Life Should Be Valued, Not Neglected
By Bob Terry
It was one of the most disgusting and disturbing news stories I have ever heard. A report by the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH), commissioned by the British government, found that in one year, 66 children had been born alive and simply left to die after botched abortions.
One of the babies breathed on its own for 10 hours, but its health needs were ignored by British doctors and nurses who left the infant to die. About half of the 66 babies breathed unaided for an hour before dying.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends that infants born alive after an attempted abortion should have their hearts stopped by lethal injection. Presumably this is to reduce physical suffering. But in these cases, the injections were not given, because the infants’ deaths were “inevitable,” CEMACH’s chief executive said.
Ironically euthanasia is against the law in Great Britain. The fact that babies can be euthanized must mean that babies born alive as a result of failed abortions are not considered as legal persons.
A prominent British obstetrician said there is concern that some abortions are being performed for problems such as a cleft palate or clubfeet, conditions that could be corrected in childhood.
He also noted that medical advances make it increasingly possible for even those born after just 22 weeks in the womb to survive. About a quarter of the babies who were left to die were aborted after their 22nd week or later in the pregnancy.
A commonly accepted practice
These 66 cases were documented in hospitals in England and Wales during 2005. That indicates that the occurrences are not rare or unusual as some thought. Rather the mistreatment of babies born after failed abortions is a commonly accepted practice in Great Britain’s medical profession.
Perhaps the callousness toward these babies grows out of the disregard for life indicated by abortion statistics in that country. In 2006, Great Britain had the highest rate of abortion of any European nation. According to statistics, 22.3 percent of all pregnancies in that nation end in abortion. And the number of abortions continues to grow.
One writer recently observed that what was supposed to be reserved as a “last resort” has morphed into “the situation we have in Britain today where tens of thousands of women…treat abortion as just another means of contraception—as freely available and readily accessible as the Morning-After Pill.”
If a society is so thoughtless about life in the womb, it should not be surprising that babies born alive following abortions are left to die.
Lest readers feel such a thing could not happen in the United States, it should be remembered that nearly six years ago, Congress passed and President Bush signed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. This law ensures that infants born alive, no matter their stage of development, are entitled to the full protection of the law. Prior to that time, instances of neglect like those recently reported in Great Britain were occurring in the nation.
Again one must point to the low regard for life in the womb as a contributing cause. While the abortion rate in the United States is not as high as Great Britain, it is still a national tragedy. The rate is 16 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 years, according to statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control. Since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973, more than 48.5 million legal abortions have been performed in the U.S., according to the National Right to Life organization.
Alabama’s rate is lower than the national figure. Alabama residents have 11 abortions for every 1,000 women. The statewide figure jumps to 12 when one adds in the nonresidents who have abortions in Alabama. According to reports, 15.2 percent of abortions performed in Alabama are for nonresidents. For the last year of record, that took the abortion total from 10,359 for residents to a total of 11,370.
In Great Britain, a backlash to abortion on demand is beginning to develop. Recent research indicates 68 percent of people want to make abortion law tougher and reduce the upper limit of abortions from 24 weeks to around 13 weeks. Seventy-two percent of women think abortion limits should be lowered to around 13 weeks.
Cherishing God’s first gift
This social pressure is forcing Parliament to revisit the Abortion Act, first adopted in 1967. At the very least, the members of Parliament can act to protect the welfare of babies born alive following abortion attempts.
In this nation, debate over the role of abortion continues. Yet the teaching of the Bible is clear. God’s first gift to creation is life. Our responsibility, our opportunity is to accept this good gift, which comes from the hand of God.
Life is to be valued at all stages.
This article is reprinted from the February 28, 2008, issue of The Alabama Baptist, the newspaper of the Alabama Baptist State Convention.