The Corner

Laughable Distinctions on Gosnell: From the Defense, From Planned Parenthood, and More

Today in Philadelphia, the judge complimented the jurors on the serious way in which they deliberated on what he called a “difficult case.” But it is one of the wonders of the time that our legal culture has produced such a cloud of jargon and slogans surrounding this matter of abortion that the judge thinks it a “difficult” case to detect homicide in a surgeon snipping the spinal cords of babies wriggling, out of the womb, after surviving an abortion. The defense counsel thought he had scored a decisive point when he induced one witness to hold back from an avowal of “medical certainty” that the baby was killed while out of the womb. But this defense recalled George Tyrell’s famous complaint that if one accused the Jesuits of killing three men and a dog, they would produce the dog alive. The fact that a doctor was intimidated from pronouncing on the time of death of any particular child could not deflect ordinary folk from seeing that there was no point in snipping the necks of babies, and inflicting gratuitous suffering, if the baby were already dead.

What is pathetic and laughable is the statement put out by Planned Parenthood — as though Gosnell’s acts were simply an assault on the pregnant women, and not the babies. But quite as implausible may be the comments of conservative commentators who feign to believe that there is something different and more objectionable in a late-term abortions. What is killed is precisely the same, distinct human being. There was nothing in this grisly killing that Planned Parenthood would have opposed five minutes, five hours, five days, five months before the same baby emerged from the womb.

Hadley Arkes is the Ney Professor of Jurisprudence Emeritus at Amherst College, the founder of the James Wilson Institute on Natural Rights & the American Founding, and the architect of the Born-Alive Infants Protection Acts.

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