Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

SLED embodied

Posted by Chris on March 4, 2009

This is part of my Roe-tradictions series.  Read the intro.

SLED is an acronym popularized by a pro-life apologist named Scott Klusendorf. It stands for Size, Level of Development, Environment, and Degree of Dependency.  He asserts that these are the only differences between a newborn baby and a fetus and argues therefore that both should have equal moral status.

The following news from 2/7/09 in Florida brings focus to the Environment argument.

Doctor loses license in live birth abortion case

A doctor’s license was revoked Friday in the case of a teenager who planned to have an abortion but instead gave birth to a baby she says was killed when clinic staffers put it into a plastic bag and threw it in the trash.

According to Florida law, “A fetus born alive cannot be put to death even if its mother intended to have an abortion.”

If you’ve read my ethics introduction you can see how fun this is for me. First, I detect in myself an intellectually jovial attitude. I want to stop and make sure we acknowledge the tragedy of what happen and not dehumanize and make an example of it. I grieve that this woman went to have an abortion and rejoice that a miracle saved her from going through with such an act. Unfortunately, for all involved, this miracle was unexpected and people panicked. I do not think that the nurses there would ever plan to murder a child nor do I make the claim that abortion clinics in general favor this kind of action. However, justice needs to be done and I hope that Dr. Renelique not only is not granted an appeal for his Dr license but also that people are prosecuted because murder demands justice.

That being said, this touches on several of my ethics principles. First, motives. The Florida Law talks about intentions. They don’t matter once the fetus is born.  Since abortion is legal in this country for any reason and at any time (a combination of Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood), intentions cannot matter before the fetus is born.  

This doesn’t bother me because I’d argue that, since motives matter, the intention to abort a child is wrong in the first place. So, Florida is saying that a fetus (a non-alive thing) that somehow becomes alive must stay alive. Moments before, if it dies, okay. Moments after, if it comes out, save it. This baby was in need of serious medical help. They didn’t burn it with chemicals, or stab it, as they would’ve done in the womb—so it was not an act of commission, but omission that they wish to prosecute.

So the Florida law must mean that the medical professionals are obligated to do everything to keep alive a child born alive, even the product of a botched abortion if the fetus is barely hanging on. Literally, seconds or minutes between the abortion attempt and the delivery and the legality changes! This leads into another of my principles, human rights contradictions. The issue of time there is one of them.

To come back to SLED, what the Florida Law is likely responding to is an environmental change.  We turn a blind eye to what happens in the womb, which is considered a right to privacy issue because it is the women’s body (and under current law and public opinion, justifiably so). But we are also people that are moved by imagery, and the thought and idea of a delivered baby being abandoned makes us all cringe on the inside. Girls at proms abandon babies in the bathroom and become national news. Moms drown their kids in a lake and blame a black car thief and the story is national news for months. We are sensitive to this.

All I’m saying is, to be consistent, we should be concerned about both. In this specific situation, either this doctor and his office should be excused for disposing of the live baby or they should be criminals for what they were attempting to do in aborting the kid.

*The response of the philosopher is the most consistent from a pro-abortion rights perspective. They might say that we can commit infanticide until the age of 2 or so, when the baby obtains moral consciousness. For more info, read Peter Singer, a philosopher and animal rights activist that has led this intellectual movement.

**For a more biased account of this tragedy, read this article at Town Hall. It has a much funnier and crass way of saying what I said: In abortion doctrine, when a “tumor of the womb” passes through the birth canal into the open air, it suddenly becomes a living child. This Miracle of Transpostvagination is a great mystery…

***The day after I posted this a friend sent me a link to another CNN news story. In an effort to be as intellectually honest as possible and to consider all angles, I’d like to link to and quote it.  This article gives more of a defense of the abortion clinic, including the following information from an unnamed “expert”: ” ‘the standard of care for a premature infant delivered at less than 23 weeks is not to attempt resuscitation,’ so even if the baby had been born at a hospital, no measures would have been undertaken to save it, according to the affidavit.”


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