Politics & Policy

Wrist-Slapping Baby Killers

Infanticidal moms.

Melissa Drexler is a free woman. After barely three years in prison, she will spend the holidays with her parents in Forked River, New Jersey.

Alas, her little boy was not there to welcome his mother home. Back on June 6, 1997, his birth date, Drexler delivered him into a toilet bowl. Then she strangled him, severed his umbilical cord on a disposal container for sanitary napkins and hurled the 6-pound, 6-ounce lad’s body into a garbage bin. Freed of that nuisance, she quickly moved on. The then-18-year-old dined on salad at a New Jersey catering hall and danced the night away at her senior prom.

Drexler eventually was caught and haggled her murder charge down to a guilty plea for aggravated manslaughter. Sentenced to 15 years in jail, Drexler was released on November 26 after spending only 37 months in prison. Freedom cost her just one fifth of her sentence.

Drexler’s attorney urges people not to fret over his client. “At what point does punishment cease being effective?” Steven Secare, reassuringly asked the New York Post. “She’s not going to go out and commit another crime.” Added her father, John: “Enough is enough. She wants to get on with her life.”

This travesty is just the latest and most revolting example of the ho-hum attitude too many Americans hold toward baby-killing. Mothers (and some fathers) who murder their own newborns and young children often can expect light punishment accompanied by a chorus of experts, activists, and authorities eager to excuse their crimes.

Between 1976 and 1999, the FBI reports, mothers killed 4,118 children under age five, while fathers murdered 4,179.

“Most women aren’t incarcerated for infanticide,” writes Patricia Pearson, author of When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence. “Of those who are convicted, about two thirds avoid prison, and the rest receive an average sentence of seven years.”

Even by that measure, Amy Grossberg skated. In November 1996, the then-college freshman and her high-school sweetheart, Brian Peterson, drove to a Newark, Delaware Comfort Inn where she delivered a baby boy. Peterson then grabbed his newborn son, stuffed him into a plastic bag and tossed him into a Dumpster.

Originally charged with murder, the callous couple was convicted of manslaughter. Grossberg was given two and a half years in prison, but was released eight months early in May 2000 for — what else? — good behavior. For his part, Peterson admitted in court that “mistakes were made” before receiving two years in prison. On January 25, 2000, he was freed after serving just 18 months behind bars.

Light punishment aside, baby-killers lately have enjoyed the aid and comfort of feminists who dismiss the ugliest misdeeds. As Independent Women’s Forum president Nancy Pfotenhauer explains: “The same liberals who purport to be advocates of everyone’s children, in almost a collective approach, in individual cases embrace the mother, regardless of what she has done.”

This outlook permeates the case of Andrea Yates, the Houston mother who faces trial January 7 for allegedly drowning her children — Mary, Luke, Paul, John and Noah — one by one in the family bathtub. Feminists could have mourned five innocent kids between ages six months and seven years (two of whom police believe Yates chased around their home before overpowering them last June). Instead, they turned her into a poster girl for post-partum depression. The Today Show’s Katie Couric encouraged viewers to donate to Yates’ legal defense fund. The National Organization for Women staged a September 18 candlelight vigil for Yates outside her Houston jailhouse. NOW president Kim Gandy claimed that Yates’s supposed psychosis was insufficiently treated. “Was it because her health insurance did not provide coverage adequate to her needs?” Gandy wondered. Maybe Yates’s HMO did it.

This cheerleading for Yates “symbolizes the excesses of an insidious brand of so-called feminism that absolves women of all responsibility for their actions,” says Cathy Young, author of Ceasefire, a book on America’s gender wars.

America’s newborn babies are citizens, not mere pieces of Kleenex that cry throughout the night. Parents who kill their kids, at whatever age, should be prosecuted for first-degree murder. If that sends infanticidal moms — and a few dads — to death row, that would be tough but fair. In a just world, Melissa Drexler would not be home sipping eggnog, but in a jail cell awaiting a dance with the state executioner.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.


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