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 9 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… Read more »

Lawrence M. Reisman
6 years 9 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 9 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” ?

6 years 9 months ago

Rabbi Menken gives us the quote:

“The case has riled the anti-abortion community, which contends the clinic’s actions constitute murder.”

And he uses this quote to “prove” that “CBS News has declared that the entire “pro-abortion” camp shares…[a] lack of moral compass”, and that furthermore he is “not at all sure that CBS is wrong.” He bases this conclusion on “the slippery slope from abortion to infanticide.”

And now the facts. CBS also wrote: “What Williams and the Health Department say happened next has shocked people on both sides of the abortion debate.” One can probably assume that… Read more »

6 years 9 months ago

I am sitting here at my computer having gotten up from lying down in bed talking to my unborn almost 21 week old beautiful baby in my womb.
Sometimes we can speak of what is so obvious to us and yet to be rationalized away by others who want nothing more than to be “free.”
Two points come to mind:
The quote is from Rav Avi Shafran: “To be sure, people tend to resist reasonability when it leads to where they prefer not to go.”
Whether it is the Women’s Now Organization or… Read more »

Charlie Hall
6 years 9 months ago

Lawrence Reisman #3,

While Florida does ban third-trimester abortions, trimesters are 13 weeks long so this would have been a second-trimester abortion. Today, more and more abortions are being done non-surgically at an earlier point in pregnancy; it is impossible to tell how many because medical abortions do not have to be reported to the government.

6 years 9 months ago

It’s not clear that this was “murder”, that is, whether the baby was alive when it was disposed of.

In any event, this story does show the shockingly cavalier attitude some abortionists can have toward unwanted babies.

Lawrence M. Reisman
6 years 9 months ago

CBS reports that the woman was pregnant for 23 weeks. That makes this a third trimester abortion, which states are allowed to make illegal even under Roe v. Wade. Therefore, this abortion should be illegal even under current law. That having been said, this case has very little relevance to the vast majority of abortions which are performed in the first and second trimesters.

Garnel Ironheart
6 years 9 months ago

In the absence of an objective, external moral authority, any self-imposed red lines will shift with tie and fashion. How arbitrary is the line that says that a living infant inside a uterus can be murdered with impunity but once it sticks its head out into the world it can’t? This baby was murdered immediately after death. What is the mom decided she didn’t want it the next morning? Why would that suddenly be wrong?
How arbitrary is the line that says that a person who is suffering in the end stages of cancer has a “right”… Read more »

Chaim Fisher
6 years 9 months ago

Rabbi Menken, you have such a great story here-and so great an observation, that CBS says only we “contend” that this was murder.

Their boo-boo is striking and should be brought to the world’s attention. They really blew it.

But why end with your infanticide “threat?” Murder is going on all the time in our hospitals. It’s called DNR, when doctors and nurses sit around a person clutching his throat and crying for a breathing tube (they cost 5 dollars and are at every nurse’s station) and watch him die. Or, worse, pulling the lung machine off a… Read more »