Abortion Is More Than 'Murder'
November 2005By Richard Stith
Richard Stith, who teaches at Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana, is a member of the national boards of Consistent Life and University Faculty for Life (UFL). This article was adapted from a presentation at the UFL's annual meeting in June 2005.
Suppose we were to find out that over a quarter of the nation's grandparents are killed each year by their teenaged grandchildren, usually through deliberate dismemberment. Wouldn't responses such as "This is murder!" somehow understate the matter? Wouldn't this response be even more inadequate if grandparent-killing had been declared to be a constitutional right?
Yet such a reaction to the current right to kill unborn children throughout pregnancy ("murder") is about as hard-hitting as one can find in most prolife writing. We need to say more. Words such as "murder" inadequately express the full horror of abortion, just as they would be insufficient as expressions of our shock at the mutilation of grandparents.
The main linguistic problem is that the word "murder" conjures up only a single lethal act against an adult stranger. When a murder is particularly horrific in technique or circumstance, we append adjectives to it. By calling abortions simply "murder," we seem to place them in the ordinary, non-horrific category.
Abortion does, in fact, involve extraordinary violence -- deliberate dismemberment -- while the child is still alive. Indeed, that is precisely why Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens upheld the right to partial-birth abortion in the year 2000. They said it is "simply irrational" to object to suctioning out a fetus's brains partway through birth when the alternative -- standard intra-uterine abortion -- is, in their words, at least as "brutal," "gruesome," "cruel," and "painful" as abortion during delivery.
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