'Whether You're Human Depends On How I Feel About You'

October 1994By Paul C. Fox

Paul C. Fox, a member of the Hutterian Brethren, is a medical doctor in Farmington, Pennsylvania.

If anyone still doubts that the U.S. judicial system has taken leave of its senses, let him consider the fol­lowing. The California Supreme Court issued a ruling in May (People v. Davis) declaring that the killing of a fetus -- even a fetus that is not yet viable -- during the commission of a felony maybe considered first-degree murder. At the same time, the court was careful to ex­clude abortion from its decision.

Thus, a pregnant woman in California may, per­fectly legally, walk into an abortion clinic and "termi­nate her pregnancy," which of course means that she, through the physician, is causing the death of the fetus in her womb. She may do so well beyond the stage at which the fetus is considered viable, and this act is still legal. Under the law, this is not murder; it is not even homicide. The mother's "right to privacy" completely annihilates any "right to life" the fetus might have.

Yet if the mother is assaulted, and as a result of that assault the fetus dies, it is murder. Even if the mother herself suffers no serious injury, even if the fe­tus is not yet viable, the crime is murder, and the per­petrator is liable to the death penalty.

Until now it has always been presumed that the victim of a murder is a person. There may indeed be penalties for wanton killing of animals, or even of trees, but not even many animal-rights activists would de­mand that such killing be punished as murder. One can only conclude, therefore, that in the minds of the California Supreme Court a fetus is a person -- but only conditionally.

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