Moments of candor can be tricky little things. Many who regret words said during such moments do so not because those words weren’t true (that’s the “candor” part), but because the candid truth caused discomfort. Just ask the National Organization for Women.
The California Penal Code provides for the death penalty upon conviction of “more than one offense of murder.” Since 1970, the code has defined “murder” as the “unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.” That’s why Scott Peterson could face the death penalty if convicted of killing his wife and their preborn son. Their bodies washed up on the shore of San Francisco Bay last week.
In a moment of candor, a National Organization for Women official in New Jersey criticized the double-murder charge against Peterson, saying it could provide ammunition for the pro-life movement. Mavra Stark said: “If this is murder, well, then any time a late-term fetus is aborted, they should call it murder.”
She does have a point, you know. Mrs. Peterson was eight months pregnant when she disappeared last Christmas Eve. It is more than a little strange that someone killing her baby is murder if she protests it, but a constitutional “right” if she requests it. Same pregnancy, same child. Just as human, just as alive. And death is, no doubt, just as unwelcome to the baby, whether his mother welcomes it or not.
Ms. Stark later said she had been “thinking out loud” in that moment of candor. Since apparently speaking to her feminist superiors at NOW headquarters, she has stopped thinking at all, preferring to shift into NOW-speak. Candor mutating into confusion, Ms. Stark said something about the “viability” of what she called the “Peterson fetus” makes “a great deal of difference.”
If you don’t mind, I prefer to use the name Mrs. Peterson chose for her son. His name is Connor. Mrs. Peterson, had she lived, would not have introduced her fetus, played with her fetus or let people hold her fetus. No, she would have introduced, played with and let people hold her son Connor. His name is Connor. And his viability only matters if his mother wanted him dead. She didn’t, so it doesn’t. In 1994, the Supreme Court of California said: “We consider and reject the argument that viability of a fetus is an element of fetal murder under the statute.” Whether Connor Peterson was viable doesn’t make a “great deal” of difference – it makes no difference at all.
NOW can’t backtrack enough on this one. New Jersey papers say NOW declines to say whether the group supports fetal homicide statutes. It’s a little late for that, because NOW has already publicly opposed the proposed Unborn Victims of Violence Act. As re-introduced in the 108th Congress, the bill would make death or injury to a preborn child a separate offense when someone commits a variety of other federal crimes.
If Ms. Stark is right, then killing a woman’s preborn child without her consent is sort of like performing an abortion against her will. But surely NOW doesn’t support forced abortions. On July 30, 2002, after debating former NOW President Eleanor Smeal, my colleague Wendy Wright reminded Ms. Smeal about the forced abortions committed in China. “Well,” said Ms. Smeal, “they have a population problem.” Another one of those moments of candor. Thinking out loud can really speak volumes.