Whatever Your Politics


Whatever your stance on the abortion debate, no decent human being can fail to be repulsed by the story: “Baby Trashed After Botched Abortion.” Apparently the doctor didn’t show up in time to abort the child of his 23-year-old patient, so she gave birth instead. At which point one of the clinic’s owners wrapped the breathing infant in a biohazard bag, and threw her out.

The defenders of abortion-on-demand will, of course, decry this horrid aberration. The president of the Broward County chapter of the National Organization for Women talked about how important it is to be sure women don’t go to “these types” of clinics. But is it really an aberration? True, one doesn’t see stories like this at all frequently — yet. But one line in this story reflects, in my opinion, a very clear sign of the true state of affairs: “The case has riled the anti-abortion community, which contends the clinic’s actions constitute murder.”

According to the autopsy report, the baby filled her lungs with air. There is nothing to contend. There is nothing to discuss, nothing to debate. The clinic owner murdered the baby. If this was not murder, plain and simple, then any baby, any terminally ill patient, anyone with a birth defect or mental retardation can be “put out of their misery” without hesitation, the philosophy of Peter Singer made real. And by claiming that only the “anti-abortion” community “contends” that suffocating a baby is murder, CBS News has declared that the entire “pro-abortion” camp shares Singer’s lack of moral compass.

What is truly frightening is that I’m not at all sure that CBS is wrong.

For years, writers here and elsewhere have warned of the slippery slope from abortion to infanticide. The idea that a fetus inside a woman can be discarded like a scab, but once breathing five minutes later is a human being, whose life cannot be taken under penalty of death (in many states), is inherently irrational. Faced with decades of contradiction and conflict, it is only natural to begin to wonder why a baby born with a serious defect shouldn’t be hurried out of the world in the interests of saving him or her a life of “pain” and thousands of dollars of medical costs. Never mind the fact that the grown thalidomide babies, much less those with Down’s Syndrome, are less likely than the rest of us to desire to end their own lives… society claims to know better, and thus thousands of such children are denied the right to experience life outside the womb every year.

In closing, I’d like to quote one of the comments on the story, which was the most recently posted when I retrieved the page. I think it needs no comment.

Almost 18 years ago as a college freshman, I considered having an abortion because I was so afraid of being ill-equipped as a parent. I thought that I would have to put everything I had worked for on pause, only to not be able to do a good job anyway. I entered the clinic and while I was in the waiting area a nurse came out into the hall and threw someone’s baby into a bag like refuse… I thought my heart had stopped; my mind had definitely frozen. I stood to my feet, gathered my courage, got my money back and went shopping for my son…The Best Money I Ever Spent. He is now 17, graduating high school, never a day of trouble. He is so incredible, and I am so thankful.

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6 years 7 months ago

Rabbi Menken reports that the CBS article quoted one side as saying this was ‘murder.’ The other side was quoted to say that it was important for women not to go to clinics like this. Rabbi Menken then comes to the conclusion that the second side doesn’t think it was murder. By his own logic, we should also think that the anti-abortion side doesn’t see a problem with women going to clinics like this.

Rabbi Menken similarly is inaccurate in representing halachic positions on abortion. Rabbi Waldenberg is considered a minority opinion, but certainly is one that can be relied upon. He is absolutely not “a lone voice against overwhelming dissent”, but is based on the responsa of Maharit (R. Joseph Trani) and She’elat Ya’vetz (R. Jacob Emden). He approach is shared by RYBS among others. Making it seem that no one paskens like Rav Waldenberg is not only wrong but incorrect.

Rabbi Menken is also wrong about the circumstances where Rabbi Waldenberg permits abortion. From ‘Jewish Medical Law’ by Rav Avraham Steinberg, MD(compiled and edited from the Tzitz Eliezer):
In circumstances where the pregnancy is detrimental to the mother’s health, although not life threatening, there is justification for permitting termination of the pregnancy. Examples are: Borderline physical health of the mother, very closely spced pregnancies where the mother is very weak, and where pregnancy results in obvious physical suffereing and emotional illness to the mother. Further, a married woman who willfully conceived froma man other than her husband(even if the baby will not be a mamzer) is permitted to abort the fetus. If there is a substantial risk that the fetus would be born with a deformity that would cause it to suffer, it is permitted to terminate the pregnancy within the first three months. In circumstances where it has been conclusively proven that the fetus will be afflicted with tay-Sachs diesase, it is permitted to perform an abortion up to the seventh month of pregnancy.(pages 102-104).

Judaism is totally against abortion on demand. Killing new-born babies is murder. These views should be very clear. But it is also wrong to adopt Christian views on abortion and have them be the law of the land, which will eliminate Halacha and endanger mothers, which is also against halacha.

Lawrence M. Reisman
6 years 7 months ago

Dear Charles:

You are right and my math was off. However, Roe v. Wade did give the states the right to regulate second trimester abortions, which means that Florida could legislate that they occur in hospitals, and that proper precautions are taken to insure that a baby born alive is kept alive.

Jacob Suslovich
6 years 7 months ago

Does not Halacha differentiate between the status of “a fetus inside a woman” which can be killed to save the mothers life and one who is breathing five minutes later who can not be killed even to save the mother’s life. Is this distinction “inherently irrational” ?