Here’s an excellent post cross posted from the Culture Vulture.
I watched with interest earlier this week as person after person on Facebook posted the story about the Canadian mother who has just been given a suspended sentence after being found guilty of strangling her newborn son several years ago when she was only 19 years old.
The reason I have resisted commenting on this particular case until now is because we simply don’t know enough about the mental health and personal situation of this woman at the time that this horrific act took place, and therefore passing judgment on this situation would seem to be premature, and based on only partial facts.
I am also not convinced that this case represents the beginning of legalized infanticide, or the practical outworking of Peter Singer’s ideologies in regard to the acceptability of killing infants – remember this woman was actually found guilty of infanticide in this case, and she was sentenced, it’s just that the judge opted to hand down a suspended sentence, rather than require her to serve time in jail.
Once again, until we actually know more about the psychological state of this woman then it is still too early to say whether the judge’s actions are justified in this case or not.
I also think that we need to be very careful about how we link the issue of abortion with this case.
Yes, the judge concerned did make remarks about abortion in her ruling on this case, but I’m not sure that her comments justify headlines such as “Shock: No jail time for woman who strangled newborn because Canada accepts abortion, says judge“.
This headline clearly indicates that the judge in this case didn’t hand out any jail time to this woman based the reason that “Canada accepts abortion”, however the judges actual remarks, which are quoted later in this same article, don’t seem to support such an assertion.
Here are the judges’ remarks…
“while many Canadians undoubtedly view abortion as a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy, they generally understand, accept and sympathize with the onerous demands pregnancy and childbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support… Naturally, Canadians are grieved by an infant’s death, especially at the hands of the infant’s mother, but Canadians also grieve for the mother”
As you can see, what the judge is actually saying here is that Canadians sympathize with the difficulties that motherhood, especially unsupported motherhood presents in the life of a woman.
The judge clearly views these difficulties as a justification for abortion (as would many Canadians), which is an assertion that I don’t all consider to be valid, however, I don’t see how the judge is proposing that she believes that they are also a justification for this infanticide – instead what the judges’ remarks actually indicate is that such extenuating circumstances must be taken into consideration when responding to this crime.
And this is precisely why I think we need to know more about the actual psychological and emotional state of this woman during her pregnancy and subsequent birth.
If there is reliable evidence to show that this woman was of sound mind when she carried out this act, then obviously the judge has made a massive and grave error in judgment here, however, if the evidence shows that this woman was psychologically unbalanced when she carried out this act, then surely any person of goodwill would have to support the actions of the judge in this case, even if we don’t agree with her statement suggesting that hardship justifies abortion?
I think that it is also important to note that almost all other Canadian cases involving infanticide have resulted in this same outcome, that is; non-custodial sentences being handed down to the guilty party – so the suggestions that the outcome in this case represents a massive new change in how infanticide is treated in Canada are not actually correct at all.
Having said that, I do think that this case does shine the spotlight on abortion, particularly the issue of the ethical inconsistency that is used to try and justify legal abortion, while at the same time oppose legalised infanticide.
You see, almost all of the arguments used to try and justify abortion could also be used to support legalized infanticide, because, apart from age and location, the newborn infant finds itself in an almost identical state of existence as the unborn human being does – it cannot sustain itself, it does not have self-awareness, it cannot reason and it places huge bodily demands upon its mother.
I would humbly suggest that this is an inconsistency that must be pressed by the pro-life movement, and which demands an answer from those who oppose infanticide while at the same time supporting abortion.