Recently, the political landscape in America has been in an uproar over the issue of abortion. Bills in New York, Virginia, and other parts of the country were passed or are being considered which would make abortion legal even if the unborn child were viable. In some cases, abortion would be legal at term, in the middle of birth, or even after birth. Cries of infanticide arose across the nation. The Senate even proposed a bill that would outlaw such practices but it was blocked from a vote by Democrats.
In response to these developments, Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, wrote the following on his Facebook page:
Have you ever noticed that when an abortion is being performed and the baby emerges alive, we call it an “attempted” abortion, or a “botched” abortion, or a “failed” abortion? That tells us something. Abortion is not properly or adequately described or defined as “terminating a pregnancy,” as it is so often described or defined in pro-abortion apologetics (and by the majority in Roe v. Wade). After all, the delivery of the child, alive or dead, terminates the pregnancy. So terminating the pregnancy cannot be the proper description of the abortionist’s act. And that’s because “terminating the pregnancy” is not the abortionist’s precise objective. To identify and state his precise objective (aim, purpose, goal) you need to bring someone else into the discussion, namely, the child in the womb (fetus, unborn baby, call her what you will). An abortion is successful—and not merely attempted—when and only when the child is killed—made dead. If she emerges alive, the abortionist has failed, we have a botched abortion. So to claim that there is a right to abortion is not merely to say that a woman has the right to “terminate the pregnancy” (or even “control her own body”); it is to claim that she is entitled to order the killing of the baby—to order the performance of an act on the child’s body (dismembering her, burning her with saline) to end her life, to make her dead. Of course, clearheaded and candid abortion advocates acknowledge this. They admit that the “right” they believe in is no mere right to be free of an unwanted pregnancy. It is the right not to be a mother, not to have a living child out there in the world—the right, to state the matter bluntly, to a dead fetus. But if that’s true, then of course it is impossible to say why there is anything wrong with killing the child post-partum. And so the logic takes them to where the Democratic Party finds itself today. It was in the cards all along.
I would like to point out a disturbing implication from Gorege’s argument. George states that abortion and those who support it claim that a woman has the right “not to be a mother, not to have a living child out there in the world.” If this claim is true, then abortion supports more than just infanticide (the killing of an infant). Abortion supports what I term filicide: the killing of a child at any stage of development and life.
A right is something that is possessed at all times and may be expressed under the right circumstances. If a woman has the right “not to be a mother, not to have a living child out there in the world,” then this right exists even after the birth of her baby. The life of the child does not eradicate the right but is subordinate to the right. If the right of the mother is not overridden at the birth of the child, then it can be enforced so long as the woman and her child are alive. At any point during the child’s life, the mother may demand the enforcement of her right “not to be a mother, not to have a living child out there in the world.” Of course, this act does not count as murder because the woman is enforcing her right, which justifies the killing.
In other words, the mother can at any time demand that her child’s life be terminated should she wish. For example, my mother has the right “not to be a mother, not to have a living child out there in the world” according to this argument. Since she still has this right even after my birth, she may enforce it whenever she wishes. She could demand my life be taken right now should she wish “not to be a mother, not to have a living child out there in the world.”
This implication is not just infanticide, it is filicide. Abortion has delivered to the mother the right to kill her child at any point of the child’s development and stage of life. This implication is disturbing. The right to life for some individuals has been abrogated. So long as your mother lives, you do not have an absolute right to life for your life may be taken from you by your own mother. It is only at her death that you gain the absolute right to life. How is this conclusion not patently absurd? If my right to life is dependent on the whim of my mother, then how can I or almost anyone say that we have such a right to life? We recoil in horror that Hitler killed people born outside the womb based on his own whim, but now we do not bat an eyelash when a woman demands to do the same. If abortion entails filicide, then our society has fallen far indeed.
Ramesh Ponnuru, “The Infanticide Craze,” National Review, January 30, 2019, https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/01/infanticide-craze-new-york-virginia-abortion-laws/; accessed March 21, 2019. Caitlin O’Kane, “New York Passes Law Allowing Abortions at Any Time if Mother’s Health at Risk,” CBS News, Janurary 24, 2019,https://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-york-passes-abortion-bill-late-term-if-mothers-health-is-at-risk-today-2019-01-23/; accessed March 21, 2019. “Virginia Late-Term Abortion bill Labelled ‘Infanticide’,” BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47066307, accessed March 21, 2019.
Alex Swoyer, “Senate Democrats Block Republican’s Anti-Infanticide Bill,” The Washington Times, February 25, 2019;https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/feb/25/senate-democrats-block-republicans-anti-infanticid/; accessed March 21, 2019. Mike DeBonis and Felicia Sonmez, “Senate Blocks Bill on Medical Care for Children Born Alive After Attempted Abortion,” The Washington Post, February 25, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/senate-blocks-bill-on-medical-care-for-children-born-alive-after-attempted-abortion/2019/02/25/e5d3d4d8-3924-11e9-a06c-3ec8ed509d15_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.4322e86bdfdd, accessed March 21, 2019.