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Laura Perrins: Heroic efforts to save a premature baby shed no light on the morality of late-term abortion


An already very pro-abortion American woman, Jessica Valenti, has written in the Guardian that after the early delivery of her baby at 28 weeks gestation following pre-eclampsia, “she is even more pro-choice” than before.

This person serves on the Board of Directors of NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) Pro-Choice America, a body that has- consistently opposed limits to late-term abortions in the United States. Now I am not too sure how you can become even more pro-abortion than be on Board of Directors of NARAL Pro-Choice America, but whatever it is Jessica Valenti is it. Make sure to give her the badge.

In this rather startling piece she proposes there should be no legislation at all to govern when or why a women may procure an abortion – it should be a completely law and rule free zone as “pregnancy, abortion and birth are too complicated for assigning strict moral designations, let alone to legislate”.

Well, so is pretty much every area governed by the law. In fact, the more complicated things are, the more legal clarity is needed not less.

Her article at its core fails to distinguish between intentionally taking the life of a foetus; and, treating a pregnant mother with a life-threatening condition by delivering the baby pre-term while doing everything reasonable to care for the baby. The latter is very different from ending a pregnancy by abortion, which requires the intentional taking of innocent life. We can see how great the distinction is by examining what occurs in practice.

A pregnancy may end or be ended a number of different ways; natural miscarriage; safe delivery of a full-term baby; delivery of a pre-term baby in order to treat the mother and child; or, by an abortion. It is only in the last case that the life of the unborn child is intentionally ended. In this, there is no confusion, or “complication”. You either want the foetus to die or not.

Delivery of a pre-term baby (yes it is a baby once born alive) by Caesarean section to save the life of the mother while also treating that baby in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with a “tremendous amount of medical intervention”, which Ms Valenti’s daughter benefited from, is not an abortion. Even if the premature baby subsequently dies, this would not suddenly turn it into an abortion. This is in contrast to a late-term abortion which necessitates dismembering the foetus in uterus and removing the foetus limb by limb.

Similarly delivering a baby pre-term to save the life of the mother and placing the baby in an incubator to save its life is very different to using an ultrasound to locate the heart of an unborn child while still in the womb and injecting it with potassium chloride to kill it.

In fact the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has made specific recommendations about the use of feticide by injecting potassium chloride before medical abortion in cases of fetal abnormality to specifically avoid the possibility of a live birth. So there is no doubt that the intent is to kill the foetus and failure to do so would be considered not merely unfortunate but possibly negligent.

Now, the moral, legal and ethical questions around whether late-term abortions should be permitted and in what circumstances are complicated. That is true. But what an abortion actually is, is not complicated – it is the intentional killing of a foetus.

If your position is that a mother should have right to terminate the life of unborn child up until birth as a mater of liberty or equality or any other basis then that is your position. Defend it – plenty of others do. But do not dress it up with nonsense arguments about the intentional life taking being “complicated.” It is not. If you think however that it is a life worth taking, just say so, as Jessica Valenti clearly believes is the case.

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