Over the past month, pro-lifers have been compelled to speak openly and loudly about the possibility of infanticide being permitted by our laws.
On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, video spread of New York’s legislature giving a standing ovation for a bill that, among other things, removed requirements that infants born during abortion procedures receive legal protection as persons.
Those concerns were stoked again last week, as video went viral of Virginia state legislator Kathy Tran saying a similar bill in her state—which was since voted down in committee—would permit the termination of an infant’s life even during labor. A similar bill has gone before state legislators in Vermont.
From the outside, pro-lifers’ claims of legalizing infanticide might seem like hysterical reactions against attempts to liberalize abortion access. Those exhausted by the culture wars might be tempted to dismiss such outrage as conservative handwringing.
Yet our concerns are fully justified. Even Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s attempt to clarify matters ended up conflating expanding abortion access with declining care for infants born in the process.
Defending Tran’s proposal, Northam stated that babies determined in the third trimester to have “severe deformities” or be “nonviable” would be delivered, “kept comfortable,” and “resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
The controversy has since moved on, as Northam is dealing with the fallout from an infamous yearbook photo. But the emerging discussion about infanticide seems to represent a new stage in America’s struggle over abortion.
The legal gap between the states is growing wider, as legislators maneuver to prepare for the reversal of Roe by the Supreme Court. As conservative states have sought ways to protect personhood of infants in the womb, progressive states are weakening protection for infants outside it.
This widening gap means that pro-lifers must be prepared not simply to speak about the possibility of infanticide, but to speak well on it. We have sound, democratic reasons to prophetically articulate its link to abortion. Even though such cases are rare, Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to legalizing third-trimester abortions. Rebuilding democratic consensus about abortion will begin by reminding Americans what we already agree upon. These controversies have given us that opportunity.
When addressing infanticide, it is possible to oversimplify the argument and fail to acknowledge the complexities that arise for many women. But we can also remain clear-eyed about the stakes and ask: What do we owe “severely deformed” infants who may be viable outside the womb, when those infants are unwanted by their mothers and born against the will of the doctors?
Such a question, in all its brutal starkness, draws out why these bills sanction infanticide and why pro-choice activists struggle to support efforts to protect the rights of infants born alive through abortion.
Infanticide does not only include the direct killing of infants, through injecting toxins or other direct means of harm. It also means unjustly denying infants necessary life support. The key term is unjust: not every decision to decline life-sustaining treatment for those in our care is the equivalent of killing.
Neonatal ethics are exceedingly complex, but for infants whose death will follow immediately upon their birth and we have strong reason to believe attempts to prolong life would fail, comfort may be all that can be given. The end of life sometimes does sometimes arise at its beginning. Excruciating as it is, we must sometimes allow those we love to go into the hands of God, even when they have just arrived to us.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today