as horrible as you could imagine it to be. (As an aside, I'm 100% certain that the state system is not as horrible as you could imagine it to be, because we don't live in a third-world country and there are sufficient legal and journalistic safeguards against that happening. And obviously a third option of treating a child the way a legislator would treat their child is a better option.) Presuming that the system is as horrible as you could imagine it to be, I'm a firm believer that not killing the infant is always better than killing the infant. You apparently disagree.

You say "We wouldn’t keep a dog alive in misery just so we could say “well at least we didn’t kill it”." That astonishes me. The reason why it's okay to put a dog out of its misery is because it is **an animal, and not a human being.** It's my firm opinion that taking an infant and "putting it out of its misery" should never be an option in a civilized society. But again, you apparently disagree. I think that puts us at an impasse.

Posted by: Thales | May 20, 2013 6:53:13 PM

Thales,

I do believe in putting infants out of their misery by raising them as a human child should be raised. Apparently you are satisfied with merely “not killing” the child. That is where the impasse lies. Merely “not killing” the child is not good enough. It’s nowhere near good enough; it is in fact as barbaric as just killing the child.

Now you say you care about the welfare of children, but first you talked like you don’t. You, after all, are the one who wrote that if Florida’s foster care system is barbaric, “so what?”.

Apparently now it does matter to you. But since your sentiment seems to change from comment to comment, I cannot be sure yet.

So clarify this for me, please. Do you believe that the State of Florida (like every other State) has a moral duty to do all it can to care for these children?

I say Yes. What say you?

sean s.

Posted by: sean samis | May 21, 2013 10:10:21 AM

Thales noted that even if the state did not so provide (which was agreed to be very wrong) that it would still be better to let the born alive infant survive.

The deeper question is if abortion, including early abortions, are in part justified because of the realistic lack of assistance for all involved. There is room for agreement here (see, e.g., at least some aspects of the 95/10 initiative). Instead, e.g., of demonizing Planned Parenthood (putting them on the same level as Gosnell and bounty hunters), this truly would advance a "culture of life" in the long run.

Posted by: Joe | May 21, 2013 12:47:38 PM

Also, realistically, that abortions are chosen given the alternative is so hard for those involved. There are ways to help here. Some still will have abortions. You cannot, e.g., do away with nine months of pregnancy. And, even with the possibility of artificial wombs, many women would not want to give up embryos to have them grow up to whole fledged persons to be raised by others.

But, Thales didn't say "so what" and no one here really sounds like Peter Singer. As with comparing Gosnell to Planned Parenthood, this issue is getting to be a platform for strawman.

Posted by: Joe | May 21, 2013 12:52:04 PM

Joe,

I think Thales probably does think that the State must provide a proper upbringing for these children, but his post expressed an indifference that cannot be ignored, at least not by me.

My point is that, if the lives of these children are as precious as everyone (including I) says they are, then it is our moral obligation to do whatever we can do to give those lives the meaning and security that makes them more than merely animals. Whether or not a State (Florida or any other) has a working, adequate foster-care system is not side-matter, it is not inconsequential. If any State deliberately or neglectfully mistreats children in their care, they are no better than a mother who’d rather abort the child and spare it the abuse. Better to leave it up to the mother who’s more likely to give a damn.

If the idea of putting children out of their misery is as abhorrent as Thales claims (and you agree? I agree it is.) then the possibility that a State’s foster care system is barbaric is EVEN MORE abhorrent. A mother can, through no fault of her own find herself unable to care for a child not yet born. No State has that excuse; their running of broken foster-care systems amounts to an on-going crime, a malicious neglect of lives we all agree are precious. That is my position. Do you disagree? I am not sure Thales agrees; I’m still waiting for his reply.

What is truly abhorrent is the simple fact that underfunded, overworked, neglectful foster-care systems are so common they are not even news. Given that fact; given a real possibility that a child might be raised by a neglectful (if not barbaric) foster-care system, choosing to spare the child that suffering might be the compassionate thing to do. You might say that such a choice is barbaric, but what is TRULY BARBARIC is having to make such a choice in the first place. If every needful mother knew that putting their child into the care of the State meant that their child would be well-cared-for then I doubt so many abortions would happen. But the fact is that children in the system fare poorly. Some survive well, some don’t survive at all. Most do poorly.

Is that better than being dead? Perhaps. But that’s no excuse for States to run shoddy foster care systems. And if neglectful States do that, then it’s better that they leave the decision to the mother.

Please let me be clear; I don’t know how good or bad Florida’s system is, this exchange with Thales began when I asked about it. I still don’t know the answer, but I do know it MATTERS. If Florida has a good system, then they have a moral right to impose its actions on mothers. If Florida’s system is broken, then it has no moral standing to require children be made fodder for its malicious brokenness. Leaving it up to the Mother is better.

I agree there is room for agreement here. Abortions performed because the mother did not believe she had the resources to care for the child are bad enough, but States which make that belief reasonable are complicit in those abortions.

As you wrote, Joe, there will always be abortions. As long as rapes occur, as long as children with severe physical defects exist there will be abortions. Most abortions are unnecessary from a theoretical standpoint, but too often they seem necessary from a practical, economic standpoint. That is unfortunate, and completely solvable.

sean s.

Posted by: sean samis | May 21, 2013 3:59:38 PM

The "so what" comment seems to be this one:

"I don't understand your point. The two options we are talking about are (1) doing nothing and letting a newborn infant baby die and (1) a State taking the baby into its system and doing anything other than letting it die. I'm confident that Florida does (2), and not (1), because (1) is a mark of barbarism. Let's presume that the State system is horrible... but so what? Even if the State system is horrible, don't you agree that it's still better than (1), or are you one of those Peter-Singer types who thinks it's better to let the unwanted infants die rather than put them into a flawed State foster care program?"

What "indifference" is here? T. is sure Florida will provide but wonders what your point is given, even if they did not ("a mark of barbarism"), it would be better to let the infant live. Presumably, there might still be a small chance of survival even if the state system is patently flawed (such as founding hospitals of yore). Again, he doubts this is actually what happens.

So both of you agree there is a moral duty for the state to protect the infants here. You then talk about "aborting" and "child not yet born" ... well, wait! I thought the point was a question about what the state did for children already "born." If the birth isn't even there yet, we are suddenly moving back to late abortions or even early abortions. That's not really the same thing. I agree as noted that realistic bad opportunities is a factor in choice of abortion. Abortions. Not killing infants born alive.

Then, there is a question of what is worse -- letting the infant die on the table or the infant being left to live and linger in a horrible state system. No one here seems to be saying that even if the infant will have a horrible life that it's okay to kill it once born. A life of misery AFTER BIRTH doesn't justify to anyone here to my knowledge letting it die on the table. Not that any one here accepts it is moral to submit them to such a life either.

There really doesn't seem to be any disagreement that the state should provide for these infants. I agree various things can be done to make abortions seem less necessary. Abortions will still occur -- women of means at times does not want to have a baby for various reasons, teens will continue to get pregnant etc. And, some oppose certain programs that would reduce them, including contraceptives to be honest. But, I'm not sure what this "gotcha" about Florida services you have with Thales really gets us.

Posted by: Joe | May 21, 2013 5:50:28 PM

Joe,
Thanks for your last post. You're pretty much understanding my point. I've been talking about born-alive infants, not abortions, in the current back-and-forth with sean.

sean,
Yes, of course, I believe that Florida and every other state has a moral duty to do all it can for these children. Remember, we got onto this topic at the very beginning of the comment thread because I was the one saying that a state should do all it can for the infant by saving his life and caring for him, and that it was repugnant to let the infant die. So, I'm right with you 100%: a state should do all it can to help the lives of unwanted, abandoned infants. Anything less than a warm and loving family environment for these children to grow up in is a travesty.

But here's the interesting question for you: Sometimes, sadly, unfortunately, a state's foster program is not as perfect as it should be. What should we do in those cases? I say that we work as hard as we can to improve the program in order to get it to the level it needs to be, and that we do all we can to care for the children entering in the system -- and that we don't euthanize or leave to die any new infants entering the system. We can all agree on that, right? Because you scared me with the whole "putting a dog out of its misery" angle.

Posted by: Thales | May 21, 2013 10:36:11 PM

Thales;

Your “so what” comment was disturbing, it should be disturbing; it is disturbing. I’m glad you were disturbed by the idea of putting a baby down; it should be disturbing; it is disturbing.

If a botched abortion results in a live birth, should the child be transported immediately to an ER regardless of its condition? Superficially that sounds right, but when the costs of that policy are realized I suspect Florida will lose its enthusiasm for it. Such babies are likely to be premature and injured; their care will be expensive and intensive. And that’s if it was a healthy fetus. If it was being aborted because of a serious birth or genetic defect, the costs will just go up.

Should we do it anyway? Yes. Will we regret it? Likely so; it’s not a solution to the abortion problem; it’s not even a band-aid. It’s a feel-good measure that fails to address the real problems. Only those who are in denial will be satisfied.

If a State system is discovered to be significantly flawed, then yes, we should fix it instead of killing children. But State systems have been known to be seriously flawed for decades, and I see no big effort to fix them. We are not talking about minor imperfections, we’re talking about flaws so significant that even conservative State agencies place children with single parents and same-sex couples because nearly any other situation is better than leaving kids in the system.

Here’s a different question: what do we do when the State obstinately refuses to fix their system? Keep feeding children into it on the vain hope that it’ll someday get better? If a State stubbornly refuses to dedicate the funds and personnel necessary to make their foster-care system adequate in the face of well-known and documented deficiencies, I don’t see how that deliberate mistreatment of children is morally superior to the decisions of a desperate mother to get an abortion instead. The State has far more choices than any mother and much better access to resources; if we vilify the mother, how can we avoid not doubly vilifying the State? If we are willing to coerce the mother, how can we do less with the State’s totally inexcusable malice?

I fear for the children caught in the middle, but when I see the same politicians who proclaim themselves “pro-life” failing year after year to fix broken foster- and welfare-systems, I begin to think abortion just might be a mercy. I know how horrible that sounds, it sounds horrible to me. Ideally we’d never ever have to make this kind of choice, but this is the real world, it is far, far from ideal.

I cannot bury my head in the sand and ignore these issues. Maybe the Catholic Church should start excommunicating politician who fail to provide for these children. If killing a child quickly is evil (and it is), how can destroying its life slowly be acceptable?

sean s.

Posted by: sean samis | May 22, 2013 1:42:03 PM

I am writing this comment because I have been following the issue of infanticide in the tiny nation of East Timor; a people who have long endured mass human rights violations and a brutal occupation by Indonesia when human life was degraded and extinguished arbitrarily by the State. Today, East Timor is free of that and is one of the most staunchly Catholic countries. Perhaps the most important tenet of Christianity is the sanctity of human life - a sanctity that was descecrated for 2 and a half decades under the Indonesian occupation resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Which makes the present-day issue of infanticide in East Timor so perplexing. I have compiled several case histories of infanticide in East Timor over recent years and archived them on my blog, the East Timor Law and Justice Bulletin. Last week, the State Secretary for the Promotion of Equality was reported as saying that "throwing away babies" happened in East Timor "in every village" and that it is a growing social problem, with most cases involving schoool-age girls. So what is driving this phenomenon in East Timor? Is it poverty or unwanted pregnancies resulting from the lack of condom use at the command of the Church or is it a legacy of the occupation which violated the sanctity of life? The social stigma of a young unwed mother? Or all of these? And how does the country resolve this terrible social problem? Any insights that readers of this blog have would be much appreciated. The latest report on infanticide in East Timor may be read here: http://easttimorlegal.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/growing-numbers-of-women-throwing-away.html

Posted by: Warren Wright | Jul 5, 2013 3:18:11 PM

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