How can you not define that as a person?

What caused CNN’s Erin Burnett to declare on national television that an unborn child is a person? It was the story of Brady Surovik—an unborn baby killed in his mother’s womb by a drunk driver just two days before he was to be born. This happened in Colorado where state law prevents authorities from charging the drunk driver with the death of the baby. After reporting this story, Burnett says this:

Without getting into the whole nitty-gritty of the abortion debate. I mean, to me, if the child — that baby when he died was 8 pounds 2 ounces, he was going to be born in a couple days. How can you not define that as a person? He was a viable life. [see video below]

Of course Burnett is correct. That baby should be defined as a person in our laws, and his death should be treated as a homicide. Unfortunately, many states do not define such deaths as a homicide, in large part because of the politics of abortion.

Currently there are about 38 states that have fetal homicide laws on the books. In 23 of these states, such protections apply to the earliest stages of pregnancy. Pro-choicers know that the existence of these laws expose the moral bankruptcy of pro-abortion logic. They know that such laws will cause many people to come to the same conclusion the Erin Burnett did in this report. And that is why they oppose these laws. They won’t countenance any measure that might curtail a woman’s right to kill her unborn child at any stage of pregnancy for any reason.

Here’s the basic inconsistency that pro-choicers don’t want you to think about. In 38 states it’s illegal to kill an unborn child if the mother wants the child to live. Nevertheless, it remains legal in those very same states to kill the child through abortion if the mother wants the child to die. One child is treated as a person, and the other is not. And it all comes down to what the mother decides. These laws show that ultimately the will of the strong determines whether or not a whole class of human beings will be treated as persons.

John Piper has exposed the terrifying implications of this inconsistency more clearly than anyone I’ve ever heard. He writes:

We have some laws that condemn the killing of a fetus as murder, and we have some laws that condone the killing of a fetus as abortion.

Why is this? What is the basis for the difference? Usually the proposed basis for the difference is simply this: It is illegal to take the life of the unborn if the mother chooses that it not be taken, but it is legal to take the life of the unborn if the mother chooses that it be taken. In first case the law treats the fetus as a human with rights; in the second case the law treats the fetus as non-human with no rights.

Do you see what this means? It means that according to our laws in Minnesota (as well as other states), the humanness of the unborn is determined from case to case not on the basis of its intrinsic qualities, but on the basis of someone else’s choice. If the one who has the power says it is right for the unborn to be killed, it is right; but if the one with the power says it is wrong for the unborn to be killed, it is wrong. There is a name for this state of affairs. We call it anarchy: Each one who has the power defines what is “right” on the basis of what he or she wants to be right…

When human justice is disconnected from a person’s intrinsic humanity and made to depend simply on the choice of the strong, no one is safe from being arbitrarily defined out of personhood – whether it is a Jew in Nazi Germany or Black Slave in South Carolina or an unborn infant in the womb. If the right to life and liberty hangs merely on the will of the strong, there is no justice.

I’m sure she didn’t mean it to be, but Erin Burnett’s admission is a broadside against pro-choice dogma. And I wonder if she’s considered the full implications of her admission. I can imagine that abortion supporters are probably pretty upset with what she said. In any case, I’m glad she did the report, and I’m grateful for the definitive word in favor of the humanity of the unborn. Americans by and large close their eyes to the flimsy moral basis for abortion rights in our country. Stories like this one could change that.

(HT: Eric Metaxas, Josh Craddock)

9 Responses to How can you not define that as a person?

  1. John Simpson February 6, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    I believe that application of feticide laws while allowing abortions is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. Both have the same result, namely the death of an unborn child, but the only difference is the relationship of the actor to the victim. One’s actions are proscribed by the law while the other’s actions are protected by the law. Thus, the law is treating two people fundamentally different.

  2. James Rednour February 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    Only a monster would claim that a third trimester abortion is anything other than infanticaide. Then again, only a zealot would claim that a six-week old embryo is equivalent to a person. That’s where the problem lies.

    To demonstrate assertion number two, I would propose a thought experiment. Say you were in a fertility clinic and a fire broke out. In one room is a suitcase containing 100 embyros. In another room is a crying two-year old toddler. You only have time to save one of these. Which do you choose?

  3. Paul Reed February 7, 2013 at 12:28 am #

    @James Rednour

    I would choose to save 100 children over 1 child, so I would choose to 100 embryos. The level of development of a person doesn’t determine his or her moral status.

    Now it’s my turn. You write “Only a monster would claim that a third trimester abortion is anything other than infanticide”. Let’s see if you are really that monster. I propose a thought experiment. An 18-year old girl decides to get an abortion when she is 7 months pregnant. How much jail time should she do? If it’s less jail time that what you would give to any murderer of a born child, why? What makes her killing of the unborn person less legally serious than the killing of a born person?

    • James Stanton February 7, 2013 at 1:09 am #

      Maybe the point of these thought experiments is to make people uncomfortable but I feel like its often an exercise of litmus testing. I could be working in an embryo lab with millions of embryos in frozen storage and I’d save my crying toddler everytime. If I could save the baby and the embyros that would be swell.

      Paul, if the 50 million abortions statistic is true then I’d agree that there should probably be 50 million counts of murder to be filed somewhere. For logical consistency’s sake.

    • Scott McDonald February 7, 2013 at 7:10 am #

      Oh but it does. Sentience and/or the level of sentience is the deciding factor. I’d argue that the two year old has more self-awareness than the embryos. While both are living, in both cases we cannot say they are moral beings (in the philosophical definition) with intrinsic value.

    • James Rednour February 7, 2013 at 9:39 am #

      @Paul

      I admire your candidness, but I have to say that is an amazing answer. I suspect if you really were in that situation, your actions would be quite different than you assert here. an embyro is not a human being in any way. It has the POTENTIAL to develop into a human being, but it is not cognisant, it doesn’t feel pain at six weeks, and it is not an autonomous entity. That you would ignore the cries of a child who can think and feel fear and pain says a lot about you, IMO.

      As for charging the girl with murder, I would not. Then again, I doubt that I would say a mother who killed her newborn should be tried as a murderer either. I would think that such a person needs help and care, not punishment.

      • Paul Reed February 7, 2013 at 9:54 am #

        “As for charging the girl with murder, I would not. Then again, I doubt that I would say a mother who killed her newborn should be tried as a murderer either. I would think that such a person needs help and care, not punishment.”

        So you’d forcibly commit them to a psychiatric ward? Fair enough, but the point is there would be a penalty for killing the 1 year old child. A person returns home to find that a baby-sitter or mother has killed a child in cold blood, and there’s going to be some penalty besides “counseling”. You have a double standard for killing a 7-month old fetus and a 1-year old baby. If you think killing a fetus is murder, you treat it’s killer like you would the murder of any other person.

        • James Rednour February 7, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

          So you’d forcibly commit them to a psychiatric ward?

          I don’t remember saying that at all. I said that person would require care and help, whether that comes from the state or a support group or something else. Unlike pro-lifers who assert that any and all forms of abortion are tantamount to murder, I readily admit I don’t have all the answers to a very complicated issue. I do admit that although that abortion is always a failed choice, it is not necessarily equivalent to murder. The world is not a black and white place where simple black and white answers suffice, especially for men and this issue.

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