It will take a nation to help
the mother of Baby Doe

By Deborah Danielski

A serious issue facing all of America recently came home to Hannibal, Mo. when the body of a newborn infant was found -- stuffed in a trash bag and tossed onto a vacant lot, like so much garbage.

"She obviously needs help," a Hannibal police officer said of "Baby Doe's" mother. That response shows far more compassion and understanding than is displayed in most such cases of alleged infanticide. "How could anyone do that to their own child?" is more often the horrified response as mothers and, in at least one case a father, are hauled off to jail to face charges of "murder." Baby Doe's mother -- and hundreds of others across America who kill their newborn children -- "obviously" do need help. But what kind of "help" will truly help these young women?

How do you explain to a terrified, confused teenager that paying a doctor to kill her child before he or she is born is perfectly legal and acceptable, while killing it herself a moment after the birth is murder? How do you explain to a troubled teen that the hundreds of "fetuses" stuffed into trash bags at legal abortion clinics -- are less human and therefore their lives are less precious -- than her own "Baby Doe"?

A few weeks before the infant was found in Hannibal, an entire nation had waited with bated breath for a jury to decide the fate of convicted terrorist Timothy McVeigh. Images of the carnage attributed to McVeigh's actions remained vivid in our minds -- particularly the maimed and slaughtered children carried out of the wreckage. Most of America rejoiced when McVeigh received the death penalty. Even that hardly seemed just punishment for so heinous a crime.

McVeigh's sentence will not be immediately carried out, however. When considering the execution of convicted criminals, the courts insist that every possible action be taken to ensure the conviction was appropriate, that an innocent person will not be put to death. So, there are appeals, and more appeals. Ten to 20 years often pass before an execution is carried out. And when it is, we will again take every possible measure to ensure it is carried out in a humane manner. We are, after all, a civilized society.

And yet, in this same "civilized" society, at least 4,000 perfectly innocent young Americans are quite inhumanely executed every single day -- mercilessly torn from what should have been the safest place in the world -- their mothers' wombs.

We recoiled in horror as we looked upon the carnage inflicted by McVeigh's violence in Oklahoma City. Chances are, we've never seen what happens to an unborn child in the violent act of abortion. We aren't shown pictures of the tiny arms and legs, with perfectly formed finger and toe nails, mercilessly fed like table scraps into abortuary garbage disposals.

We close our eyes and minds to the tiny, beating hearts, silenced forever in a moment's time, the lost potential of 4,000 small, functioning brains stopped before they've had the chance to communicate even one loving thought to the world, the beautiful little blue, green or brown eyes that will never see the majesty of an oak tree, or the warmth of a human smile.

Since 1973, 25 to 30 million unborn babies have been murdered in their mothers' wombs. Their only "crime" was being unwanted. They had no chance for appeal, no opportunity to prove their worth to society. Their own mothers and fathers rarely asked whether their sentences would be carried out in a humane manner.

How do we rationalize this dichotomy of justice to the mother of Baby Doe?

When a society encourages expectant mothers to undergo diagnostic tests and to abort any unborn child that (in a doctor's opinion) may not be "perfect," when euthanasia is encouraged if the care of elderly parents becomes too burdensome on their families, when a society takes into its own hands the "right" to determine whose life is worthwhile and whose is not -- how do you teach a child that she does not have that same "right?" Baby Doe's mother is quite understandably confused.

Until we once again recognize that every life is precious and every living moment worthwhile, until we once again acknowledge children as our nation's most valuable resource -- until the concept of an "unwanted" child becomes as illogical as that of an "unwanted" oil field -- we will never be able to truly "help" the mother of "Baby Doe" or to prevent the "Culture of Death" from consuming us all.

Deborah Danielski 1997