view from central park

Is the baby crying inside?


Probably the purest image in the world is that kidney-bean shaped baby in utero, cozily nestled in its mother’s womb. When I heard of the new abortion law passed in New York this week, in my mind’s eye that sacrosanct image was now punctured with blood.

It is now legal for a woman to abort her baby all the way through the final trimester. Performing an abortion is no longer limited to doctors: from here on in, in New York State, any healthcare practitioner can perform an abortion.

Disturbing, to say the least.

To add salt to the wound, one of the women involved in the legislation was quoted as saying that its passage was a dream come true. I was appalled.

Third trimester. A full-term baby can be disposed of, as if it were an inanimate object. How is that any different from murder? What’s the difference between nine months in utero and nine months outside of the womb? Nine months is nine months.

And the dissonance. Preterm babies are being born earlier and earlier, saved by prenatal care. These babies go on to survive and thrive.

If an early-delivered fetus is a life worth fighting for, and a life saved, what changes, biologically, deem another fetus less human enough for its abortion not to be deemed murder?

When does life start? If a baby in utero is fully developed, with its own facial features, hair, hands and toes and a heart, and can live on its own, how is killing it not murder?

How is this new law not an accessory to infanticide?

Just because something is legal does not make it right. And when we think of the kind of society we want to have, we think of standing for what is right — or at the very least, for being a voice for the voiceless: a baby.

Obviously, choosing to abort, at any point, is one of the most ethically and emotionally complex conversations. But that is a separate discussion. And Jewish tradition and theology approaches it differently from the Christian faith. But it is such an emotionally fraught topic, no matter what we believe intellectually.

As I process the news, one thing I keep wondering about, regardless of one’s political or religious views, is the one thing we all realize: By nine months, a baby is a baby. It is as developed as it will ever be. It can feel pain.

None of us would dare prick a day-old baby with a pin. Yet how does the baby feel whatever abortion method is used? The first sound we associate with a live baby is its crying. When it’s being aborted, is the baby crying inside?

Abortion should be for difficult situations where carrying a baby to term is not possible. Instead, in our culture, it seems to have become another form of birth control.

But as I kept thinking about it, I wondered, what if someone is struggling with a fetus who is ill, has decided to keep it, but then later in the pregnancy has a change of mind and feels the baby is something they can’t handle? What if a danger to a mother only presents itself later in a pregnancy? Wouldn’t that constitute a medical emergency, and under a doctor’s care the mother’s life would take precedence, whatever procedures it might entail?

I decide to take a closer look at the law.

“The law for the first time allows abortions after the 24 weeks mark to protect the mother’s health or in case where the fetus won’t survive.”

So later-term abortions are regulated, limited in scope to those two extenuating circumstances. Somehow all the articles I read neglected to mention that.

As a woman who does believe in the right to make decisions about reproductive health, I was glad to read that.

This actually fits, in part, with Jewish law: In rare instances, when an agonizing situation threatens the life of the mother, physically or psychologically, the life of the mother trumps that of the baby.

To think of the intimately harrowing situations that couples endure together, or a woman might face alone, is so profoundly painful.

Instead, there is this detached discourse, emotionally and ethically glib, about late-term abortion. You would never know the emotional and ethical struggles this law unleashes. Its passage is simply described as “a dream come true.”

It’s more like a nightmare.

It’s one thing when something so difficult is necessary, gut-wrenchingly necessary, but it has been mischaracterized and distorted to mitigate the emotional and ethical impact of it.

Sometimes, painfully, for various reasons, abortion might be necessary. There are times when it is the right decision to make. But the culture of abortion in the United States is wrong. The staggering numbers are horrendous, nothing to be proud of. The lightness with which abortion is discussed is terrible and speaks volumes about our society.

With the procedure no longer limited to doctors, the system may be set up for abuse. While the law qualifies and limits when a late-term abortion can be legally performed, the cavalier attitude toward abortion may cause reckless decisions in situations that don’t meet the law’s definition.

A mother’s womb, growing new human life, truly is the holiest of sanctuaries.

In today’s progressive culture where “safe space” is an obsession, to the point of limiting people’s right and ability to express their opinions lest someone be offended, there is dissonance now.

Because if there’s one space in the world that should absolutely be deemed the safest, it ought to be that of a voiceless baby in its mother’s womb.

Copyright Intermountain Jewish News