By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office
I have to admit I have a tough time understanding why so many seemingly intelligent people have such a disconnect when it comes to the value of all young human life. Whenever we become aware of events that result in the harm to or deaths of innocent people, the greatest outpouring of sympathy is always showered on the children who died or were hurt.
When we first heard of the horrible 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the focus was immediately on the children in the day care center housed in the building. I will never forget the picture of the fireman carrying the lifeless body of one-year-old Baylee Almon from the debris. Today, there is a memorial, located on the site of the former Murrah building. Inside is a display of chairs—one for each person killed in the bombing. One hundred sixty-eight chairs—one for each person killed in the tragedy. Nineteen of those chairs are smaller than the others—to remember the children.
Children Need Protection
We have special laws to protect children and teens from abuse and neglect, from unsafe environments, and from economic exploitation. Our child safety and child labor laws are designed to save children from harm and exploitation in the work place.
People are outraged—as they should be— when children are abused, neglected, killed, or even die from natural causes. There is just “something” in us that reacts when we learn that innocent babies or children are harmed. Our hearts and our minds tell us children need our protection.
There is an automatic, visceral disdain for people who hurt children. Individuals convicted of crimes against children are often frightened about how other prisoners will treat them. It is not unusual for these convicted child abusers/killers to be “abused” or even killed by other prisoners.
When we learn about a baby who becomes ill or who dies, there is always an outpouring of grief and compassion. Counselors and funeral directors will tell you that the most difficult part of their profession is helping parents who have lost a child.
Expressions of grief and anger are justifiably widespread when newborns are abandoned by their mothers and left to die. In December 2004 another abandoned baby in our Diocese was found frozen to death in a plastic bag. The full term baby girl was named “Baby Crystal” by local police officials.
The Rockford Register Star reporting on Baby Crystal, quoted Lori Pennington, “You just think of those poor, innocent, precious babies, left in Dumpsters and garbage cans. So many people want babies, and people are just throwing them away.” Pennington was one of the women who worked on the passage of the Illinois Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act.
In February 2001 the Chicago Tribune, reported that “a work crew in Robbins, Illinois discovered the body of a partially burned baby—with its umbilical cord still attached—near a garbage dumpster in a housing complex . . ..”
Another woman with whom Lori Pennington worked on the passage of a law in Illinois designed to prevent these horrible instances of the dumping newborns reacted by writing:
The heart wrenching sight of the tiny bundle, wrapped in a stiff orange bag instead of a soft pink or blue receiving blanket, strapped to a seemingly huge, adult sized gurney and rolled from a dump by ambulance drivers, haunts my mind. This precious little bundle, who's [sic] beautiful eyes never saw the light of day made a lonely journey from the ambulance, to the hospital emergency room to be poked and prodded by ER personnel and officially pronounced dead. The tiny tortured remains will then be taken to a very cold morgue, with the nauseating and overpowering smell of formaldehyde.Who could disagree with these sentiments? This was indeed a precious life that should not have ended. Those were really heartfelt, compassionate words. The problem, however, is that these same words about newborns are often spoken by individuals who believe that if five minutes before delivering this baby, the mother had chosen to have a D&X (partial birth abortion), it would have been considered an acceptable choice.
The precious body will be cut into and examined for the cause of death. As a nurse, who has witnessed autopsies, this is a difficult thing to observe even on an adult body. I can't imagine the horror of watching a newborn on that hard cold steel table as each internal organ is skillfully removed, sectioned and examined by a doctor. This incredibly precious gift from God, has met such a tragic end.
I feel such a strong urge to scream out to someone, ANYONE, EVERYONE, STOP THIS!!!! [emphasis in the original] Let these desperate mothers have an option to legally hand their newborns over to a
designated person so that they can have a chance to experience the love and compassion of the human race.
Brenda Pratt Shafer, a registered nurse who has witnessed these gruesome abortions testified before Congress saying:
Dr. Haskell went in with the forceps and grabbed the baby’s legs and pulled them down into the birth canal. Then he delivered the baby’s body and the arms, everything but the head….The baby’s little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his little feet were kicking.
Then the doctor stuck the [surgical] scissors in the back of the head, and the baby’s arms jerked out….like a baby does when he thinks he is going to fall. The doctor opened up the scissors, stuck a high-powered suction tube into the opening, and sucked the baby’s brains out. Now the baby went completely limp. Next, Dr. Haskell delivered the baby’s head. He cut the umbilical cord and delivered the placenta. He threw the baby in a pan, along with the placenta and the instruments he had just used.
Thousands of these partial birth abortions occur in this country each year and yet many of the same people who rightly are horrified at the thought of abandoned newborns are the same people defending the right of a woman to have her pre-born baby killed even when he or she is partially born.
It Makes No Sense
What is the difference between a baby killed by partial birth abortion and an abandoned newborn? In most cases, while the unborn baby is smaller and less developed he or she has the same value as one already born. Both the unborn and the newborn are totally dependent—the former on its mother and the latter on any other person who will care for him or her. Both are “poor, innocent, precious babies.” Both are made in the image of God. Both, sadly, may end up in dumpsters or garbage bags. Aborted babies often end up in garbage disposals or incinerators. Neither tiny human being will have “a chance to experience the love and compassion of the human race.” The major difference is that our courts have said the one form of execution—abortion—is legal and the other—abandonment—is not. If the mothers of abandoned babies had simply implemented their so-called “right to choose,” there would be no public outpouring of sympathy for the baby.
While I applaud the efforts of those encouraging mothers not to abandon their newborns in unsafe places, I still must ask why most of them do not extend the same expressions of grief and outrage to those tiny human beings that are killed while still in—or two-thirds out—of their mother’s womb?
In my opinion, it is because they are blinded by choice. They are so intent on defending a woman’s so-called right to choose abortion that they cannot see the value of all human life including those precious lives growing in their mother’s womb.