Thursday, February 5, 2009


I don't understand our laws.

The AP is reporting that an 18-year old girl in a Florida abortion clinic accidentally gave birth to a live infant. One of the workers at that clinic allegedly then took the still-breathing child, stuffed it into a plastic bag, and threw it away to die. Not surprisingly, the local DA's office is investigating whether homicide charges should be filed.

What astonishes me, though, is not so much that someone could do that to a breathing infant, but that if the clinic had succeeded in killing the infant actively and intentionally, just a few minutes earlier, no charges would have been possible.

I'm a moderate when it comes to abortion: I think there's room for plenty of grey in the debate. I can't quite convince myself that a single fertilized cell should be treated, morally, as a full human being. But neither is a 23-week fetus merely a blob of tissue. It's not one thing when it's inside the womb and something else when it's outside: it's the same thing. It doesn't change from "lump of tissue" to "individual human being" because it moved eight inches.

It's also a huge category mistake, in my mind, for the argument to turn on whether and/or when a fetus is a human being. Something doesn't have to be a human being for it to have positive moral standing. We've pretty much all agreed that cruelty to animals is a bad thing, that it should be illegal to kill whales and other intelligent mammals, and that endangered species should be protected by law. A fetus doesn't have to be a full human being in the eyes of the law for the state to have a legitimate interest in its care and treatment: and that interest, quite frankly, usurps any individual right to privacy.

This is why I'm convinced that Roe v. Wade remains a horrible and incomprehensible decision. My right to swing my fist stops where my neighbor's nose begins; and any right to privacy stops where an infant's health and safety begins. The state can intrude on the privacy of neglectful or abusive parents, and take their children away from them; and the state should similarly have the right to legislate against abortion. This was an issue which should never have been taken out of the hands of the legislative branch. Incomprehensible laws, and barbaric acts, like the one currently being explored in Florida, are the result.

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