FIRST-PERSON: 'After-birth abortion': a moment of clarity in the abortion debate
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP) -- One side talks about choice. The other side talks about life. In the abortion debate, there are few times when clarity breaks through so that only the most ardently committed, truly pro-abortion advocates can fail to see -- or at least admit -- the moral reality of abortion.
Such a moment of clarity occurred March 27 before a Florida House of Representatives committee considering a bill that would provide protections to children born alive after a failed abortion. The measure would require medical attention be given after "botched" abortions -- that is, where the baby lived rather than died. A Planned Parenthood lobbyist opposed the bill, dumbfounding even a life-long pro-choice lawmaker.
During the Civil Justice Subcommittee's consideration of the "Infants Born Alive Act" (HB 1129), Alisa LaPolt Snow, a lobbyist representing Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, testified that what happens to a live baby of a "botched" abortion should be the decision of the woman and her doctor.
The bill "inserts politics where it does not belong," said Snow, never minding the fact that the bill sponsor, Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park, is an emergency medicine physician."Decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy or raise a child must be left to a woman, her family and her faith with the counsel of her physician or health care provider without the interference of politicians," she said.
Snow, no doubt understanding the awkward position her opposition put her in, felt obligated to add, "I want to be sure to say that Planned Parenthood condemns any physician who does not follow the law or endangers a woman's or a child's health."
Still, she insisted, "But we do not believe that politicians should be the ones who decide what constitutes the best medically appropriate treatment in any given situation."
Responding to Snow's testimony, four incredulous lawmakers asked her 10 questions, seeking to understand why Planned Parenthood would oppose requiring medical assistance to living children.
"So, um, it is just really hard for me to even ask you this question because I'm almost in disbelief," said Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton. "If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?"
"We believe that any decision that's made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician," Snow responded.
Snow could not answer another lawmaker's question concerning what Planned Parenthood doctors do in the circumstance of a live birth.
Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, pressed further: "Along the same lines, you stated that a baby born alive on a table as a result of a botched abortion that that decision should be left to the doctor and the family. Is that what you're saying?"
Snow replied, "That decision should be between the patient and the health care provider."
"I think that at that point the patient would be the child struggling on the table, wouldn't you agree?" asked Oliva.
Through a nervous smile Snow stammered, "That's a very good question. I really don't know how to answer that. I would be glad to have some more conversations, you know, with you about this."
On his own, Rep. Mike Clelland, D-Lake Mary, a lifelong pro-choicer, asked Snow five times in multiple ways why Planned Parenthood opposes the bill. After Snow semantically dodged the questions and repeated the essence of her testimony and prior answers, Clelland asked in exasperation, "What objection could you possibly have to obligate a doctor to transport a child born alive to a hospital where it seems to me they would be most likely to be able to survive?"
Snow weakly answered that there are some "logistical issues involved that we have some concerns about."
The measure passed on a 10-2 vote, with several pro-choice members voting in favor, including Clelland.
"I've been pro-choice my whole life," Clelland said before the vote. "I can't think of a more sensible bill."
Clelland told Sunshine State News, "It floored me that this exists at all, ever. When I heard this happens, I was just taken aback."
Still, Clelland admitted he had some misgivings about one aspect of the bill that Pigman indicated he was willing to adjust regarding the mother's "surrender" rights to the child.
Snow's 8-minute testimony has ricocheted around the Internet, with even Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford (@WillWeatheford) tweeting a link to one account, including video, of Snow's "extremist" views.
As shocking as Snow's testimony is, in reality she merely articulated the moral logic of the so-called "pro-choice" movement.
In their more frank moments, the most radical of pro-choice advocates have argued that babies -- whether disabled or not -- can be killed after birth since the moral status of young children is no different than those killed by abortion. Euthanasia of the elderly and infirm adults is the logical consequence of the pro-choice view on abortion.
Last year, the London-based Journal of Medical Ethics published an article arguing that newborn babies are not "actual persons" and do not have a "moral right to life," reported the British newspaper, The Telegraph.
The article, "After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?" was written by two ethicists who argue, "The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life of an individual." Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, who teach in Australian universities, authored the article.
"Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a 'person' in the sense of a 'subject of a moral right to life,'" wrote Guibilini and Minerva.
"We take 'person' to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her," they wrote.
As such, the ethicists argued it was "not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense." (It's interesting that they use the female pronoun for the non-person child given the fact that girls are disproportionately the victims in sex-selection abortions.)
Therefore, the authors argue "what we call 'after-birth abortion' (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled."
Giubilini and Minerva prefer "after-birth abortion" to "infanticide" in order to "emphasize that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus."
These ethicists may be more scholarly and frank than Snow, but their moral logic is the same, which is why Planned Parenthood opposes Rep. Pigman's humane legislation. Such is the nature of pro-choice logic that what would seem reasonable to most must be opposed by the abortion lobby.
One conservative philosopher is known for the maxim, "ideas have consequences." Indeed, they do. And ideas based on faulty moral reasoning result in living babies of "botched" abortions without legal protection.
There is one thing upon which pro-choicers and pro-lifers are agreed: There really isn't any difference in the moral status of unborn and born children.
Where we are worlds apart is in the nature of that status. "After-birth abortion," whether implicitly condoned before a legislative committee or explicitly argued in an academic journal, confronts us with moral clarity about what's at stake in this debate -- a vulnerable human being, indeed an actual person made in the image of God, worthy of protection under the law.
This column first appeared at the Florida Baptist Witness, online at gofbw.com. James A. Smith Sr. is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness.