Last week, one of the most liberal constituencies in the United States got a reminder of the moral cost associated with blind support for abortion on demand. When an out-of-control car in Park Slope, Brooklyn, struck Tony Award–winning actress Ruthie Ann Miles and her family, it took the life of her five-year-old daughter, Abigail and a friend’s one-year-old infant who was in a stroller. But the casualties were not limited to Ms. Miles’ non-fatal injuries and those two children. At the time of the incident the actress was 39 weeks pregnant. Despite the efforts of her doctors, Miles’s unborn daughter, Sophia Rosemary, died.
The errant driver, however won’t be charged with an additional count of vehicular homicide for Ms. Miles’s baby. Owing to a loophole in existing legislation, New York state law, unlike that of most other states, refuses to treat unborn children as human beings who can be murdered. The reason why this loophole hasn’t been closed is simple. The “pro-choice” lobby in Albany enforces strict adherence to their demands that legislation should not give even tacit endorsement of the notion that unborn children are deserving of the protection of the law.
In this respect, pro-abortion groups such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood are very similar to the National Rifle Association. Just as the NRA opposes even the most anodyne and popular gun-control measures because they think giving an inch in that direction would start a slippery slope leading to a repeal of the Second Amendment, so, too, does the pro-abortion lobby oppose anything, no matter how widely supported, that might give comfort to the notion that life begins at conception.
Yet even in a place as liberal as New York, the notion that an unborn child is just a collection of cells that can be discarded runs up against the moral conundrum presented by modern science. Today’s medicine has made great progress in allowing premature babies to live outside the womb. (In 2015, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that given adequate care, such babies have a fair chance of survival at the age of 22 weeks or older.) This alone may not have persuaded very many on the left to back reasonable proposals banning late term abortion. The advent of sonograms and other medical advances that enable us to see that children in the womb as living human beings, however, does influence the way people think about the unborn. But only when, as was the case with Ms. Miles’s baby, they are wanted.
The widespread sympathy for the actress’s loss ought to impact the way we think about abortion. On the one hand, it’s easy for ordinary New Yorkers who consider themselves, “pro-choice” to feel Ms. Miles’s anguish, since they likely consider any wanted baby to be a human life deserving of the state’s protection against errant drivers or anyone else. Yet a parent who wished to terminate her pregnancy, even at that a late stage, would have the support of the powerful pro-abortion lobby. As is obvious from most of the coverage of the debate over a referendum to lift the ban on abortion in Ireland, any effort to depict the issue as a moral conundrum is often rejected out of hand.
After the landslide victory for a 2015 pro-gay rights referendum In Ireland, the assumption among progressives was that another referendum lifting the prohibition on abortion there would be passed just as easily. But as the New York Times reported in a feature published on Tuesday, that isn’t the way it’s playing out. Though the “yes” side in favor of abortion may win, the vote appears to be close and the “no’s” may yet prevail.
On first inspection, the only explanations that the article can provide for this anomaly reflect the prejudices of so-called progressives: the still potent power of an anachronistic Catholic church, an unhealthy lack of interest in discussing sex and sexual health and misogyny. Yet even it acknowledges that many in Ireland consider abortion to be morally problematic. While “live and let live” attitudes have radically altered attitudes toward gay rights (Ireland currently has a gay prime minister) in recent decades, the notion that the only victims deserving of notice when abortion is discussed are women who wish to rid themselves of their pregnancy has not drowned out concerns about the lives of unborn babies.
That’s the point about the death of Sophia Rosemary that the abortion lobby wishes to ignore. One needn’t be a supporter of the pro-life cause to note how different attitudes can be about some unborn children. If many in New York City instinctively understand that baby Sophia’s life was deserving of protection, then the same uneasy feeling many are experiencing in Ireland also exists here in the United States.
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio initially attempted to deflect outrage about what happened to Ms. Miles and her family by increasing the already extensive rules about driver safety. This effort has already flopped. A proposal to extend the law’s protection to the unborn if they are viable outside the womb while still protecting doctors and access to abortion services is now under debate in the New York state legislature. While the odds are still heavily stacked against anything that offends the abortion lobby, the mere discussion has to worry NARAL and Planned Parenthood. If the campaign to ensure the right to abortion on demand even for viable fetuses requires allowing baby Sophia’s killer to elude justice, that is a problem that will leave many uneasy — even in one of the most liberal cities in the world.