By Eric E. Clingan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 18, 1997

On the Ethics of Baby Killing


Arizona Daily Wildcat

Eric E. Clingan

A rash of baby killers and would-be baby killers has recently risen to the surface of our society like the stench from a street dumpster. From Boston to Tucson, newspapers are loaded up with accounts of murder and ignorance among young mothers summed up by trite, self-serving and overused refrains such as, "I didn't know I was pregnant," and "I thought it was dead." As if.

Simply put, our general reluctance to take responsibility for our actions, combined with an increasing disrespect for the sanctity of life is yielding deadly consequences. Prom queens, sorority sisters, as well as crackheads have heartlessly executed their innocent infants, robbing them of a sole glimpse of sunlight.

Meanwhile, our media, which is assumed to be reflective of society, attempts to warp our values further by eliciting sympathy for these murderous mothers. In reporting these cases of cruel strangulation and despicable drowning, the cameras often capture a "Mother's" tears as she sits, "somberly," in the courtroom. Psychiatric profiles from "expert witnesses" conflict, yet the media is quick to report the defendant's side: "Confused. Immature. Unable to comprehend her pregnancy." The picture of an unprepared parent emerges front and center while the life of a brand new breathing baby is banished to the back burner of our brains. Yet, consider the political and media outrage that rightly accompanies revelations of a stranger kidnapping and murdering a child. Cries for the death penalty shoot out from sea to shining sea like fireworks on the Fourth of July, as American as, well, motherhood and apple pie.

At the heart of these events of infanticide lies America's curse - this country's blind reliance on abortion as a means to an end, while all too easily dismissing the ethical questions such an act inevitably poses. Today, "Pro-Life" and "Pro-Choice" are soundbite positions lacking an ethical base, as tenuous as the object at the center of the debate. In adopting the Bible or the Constitution as a beacon, the two sides have thoroughly muddied the streams of differences over which we must desperately build a bridge. If today's adults and our leaders continue to paddle upstream by avoiding these questions of ethical importance, our children will jump ship to find their own answers. Check that, they already have.

Some evidence of an ethical conundrum can be found in the procedure known as "Partial-Birth Abortion." This act allows the partial removal of a baby, often one month from its natural arrival, with the express intent to destroy its capacity for life. The ethical difficulty arises when one tries to draw a distinction between an 8-month-old "fetus" and an 8-second-old "baby." If a doctor can earn a living from this practice, why can't an 18-year-old prom queen induce her own labor with similar intent?

Another question conveniently ignored in the realm of abortion politics revolves around responsibility and choice and - (gasp!) the father! By law, should a mother choose to carry her child to term, the father can be held responsible for its support. Yet the father is given absolutely no choice in whether the child should be born. Does equality, therefore, end at gestation? Does not this arrangement imply that mothers are more equal than fathers? Shouldn't a father's responsibility be commensurately diminished, then?

It's hard to imagine O.J. Simpson's relevance to this issue of ethics; however, his victim's families sued him for civil damages as a result of his role in their children's deaths. This begs the question: Shouldn't the father of any baby whose life is callously snuffed out by its mother have standing in our courts at least equivalent to that of the Browns' and the Goldmans', and therefore, be entitled to similar compensation? Indeed, does anyone care about the fathers of these babies, or have we wasted all our compassion on the "confused, immature" mother?

Questions of ethics are meant to provoke and are not often easily dismissed. Consider: A woman is eight months pregnant. She phones her mother with the news and her decision to undergo partial-birth abortion. She sets up an appointment with the abortionist. On her way to his office she is carjacked and a bullet pierces her belly wounding her, but destroying the potential life she held. Should the criminal be charged with murder?

Billboards around Tucson spread the message that smoking can cause damage to the "person," inside a pregnant woman. Really? Imagine two pregnant women, one proclaiming her intentions of getting an abortion, the other determined to give birth. Both hold a cigarette in one hand balanced by a Bloody Mary in the other. Which woman is the billboard trying to reach?

Whether this country should continue to support "A woman's right to choose" (whatever that means) or "A child's right to life" (ditto), is no longer the crux of the issue. Americans need to close their Bibles and put aside their Constitutions and instead focus on answering the ethical questions this dilemma is forcing upon us. For, if we choose to further put off our work as adults, we leave it for our children to contemplate these questions. Check that, they already have.

Eric E. Clingan is a senior majoring in political science.


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