In 1973 the United States Supreme Count issued Roe v. Wade, a decision that, in effect, legalized abortion in all 50 states for any reason at any time during a nine month pregnancy. Will the 2000 Supreme Court take us another giant step down the slippery slope of immorality toward legalized infanticide? We will soon find out.
On Tuesday, April 25, the High Court heard oral arguments in Stenberg v. Carhart, a case brought by a Nebraska abortionist who challenged a state law which banned a procedure known as the Partial Birth Abortion. In this brutal method, a child is purposely turned and delivered in the breech position. With his or her tiny body exposed, legs and arms -- more often then not -- moving about, the abortionist then jabs a surgical scissors into the base of the child's skull which is still lodged in the birth canal. A tube is inserted and the brain suctioned out. After the skull is collapsed, the head of the dead child is removed easily.
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Though this blind procedure is particularly dangerous for the mother, it is one of the easiest for the abortionist. More importantly, it prevents one of the stickiest complications of late-term abortions, a live birth. Once a child is fully delivered, he or she is protected to the fullest extent of the law. However, the Supreme Court soon will decide if states can protect a child during the shadowy moments during the birth process.
Will a partial birth abortion soon be the murder of a partially delivered infant? A few years ago, killing a helpless infant during the birth process would have been unthinkable. In fact, late-term abortions were whispered about. Now many feminists and their supporters in the U.S. Congress ignore the medical facts and openly, shamelessly defend this procedure.
Unfortunately this slippery slope does not end with the partial birth abortion. Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author of How the Mind Works, wrote in the November 6, 1997 New York Times Magazine, "To a biologist, birth is as arbitrary a milestone as any other."
In May of 1973, Nobel Laureate James Watson, the man who cracked the genetic code, argued for infanticide in the American Medical Association Prism. "If a child were not declared alive until three days after birth," said Watson, "the doctor could allow the child to die, if the parents so choose, and save a lot of misery and suffering." Australian philosopher Peter Singer, who recently was given the prestigious chair of bio-ethics at Princeton University's Center for Human Values, would go further and extend this option to parents for the first 28 days of a newborn's life.
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Dr. Virginia Abernethy, a psychiatrist and anthropologist at Vanderbilt University's School of Medicine, also has been arguing that point. In the January 14, 1985, Newsweek she said, "As long as an individual is completely dependent upon the mother (for survival), it's not a person."
Many pro-choice theorists like Abernethy believe that personhood does not occur until an individual becomes a responsible moral agent, which is around three or four, in Abernethy's judgment. Abernethy believes that defective children, such as those with Down's syndrome, may never become persons. As Abernethy puts it, "The claim they have on persons is compassion, not a moral right to life. Compassion is always very important, but it loses when weighed against the rights of a person."
Will handicapped children be the only ones vulnerable if the beliefs of these thinkers prevail? Hardly. Dr. Pinker writes that these moral philosophers say the right to life must come only when children are able to demonstrate that they possess significant human traits such as "an ability to form and savor plans for the future, to dread death and to express the choice not to die."
Those who are trying to ban the partial birth abortion have reflected upon these things and have asked the Supreme Court first to recognize and then draw a line at infanticide. If it doesn't, surely the moral side we now are on will end in free-fall. It will be survival of the fittest.