January 17, 2010
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of...WordsBy Amy McManus
Abortion defenders find themselves arguing a difficult case when it comes to negligent homicide of the unborn.
Whether conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, pro-choice or pro-life, these words should give every American pause.
Patricia Blair was driving home with her husband and children last August when a stoned twenty-two-year-old crossed the median and hit her vehicle head-on. She and her husband were injured and taken to the hospital, where Patricia was told she needed surgery to deliver her two six-month-old unborn twins. Suffering from placenta abruptio, a condition where the placenta peels away from the uterine wall, thereby denying the fetus oxygen, one of her babies' heartbeat had already stopped, and doctors told her the other baby's best chance was to get her out as quickly as possible via caesarean section. Patricia woke up and was told that she'd lost both of her babies.
Her grief was about to be compounded in ways she never imagined: the police blotter and news accounts said there were "no fatalities." Although the driver of the other vehicle was to be charged with gross negligence (and other drug-related charges) for the injuries Blair and her husband received, her children, Harley and Kaleb, were nonentities according to the state of Vermont. What could have changed that?
Current Vermont law states that in order for a fetus to be considered anything more than a fetus, it must be breathing. Likewise, the statutory definition of an "illegal abortion" in Vermont reads that someone must "willfully administer" anything with "intent" to procure a miscarriage. Whether or not the fetus is "wanted" or "unwanted" -- the still-famous mantra used by the pro-abortion movement -- also has no bearing on whether or not an injustice has occurred. The unborn child of a woman who intends to get an abortion apparently receives just as much (or just as little) protection as the unborn child of a woman who nurtures that child, loves that child, and names that child.
Breathing. Willful. Intent. Wanted. Unwanted.
Words were supposed to mean things in the The Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004 as well, and those who opposed it moved quickly to make certain that statements could not be misconstrued. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) offered "single-victim substitute" proposals. Their solution? Criminal penalties for an "interruption to the normal course of the pregnancy," a suggestion also made by a state senator who wanted to help Patricia Blair. She was not exactly impressed.
Likewise in New York State, where you can receive heaping amounts of subsidies for your "wanted" child, legislators want to make certain that if your wife, girlfriend, daughter, or sister is assaulted, resulting in the death of her unborn child, the violent criminal would face a minimal increase in penalties. How? The proposed and now tabled Reproductive Health Act seeks to change the current wording in homicide law. At present, the killing of an "unborn child" after twenty-four weeks of pregnancy is homicide. But under a separate statutory provision presented in RHA, a "person" that is the victim of a homicide is defined as a "human being who has been born and is alive." The act also would declare that termination of the pregnancy without consent or a criminal act, such as driving while under the influence, constitutes a "serious physical injury" to the woman, a term that is already used in New York State insurance laws. How comforting. The consequences for causing a child's death -- a wanted, loved, named child who is mourned by family, friends, and community -- can be addressed only via lawsuits.
Person. Injury. Interruption. Single-victim.
Vermont State Senator Vince Illuzzi (R-Essex-Orleans) joined Patricia's battle. Though he considers himself pro-choice, this month he sponsored S.175, the Fetus As A Victim Act, or Fetal Homicide Bill. Its basic tenet is that a fetus be treated as a victim under state homicide law if the death results from a DUI and/or grossly negligent operation of a motor vehicle. In spite of being oh-so-very careful with the wording of the bill ("[it] shall not apply to acts performed during an abortion ... or to acts committed by a pregnant woman toward her own unborn child"), pro-abortion representatives such as Rachel Weston (D-Chittenden-3-3) are reeling with the usual concerns that this bill could "erode" a woman's right to choose. She claimed that the bill could have "unintended consequences on women's health."
I'm wondering if Weston considered the "unintended consequence" of getting into a car while high, slamming into a car loaded with kids, and killing two babies?
The pro-abortion feminist needs to ask herself the question: Is this really a place where I want to be? A place where a perceived constitutional guarantee, a supposed health care right, a virtual sacrament to every child-bearing female in the world, has to be argued not with biology, philosophy, theology, or even law, but with childish semantics akin to Clinton's infamous "it depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is"?
The most eloquent statements come not from the politicians or lawyers, but from women like Patricia Blair who are just living their lives, raising families, and finding themselves unwillingly enmeshed in a political battle because of...words. The first female presidential candidate, Victoria Woodhull, said these words:
It has now been thirty-seven years since Roe v. Wade. With thirty-five states having similar statues as the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act, can the remaining fifteen (such as Vermont and New York) truly declare that the women who reside in those states are free?
Amy McManus blogs at amymcmanus.go.to.