I just finished watching the Fox News special “See No Evil” on abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who is on trial in Philadelphia for multiple murders and other crimes. Gosnell can’t understand how it can be that he is facing prison and possibly even the death penalty for killing the babies whose necks he snipped after they “precipitated” (i.e., emerged from the womb.) The women who came into his clinic came in to have the babies they were carrying killed. That was the point of the exercise. “Terminating” the babies’ lives was the service he offered and performed. Had he killed the babies while they were still in their mothers’ bodies (by, for example, inserting a needle to inject a poison into their tiny hearts) that would not have been a crime. He merely would have been assisting his patients in exercising what the Supreme Court deems a constitutional right. So why, he would like to know, is he being prosecuted for killing the same babies moments later after they precipitated?
I must admit that I am no less puzzled by that question than Gosnell is. How can it be that killing a baby inside the womb is perfectly acceptable while killing the very same baby (or even a baby that is a few days or even weeks younger) outside the womb is first degree murder? Of course, in my view we should not permit the killing of babies inside or outside the womb. A baby’s status as a precious member of the human family, possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity, does not depend on something as morally arbitrary as his or her location. But if we permit the Gosnells of the world to kill babies inside the womb, it seems odd to charge them with murder for killing them outside the womb. This is especially true in view of the fact that inducing delivery and then killing babies marked for “termination” eliminates the risk to women involved in the common abortion practice of dismembering babies inside the womb and removing their severed body parts.