Killing Infant Humans Is A Crime


Credit: Yong Kim, Philadelphia Inquirer / March 8, 2010

Kermit Gosnell has been convicted of the murder of three infant human beings. If you haven’t been following this story, Gosnell, according to Reuters, was “accused of delivering live babies during late-term abortions and then deliberately severing their spinal cords.” The jury heard five weeks of testimony and deliberated for 10 days. He was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Karnamaya Mongar of Virginia, who died of a drug overdose after seeing him for an abortion. He was also convicted of performing abortions, contrary to Pennsylvania law, after 24 weeks of gestation.

As of 2008 it was known that humans are viable, i.e., they are capable of living outside the womb at 23 weeks. As this entry on the NIH (National Institutes of Health) site notes, viability has improved dramatically in the last 10 years so presumably, it has continued to improve in the five years since this entry was published. E.g., a pre-term infant was born at 21 weeks in the UK. The normal period of gestation is 38–40 weeks, depending upon when we start counting. In other words, if we figure 40 weeks, when infants are approaching viability (life outside the womb) at about the half-way mark. Gosnell was convicted of murdering humans who were capable of living outside the womb. You can read the gory details of how the murders were committed. It’s the stuff of Nazi clinics.

infant-fetus-12-weeksWhat of those humans who are killed, in utero, before viability? I’ve had this discussion with some ardent pro-abortion types in recent months. They seek to deny that humanity is inherent to pre-natal humans and they seek to make the humanity of the pre-natal infant contingent upon the will of the mother. This is the Nietzschean “will to power.” As a matter of fact and logic, humans conceive, gestate, and give birth to humans. We don’t magically become human at 23 or 24 weeks of gestation. We were human before viability and we are human afterward. Remember that viability is a shifting standard that depends on technological developments. So, logically, viability is an arbitrary standard. Human life develops organically. My opponents argued that the egg and sperm are just as human as the product of conception (the foetus Latin for human infant). This, of course, is nonsense. We could say that saliva is human material but it isn’t a human being, a distinct person. Conception requires two contributors but it is a fallacy to transfer all the properties of the conception back to those products necessary to the conception. Non sequitur.

At conception we have a distinct human person, a bearer of the divine image, who, according to our Declaration of Independence, deserves legal protection. If we do not recognize humanity at conception then how can we convict Gosnell of murder? Why was Gosnell guilty of murder? Because he unjustly took a human life. When did those infants become humans? They were viable before they were murdered but they were  human before they were viable. According to the Texas Department of Health Services at 12 weeks, which is a little more than half-way to viability:

  • The neck is present and the face well formed.
  • The eyelids close and will reopen at about 24 weeks.
  • Tooth buds appear.
  • The arms and legs move.
  • All body parts and organs are present.
  • The fibers that carry pain to the brain are developed; however, it is unknown if the unborn child is able to experience sensations such as pain.
  • Definitive signs of male and female gender [sex] are present.
  • A heartbeat can be heard with electronic devices.
  • The length is about 2 to 3 inches.

At 12 weeks a human infant is already manifesting distinctly human biological characteristics. They only difference between 12 and 23 weeks is time and development. All the potential is there. When did that potential appear? From the moment of conception. Once more: humans conceive, gestate, and give birth to humans. We don’t become human. Our status as human is not something that others, not even the magistrate, has the power to confer and deny. Our status as humans is the product of nature, of creation, of the God-ordained pattern for human existence.

That this is so raises the question of infanticide. One need not be a Christian to see how fuzzy the line is between abortion and infanticide. Peter Singer, the utilitarian “ethicist” (yes, I put that in scare quotes intentionally; Singer is an ethicist the way John Wayne Gacy was a childcare provider) at Princeton University (remember that when you write that hefty tuition check next fall). Singer writes (and here and here) calmly about the

justifiability of infanticide in cases in which the infant is not severely disabled, including a discussion of whether it could be justifiable to kill the newborn infant even when there is a couple who are keen to adopt such a child.

He complains about his critics:

Their problem, apparently, is that most of them do not know how to argue against anyone who agrees with them that the fetus and newborn infant have the same moral status, but then denies that merely existing as an innocent living human being is enough to give a being a right to life.

For Singer, the crux of the question is this:

“I think killing a being that wants to continue to live and has designs for the future is very different from killing those that do not.”

Understand that he denies any such thing as the “sanctity of life.” Even as a civil matter, Singer simply thinks that the Declaration of Independence is wrong, that we are not all endowed by our Creator with the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In that sense, Singer is not ideologically American. He has concludes that, because infants, as late as somewhere until between the first and second birthday (watch your children!) are not capable of such self-awareness, will, and designs for the future, they have no right to life. They may be put to death.

With the advent and widespread use of sonograms what pro-lifers thought since Roe v Wade (1973) to be true was shown to be true. Those are human beings in there. In Genesis 9, Scripture says:

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.
And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

This is the covenant that God made with Noah as part of the re-creation of the world, as it were, after the flood. Sometimes it is called the “common grace” covenant because it is universal, it includes humans and animals but there is an order. Humans are not mere animals. Animals are given to humans for food not the reverse. Humans are given protected status. When human blood is shed unjustly, there is to be punishment, even capital punishment. The same is not true for animals.

Scripture and nature agree. Humans are distinct. Humans conceive, gestate, and deliver other humans. Those humans, because they are human, because they image bearers, are protected. Gosnell and Singer and others seek both in theory and in practice to establish a basis for denying legally innocent humans their right to life. That we even need to have this conversation, that Singer is regarded as an ethicist and quoted as a reasonable participant in the conversation is a signal of how far gone our age is.

The idea that humanity is not conferred by God (or nature, for the purposes of civil law) but is conferred and denied at will by other humans is essentially a Nazi argument and the argument of slave traders. In both cases, slavers and the Nazis did what they did to others on the basis that those whom they harmed were not fully human. First they stripped humanity from their victims and then they abused them. It’s hard to see how saying that the mother determines when her infant, in utero, not to be human is much different in principle. What is even more frightening is that, because of sonograms, women are now, with the knowledge that the foetus within their womb is a human being, choosing to kill those children anyway.

America, Heinrich Himmler is on the phone and he wants his ethos back.

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  1. Mary Elizabeth Williams of recently argued that no matter the fact that the unborn are indeed human life, yet the greater good is to have the right to murder them. The last sentence of her article was “a life worth sacrificing.” We’re in dire straits with that and the Singer type mentality in the mainstream.

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