The Difference Between "Choice" and Murder

This case helpfully illustrates the fact that, in this country, the difference consists entirely of the location of the victim.

Eighteen and pregnant, Sycloria Williams went to an abortion clinic outside Miami and paid $1,200 for Dr. Pierre Jean-Jacque Renelique to terminate her 23-week pregnancy.

Three days later, she sat in a reclining chair, medicated to dilate her cervix and otherwise get her ready for the procedure.

Only Renelique didn’t arrive in time. According to Williams and the Florida Department of Health, she went into labor and delivered a live baby girl.

What Williams and the Health Department say happened next has shocked people on both sides of the abortion debate: One of the clinic’s owners, who has no medical license, cut the infant’s umbilical cord. Williams says the woman placed the baby in a plastic biohazard bag and threw it out.

** snip **

The state Board of Medicine is to hear Renelique’s case in Tampa on Friday and determine whether to strip his license. The state attorney’s homicide division is investigating, though no charges have been filed. Terry Chavez, a spokeswoman with the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office, said this week that prosecutors were nearing a decision.

Now, many people who are sending around this story to express horror about the callousness toward this child that was displayed by workers at this abortion clinic. I will agree that this is yet another piece of evidence of the total lack of moral scruples on the part of a great many abortion clinic workers. To me, however, this misses the larger point.

If the doctor in question had arrived 10 minutes earlier and and poisoned this child to death in utero, it would have been completely legal, and defended by large segments of our population (and our Supreme Court) as a “choice.” However, when the same child moved a few inches down the birth canal, the killing of that child is “murder,” and decried by the population at large. Even NOW gets in on the act:

Even those who support abortion rights are concerned about the allegations.

“It really disturbed me,” said Joanne Sterner, president of the Broward County chapter of the National Organization for Women, after reviewing the administrative complaint against Renelique. “I know that there are clinics out there like this. And I hope that we can keep (women) from going to these types of clinics.”

The challenge, which I have repeatedly issued on this front page, is for some abortion advocate to come forward and defend this arbitrary line drawing on its own terms. Explain to our readership and the world why it is such a horrifying thing to kill a child ex utero and put it in a trash bag when the woman was planning (with your full moral support) to kill it in utero ten minutes earlier and put it in the same trash bag.

The business of legalized abortion is about nothing more than drawing these sorts of arbitrary lines. In America, if you are located physically ex utero, you are protected. If you are not, you are not protected. In other countries, if you are past a certain developmental stage you are protected, if you are not past that developmental stage, you are not. People tend to be comfortable with these arbitrary lines once they remain in place long enough, but the discomfiting thing about lines that are drawn on an arbitrary basis is that they can be moved for arbitrary reasons. The consequences are perhaps not so sinister when we are talking about, for instance, what sort of plaintiff can recover emotional distress damages in court. They are monstrous when we are talking about which humans have a right not to be killed. And a society that arbitrarily draws the line today at the physical entrance of the womb, or 24 weeks of development, might draw it tomorrow at the age of 1, or at the ability to talk in complete sentences, or at the first stages of puberty. If you support legalized abortion, what possible rational reason would you have to oppose moving the line to any of those locations?

It is long past time for the supporters of legalized abortion to either have the courage of their convictions, or re-examine whether their convictions are worth holding in the first place.