Yesterday, an Australian woman was arrested for dumping her infant down a Sydney drain. The baby was 7 days old (he is 8 days today, 5 of which, he spent in the storm drain) and has become known as “drain baby”. Now, the mother is being charged with attempted murder. Hah! Only if she had attempted it a couple of months earlier!
I find thoroughly bewildering the unchallenged and widely-accepted norm that this mother could’ve killed her child some months earlier and gone Scot-free. With our language, we have created a gulf of difference between the unborn and the born child. We’ve virtually equated the embryo to a piece of steak. But are they really so different in the days before and after birth? What really changes at the instant of Birth? I perceive it to be two things:
- Physical Displacement: the tiny being passes through a canal to emerge at a different place. It is the exact same being, only in different space (i.e. not the womb).
- Change in Sustenance Sourcing: it no longer has to rely on the umbilical cord for nutrition. The infant is still consuming the same nutrients (food and Oxygen), but just sourcing it from a different place. So, it is more helpless before birth.
There are no other physical changes. So which event signifies Life – (a) or (b)? Or is it both? When do our mighty courts, activists and jesters decide to grant the ‘Status of Life’ to that tiny organism? Because – clearly, we have completely cleaved out ‘Life’ from the ‘Status of Life’ – taking it upon us to decree the hour when a being comes to life.
Let’s face it: we don’t know when Life begins. Childbirth, being an event we can see, seems obvious. So, to what we had dubbed a ‘fetus’ – we now give a new name, an ‘infant’. Let’s not forget that these are mental constructs that we have invented to help us grasp the rite of passage (e.g. when does a boy become a man and a girl, a woman? Do we not define these in terms of rites of passage?). We define these stages according to how we perceive the transformation from the outside. If by some miracle, the infant could retreat into its mother’s womb – would it again be okay to kill it off?
Our moral and legal position on abortion (which should’ve been termed ‘killing’ or at least ‘putting down’) are almost exclusively about ‘Us’ …the ones who safely made it out of the womb and are now living full, healthy lives and pontificating about choices. Is it really that surprising that we can make up rules and norms to decide the fates of unborn children – when we are constantly doing it to those who have already been born? What would we say if it were us or our children that faced termination?
It’s hard not to wonder what the properties of Life are. Is it the capacity to perceive the world around us? Basic self-preservation instincts? Is it responding to external stimuli? Protesting hunger and deprivation? The instinct of preserving the status quo? – Because a fetus often fulfills each one of these prerequisites. Yet, we decide that since it is in a specific place (the womb) – though not of its own choosing – it cannot be said to have Life. Even the kindest of us – who weep at the execution of seasoned rapists and serial killers – decree that it’s okay to kill a child. An unborn one at that!
One doesn’t have to be a Conservative or a Liberal to honestly reassess his/her position. “They say X is acceptable and I usually vote for them, so I must concur” is not a real, political position. It’s Groupthink: a mix of intellectual laziness, self-centrism and capitulation to peer pressure. It has almost become fashionable to support feticide in the name of being ‘pro-choice’. The word ‘choice’ is powerful, and evocative of basic freedoms. But it’s also misleading. You would support people having the choice to pierce their nipples, but not the option to fry – with microwaves – a baby kangaroo in its mother’s pouch. For God’s sake – these same pro-choice liberals also weep over veal!
Yes, we feel sorry for “Drain Baby” …but he has survived not only Birth, but also an attempt on his life. In 2008, 44 million babies didn’t get to be born. That’s the same as the population of Spain! Women must have the right to choose – but before, not after the fact. No one – not men, not women – can have the moral right to preemptively massacre 44 million lives. Besides, we mustn’t fail to consider what choice we’re leaving the unborn child.