Murder on My Mind
July 27, 2006 02:17 PM EST
I am often fascinated when reports on a topic converge within a very short period of time. You don’t often see mainstream media accounts that deal with the victims of abortion or human embryonic stem cell research. But lately, there have been a number of them, and the reactions have been most telling.
The first example came when White House press secretary Tony Snow had to apologize for using the word "murder" to describe the wanton killing of human embryonic children so that their stem cells can be used for research purposes. I was dumbfounded. What did Snow say that was so terrible, and why did he have to apologize?
When President Bush vetoed the funding bill that would have permitted greater expenditures of federal funds on human embryonic stem cell research, Snow told the media during his briefing that "The president believes strongly that for the purpose of research it’s inappropriate for the federal government to finance something that many people consider murder. He’s one of them."
Apparently his comment did not set well with the powers that be in the White House, for a few days later Snow was saying that the president is opposed to using federal funds for such research because the research involves "a destruction of human life." Snow further said he had overstepped during his briefing the previous week.
This disturbs me a great deal. But let’s look at a second example.
The Texas district and county attorneys association has reviewed the new law regarding late term abortions and determined that "doctors who perform late-term abortions or who perform abortions on minors without parental consent are now eligible to receive the death penalty."
One district attorney, Rebecca King, is concerned that because the law grants personhood to fetuses, she is obliged to inform doctors practicing in Potter County that they are required to report to law enforcement any pregnant woman they know of who has used illegal drugs. Her thinking is that the mother who uses drugs could be prosecuted for "delivery" of narcotics to a minor.
In view of these opinions, Texas attorney general Greg Abbott has been asked to rule whether laws passed in 2003 and 2005 could subject doctors to capital murder charges. Some believe that murder prosecutions of doctors could be an "unintended consequence" of the changes in Texas law. In other words, perhaps Texas law does not really mean that the aborted "person" is the victim of a capital
If these two examples are not enough to motivate one into rethinking what an act of abortion actually is, the situation in South Dakota should. In South Dakota one attorney has circulated a memo to doctors telling them that if the abortion ban law remains in place the homicide statute will have to be changed, or "doctors committing abortions could be prosecuted for murder."
To which any sane person would respond, "Why of course."
But not so fast. The problem that links the White House, Texas district attorneys and one South Dakota lawyer together is that there seems to be some debate about how we actually perceive that human being who is willfully killed during an abortion. For those of us who understand logic and the consequences of evil actions, there is no debate. If you take the life of a human embryo, a person, during his first days of life and you intend to take his life, you are murdering him. It is irrelevant that you may think you need his stem cells. The fact is, you know that by taking those stem cells you are killing. Tony Snow’s first statement, prior to the apology, should be the one that stands.
Apparently someone higher up in the administration does not really believe that human beings are persons deserving of legal protection from their beginning. What a shame.
But the president of the United States is not alone. There are far too many Americans, in all walks of life, including clergy, district attorneys and politicians, who have a tough time admitting that every preborn child is a person from the very beginning of his life. They will strive to either avoid discussing it or deny that a "fetus" has the same moral status as a born child or an adult with a college degree.
What is so startling about defining the preborn child as a person? The answer is that once you do this, you are inviting the logical consequences to that declaration. Intentionally killing such a person is an act of murder. Assisting in the intentional killing of such a person makes you an accomplice to the heinous act. Handing out a chemical that you know may kill a person before he has implanted in the womb makes you an accomplice in the possible death of a person. Performing in vitro fertilization procedures that result in "extra embryos" that are used for research purposes or simply discarded makes you a murderer.
Once you admit that a preborn child is a person who should have the same rights that you and I have, you are agreeing that this individual’s life is as valuable as anyone else’s. And any person who acts to rob that preborn child of his life is willfully killing a member of the human family. That’s murder.
Why is everyone so fearful of using that word? Why does the White House press secretary have to apologize for using that word? Why do district attorneys worry about how a law might affect a doctor who makes his money killing people?
The answer is most troubling. It is that those who claim to be the defenders of the innocent are not really all that serious about what they say. The politics gets in the way of honesty, logic and consistency.
As one commentator said after Snow "corrected" himself, "What Tony Snow was doing was calling them all murderers, and that doesn’t do much for close midterm elections."
Sad to think that such a callous comment is true, but we know it is. The public doesn’t want to hear the truth and apparently there are too few people with the courage to state the obvious.
Until each person claiming to be pro-life says what he means and means what he says, the word "murder" is going to continue to be anathema to the very people who know that the preborn child is willfully murdered by intentional acts of killing.
This situation grieves me deeply and it reminds me of a famous discussion in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass:
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master, that’s all."
Judie Brown is president and co-founder of American Life League, the nation’s largest Catholic pro-life educational grassroots organization. She is a recognized expert on the sanctity of humanlife, member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and the author of three books.