Modern-day infanticide in Maryland?
Erin Hawley | Understand what is at stake in that state’s proposed legislation
The U.S. Supreme Court may be poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, and that has pro-abortion advocates in some states rushing to enshrine the right to an abortion in law. This rush reveals the dark philosophy underlying abortion rights. It reveals just how far pro-abortion advocates would like to go. Recent legislative proposals even legalize infanticide.
If passed, Maryland Senate Bill 669 would disallow any penalty—or even investigation—into early infant deaths. It prohibits the investigation of a “perinatal death related to a failure to act.” Perinatal is defined as the period between the 22nd week and 28 days postpartum. It is sometimes defined as extending to the first-year postpartum.
Understand what this means. The plain text of the bill legalizes the conscious decision to let a child die. Spontaneous abortions after 22 weeks are rare and not easily seen as “related to a failure to act.” Thus, the bill contemplates the legalization of intentional infant death through neglect. And the bill goes so far as to preclude any investigations into perinatal infant death and to give a person the right to sue for civil damages if investigated for causing a perinatal death through neglect.
This raises the question of just who needs protection here? Maryland’s bill is all the more haunting because there are other alternatives. Every state has a safe-haven adoption law that allows women to put their infant children up for adoption, no questions asked. And thousands of families are waiting to adopt young children.
Sadly, Maryland is not alone in considering such radical pro-abortion proposals. Former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam once suggested that a baby who survived an abortion should be kept comfortable until the physician and mother decided whether or not to keep the child alive. And 44 of 47 Democrats in the U.S. Senate blocked a federal law that would have made it unlawful to kill a child who survived an abortion.
The oral argument in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that may overturn Roe, spotlights how callous our society has become to the destruction of innocent life. Focusing just on the idea that abortion is purportedly necessary to alleviate the burdens of motherhood (and not pregnancy), Justice Amy Coney Barrett noted the widespread availability of adoption. The Biden administration viewed adoption as insufficient: It has the consequence of “forcing a woman” to “decide whether to give a child up for adoption”—“an incredibly difficult choice”—and by implication less difficult than the decision to kill that same child.
Sadly, the idea that it is morally acceptable to let a child die from neglect is a logical consequence of a pro-abortion policy that discounts vulnerable life. Science now proves that life begins at conception and that an unborn baby is fully alive and fully human. By just 12 weeks, a baby has fully taken on the human form. He or she can move, stretch, and smile. All of his or her internal organs are functioning. Many states now allow abortions up until the moment before birth. But for some Maryland legislators, even that is not enough.
As Christians, we must return to our history and protect both infants and the unborn. In When Children Became People, historian O.M. Bakke argues that Christianity invented modern childhood. Roman culture at the time was strictly hierarchical. Male Roman citizens were considered the most valuable and possessed the most rights. Others were considered less valuable: women, slaves, and, least of all, children.
In ancient Rome, children were considered nonpersons. They were considered insufficiently valuable to possess any rights. Authors described children as being more akin to plants than humans. And fathers had an absolute right even to kill their children. The practice of expositio was common—and unwanted infants were abandoned to die (or to be “rescued” into slavery).
Christianity revolutionized Roman culture and taught the intrinsic value of each child. Christians eventually made it unthinkable for society to abandon and exploit its most vulnerable members. Christianity’s love and respect for children go back to Christ Himself. When the disciples tried to drive children away from a gathering, Jesus let them sit at His feet. He upended Roman culture by explaining that children—those the world regarded as valueless—were the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And He gave us a powerful incentive to care for the youngest members of our society, saying, “Whoever welcomes [a child] in my name, welcomes me.”
The Maryland bill seeks to statutorily legalize modern-day expositio—the murder of unwanted infants by exposure. It hearkens back to times in which only the most powerful were understood to have a right to life. At that time, children were considered nonpersons. It is time to return to Jesus’s admonitions about the value of every human life. It is time for another cultural revolution.
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