What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more


Page Peter Singer. Or Steven Pinker. They ought to live in Virginia.

And I like Virginia. But this is horrible.

I just learned from this story that under Virginia law a mother may commit active, violent infanticide against her newborn child and not be charged with a single thing. To quote a police investigator,

In the state of Virginia as long as the umbilical cord is attached and the placenta is still in the mother, if the baby comes out alive the mother can do whatever she wants to with that baby to kill it...She could shoot the baby, stab the baby. As long as it’s still attached to her in some form by umbilical cord or something it’s no crime in the state of Virginia.

Nor is this just a "loophole," as the article calls it. How do I know? Well, for one thing, if someone else does one of those things to the child, he can be prosecuted. That sure looks like the exception for maternal infanticide had to have been crafted deliberately. But there's more to it than that. The prosecutors have had a previous case like this and approached state lawmakers to try to close the so-called loophole, without success. Why? You guessed it: It was "too close to the abortion issue."

Now, this is a straightforward case of active infanticide. We are not talking about making "medical treatment decisions." We are not even talking about labor-induction abortion followed by refusal to render aid. This child was actively suffocated by his mother.

Pro-lifers have been saying for many years that according to the pro-abortion mindset, whether a child is legally a person with a right to life depends entirely on his mother's subjective desires. As this article eloquently explains, the Virginia legal set-up makes this claim a reality with a vengeance.

Virginia lawmakers should be shamed into moving quickly to change the law. I think the prosecutors should name the lawmakers who said this was "too close to the abortion issue" and refused to act. And I think pro-lifers should tell the world: This is what being "pro-choice" does to your mind, to your soul, to your moral sense. This is the world of infanticide, courtesy of the culture of death. Choose your side.

HT: Mike Liccione

Comments (36)

Well, I would argue, how is this different than abortion, except for the location of the infant? If abortion is to be tolerated because the issue is control of one's own property, then I would argue that it's inconsistent to take the position that abortion is acceptable but killing someone inside of one's house is not.

If abortion is to be tolerated because of attachment, is it then Ok for me to superglue my foot to someone's body and then kill them?

Or if the issue is that another body is inside of mine, can I place a victim's finger inside my mouth and then kill them legally?

No matter how the argument is phrased, it seems to me, abortion isn't justifiable without also justifying the killing of innocent adults without due process of law.

I know it's been awhile since last I've visited this blog, but what's become of the eloquent Kevin or the unflappable Zippy? Even the latter's name no longer appears in the authors' section!

Apparently, this law dates back to a time when women who had given birth to stillborn babies were occasionally accused of murder; that only a truly separated, living and breathing baby could be an action for murder if it was dead or killed.

Obviously, the state had the opportunity to amend this law on the basis of modern science and forensics and chose not to. Damn them to hell.

Frankly, I despair of my nation and people every day. I see no hope when so many have lost their souls to selfishness and indifference. WE are a lost people and nation.

In her book Mother Nature, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy makes a convincing case that infanticide (usually by abandonment) is the evolved method by which humans regulate family size under particular ecological situations (e.g. when a newborn threatens the survival of siblings, by diverting resources).

Assuming this is correct, it is not, of course, a moral argument.

However, it does potentially explain why there is not a universal, spontaneous and overwhelming moral revulsion against abortion (and infanticide); and why Roman Catholics need to use rhetoric (as well as logic and references to revelation) in order to argue that abortion - and indeed infanticide - is forbidden and sinful.

Since these were probably evolved human behaviours, any forbidden-ness is not spontaneously apparent to humans qua humans.

Surprised to see this coming out of Virginia. I guess the born alive infant protection act doesn't apply there.

Abortion is infanticide in the womb. Infanticide is abortion outside the womb.

I never really considered that a baby's umbilical lifeline might serve as the rope with which to hang him.

Quite depressing stuff.

BGC, I am not sure if I am misreading you or what, but the apology that it seems your making, or at least defending, for those that would not shy away from infanticide I find repulsive. In your wording, one could quite easily (removing the sections in parenthesis. substitute 'rape' for 'infanticide' and have before them an equally appalling defense for rape.

... makes a convincing case that rape is the evolved method by which humans regulate family size under particular ecological situations... Assuming this is correct, it is not, of course, a moral argument.

However, it does potentially explain why there is not a universal, spontaneous and overwhelming moral revulsion against rape; and why Roman Catholics need to use rhetoric (as well as logic and references to revelation) in order to argue that rape is forbidden and sinful. Since these were probably evolved human behaviours, any forbidden-ness is not spontaneously apparent to humans qua humans.

There you have it. And it's ridiculous. Need I remind you that we're talking about murdering babies? Infanticide, as is rape, is plainly wrong. Those that do not see it do not have an apology from evolution, they have a broken moral compass.

Whoops. 'your' should read 'you're'

Oh, I can play that game.

Investigators said because the mother and baby were still connected by the umbilical cord and placenta, state law does not consider the baby to be a separate life.

Then either charge her with bodily mutilation and put her in psychiatric care or charge her with attempted suicide since she was cutting off the air supply to a part of her that was breathing (apparently, she had grown another set of lungs that just accidentally happen to emerge outside of her) and then either put her away or.

As for this being evolved behavior are we living on a planet that has only one family? Anyone with a functioning neocortex would hand the baby over to someone else if they couldn't care for it. That is evolution at work, since evolution tends to foster social organization as well as individual development. Did Hardy take any of this into account?

There ought to be a secret panel of grandmothers hidden in a room in the state capitol that can call these errant lawmakers in an administer the tongue-lashing they deserve and then send them back, without supper, to write a law that makes sense.

The Chicken

Dangling "Or" alert.

Should read:

then put her away.

I had something much harsher to say, but I decided not to say it.

The Chicken

It's stories like these that make me understand why Jonah went outside Nineveh and sat down to watch.


Sorry, I was under the impression that commenters on this blog were civil and intelligent.

I am talking about science. Do you have any comments on the science?

I am trying to explain why you apparently need to say 'murdering babies' - you say 'murdering' because everyone already spontaneously regards murder as wrong (probably for evolutionary reasons); but people do _not_ feel this way about abortion in the same spontaneous and universal way (or esle there would not be such a polarized national debate) and this is why you need to link it to murder.

In hunter gatherer and some other societies they apparently do not think infanticide is evil. Or do you challenge this evidence?

But assuming it is true, that is interesting, don't you think? - worth thinking about and seeking an explanation for?

Or else you can just call me respulsive and ignore the science...

bgc, two can play at that game. Like, why do you "need" to pretend that science somehow shows us that smothering your full-term, newborn infant ain't so bad? Why do you "need" to start talking about abortion and ignoring the fact that, actually, lots of people _do_ have a spontaneous revulsion to legal, post-birth infanticide? That's why pro-lifers have found it so valuable to _link_ abortion to post-birth infanticide. This was a case of post-birth infanticide of a full-term infant. Why do you "need" to avoid talking about that?

As for evidence regarding what some other societies (which you don't name) think, since when is "science" on the side of the bandwagon fallacy?

Robert K was entirely civil. I could get a lot less civil. Get logical or don't bother me with your attempt to pervert science to the use of your own depraved ethics.

Sojourner, the Kevin you're talking about has stopped commenting here and (this is true), I don't know why. I have conjectures, but they are all just conjectures.

As for our beloved and esteemed Zippy, we are truly sad that he decided to quit blogging. He did so entirely, all at the same time, as you can see from the archives of his personal blog. We miss him terribly and would welcome him back enthusiastically.

Bill, as I've mentioned before, the federal BAIPA has no enforcement mechanism. The only possibility that has ever been suggested (by the architect of the act, Hadley Arkes) was for the federal government to threaten to withdraw federal funds from hospitals and other medical establishments that violated it. That was it. This woman murdered her child in her own home, and there is not a single thing the feds can do about it. The state _must_ write a law defining this as infanticide in law and getting rid of the nonsense about the child's being "attached" to the mother.


I don't see why objecting to infanticide (which by definition is murdering babies) is less civil, not more, than your insulting my intelligence. It's apparent that my point was lost.

For the record, I didn't call you repulsive. I called your apology for infanticide repulsive, as I would for a case that would defend rape. I'm not using murder in a rhetorical sense, I'm using it in a technical sense, that is, murder as unjustifiable killing. Strangling one's newborn child is not justifiable anymore than objecting to that is uncivil.

And your falling back to your so called position of scientific enlightenment is very strange. Science doesn't explain /that/ behaviors are wrong. Your can't test for the immorality of infanticide anymore than you can test which planet is better than another. a test might show that strangulation kills a baby, but it can't say if it is good or bad.

In hunter gatherer and some other societies they apparently do not think infanticide is evil. Or do you challenge this evidence?

That's not evidence; it's an assertion. But why would I need to challenge that? I don't know the answer to that, but I'll give you the point anyway. So what follows? In some societies people thought the earth was flat or that, as mentioned above, rape was permissible. It doesn't follow that because people believed either of these that they are right in doing so.

This story is a horrible thing to juxtapose against the Christmas story. One could almost hope that the woman were insane so that she would not be morally culpable.

How fitting the words of Isaiah 49: 14 - 25

But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me." "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. Your builders outstrip your destroyers, and those who laid you waste go forth from you. Lift up your eyes round about and see; they all gather, they come to you. As I live, says the LORD, you shall put them all on as an ornament, you shall bind them on as a bride does. "Surely your waste and your desolate places and your devastated land--surely now you will be too narrow for your inhabitants, and those who swallowed you up will be far away. The children born in the time of your bereavement will yet say in your ears: 'The place is too narrow for me; make room for me to dwell in.' Then you will say in your heart: 'Who has borne me these? I was bereaved and barren, exiled and put away, but who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; whence then have these come?'" Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders. Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame." Can the prey be taken from the mighty, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued? Surely, thus says the LORD: "Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken, and the prey of the tyrant be rescued, for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children.

The Chicken

I am talking about science. Do you have any comments on the science?

No you're not. You offered not a single bit of hard scientific data. The closest you came was alluding to the fact that someone wrote a book in which they argued that infanticide was an evolved behavior. What you've offered up here is extremely weak speculation of a philosophical nature, which you call science merely on the basis that it's reductionist.

Additionally, starting from the premise that humans are evolved, you could just as easily argue that literally *any* human behavior is an "evolved behavior" (unless you're claiming that some behaviors are evolved and some are created by God, but I'm guessing you're not). Just about any atrocious behavior you can name is or has been condoned in some societies, so that's a nonstarter too.

I think Robert K's point about rape is a good one. Not only to some cultures seem less bothered by rape than Western cultures, but one could even make an evolutionary argument for males' desire to spread their genes and subjugate rival tribes, blah, blah, if one wanted to. Even more widespread in the world is some degree or other of forced marriage and the treatment of women as chattel. I could even spin out an "evolutionary" advantage for the widespread, major big-time subjugation of women, and indeed a more _plausible_ evolutionary advantage than for infanticide, if I wanted to waste my time. But it would be unlikely that you would find a commentator who defends infanticide on evolutionary grounds who also defends the absolute subjugation of women on the same grounds.

Off-Topic: View From The Right appears to be down, with a message from the web host that suggests Lawrence Auster's site might have gotten shuttered for its political incorrectness. LA, if you read this, do you have any info on what's going on?

Nevermind, it's back.

"Since these were probably evolved human behaviours, any forbidden-ness is not spontaneously apparent to humans qua humans."

Apparently, it piggy-backed on the normative judgment that evolved human behaviors ought to provide warrant for moral judgments.

The claim that one ought to follow science is not a claim of science, but a claim about science. This means that you can't even get your project off the ground without smuggling in that which is non-science.

The attempt to banish "first philosophy" from academic discourse will work as well as trying to have language without grammar.


Apparently, it piggy-backed on the normative judgment that evolved human behaviors ought to provide warrant for moral judgments.

The implicit assumption behind these "evolved behavior" justifications is that if something is an evolved behavior then the person doing it can't help it - they're merely being passively controlled by their evolutionary programming rather than the action being the result of free will - and that it makes no sense to punish a person for something over which they have no control.

The problem is, if this true, it applies to all human actions, not just infanticide, unless the person making it is trying to argue that some of our choices are evolved automata and others the result of a transcendent free will. But they can't, because the reductionist assumptions they use to make the "evolved behavior" argument imply that none of our choices are free.

It's also worth noting that an "evolved behavior" for _generally_ not disapproving of infanticide is fairly obviously anti-selective. Maternal love and protectiveness towards a newborn child makes a lot more sense as a mechanism for passing on one's genetic information. And indeed we do find that there are very powerful biological bonding mechanisms between a mother and a newborn child, as any woman who has borne a child can attest.

So even the Pinker justification, to be something other than empirically ludicrous, needs the added assumption that we have "evolved" an ability to tell when this sort of lifeboat situation obtains, where the newborn child puts the "whole tribe" at risk or one's other children at vital risk or whatever. Yet the actual cases of contemporary infanticide in the context of which Pinker-style justifications are brought up don't actually meet that description. Obviously, this woman could have done many things other than murder her child which would not have involved the death of her tribe, herself, or her other children, and then her genetic material would have been peacefully passed down. So her _actual action_ was selectively a poor choice; she passed up a chance to have her genes duplicated for free by simply giving the child up for adoption, handing it in at a hospital, or something of that kind.

Aside from being morally monstrous, it is just really dumb to imply that somehow some women are evolutionarily programed to murder their newborn offspring at more or less random intervals, regardless of the other options open to them.

Wow, Lydia. What a terrible thing. Virginia has a history of being a very conservative state and has made me proud to be a Virginian often in the past. But the past few decades have seen quite a few waves of Liberalism sweep through the state government and those waves, even when the sweep back out, leave destructive after-effects.

I'm going to post something about this on my blog and will link back to this article. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

Hi, Rich,

One of the above commentators indicates that the law on the books may be an outdated law from the time when it was not possible to tell forensically if a woman had smothered her newborn or if it was born dead. I haven't had a chance to check up on that claim.

Of course, even if it's true, I think the "wave of liberalism" you're talking about came out in the reluctance of those lawmakers to change the law when asked to do so. If they had, this new case would have been able to be prosecuted.

That explanation doesn't make any sense. I'd think, and I guess I could be wrong, but wouldn't simply non prosecuting a woman with a dead newborn be more productive if foul play isn't suspected or evidenced, rather than prohibiting prosecution outright, even if the event was witnessed? Am I missing something?

Thanks for that clarification, Lydia. I have adjusted the introductory paragraph on my blogpost to reflect this.

I agree with what you said about the reluctance of the lawmakers to change the law when asked to do so. They need to pursue that again now because Virginia just voted in quite a few new Conservatives last month. They may find that they would get a different response this time. Although Jim Webb (D) is still our senator.

I agree, Robert, and that's why I want to investigate the claim that it was written this way for that reason at such an earlier time. It would have to have been a situation where prosecutors were getting overzealous and lawmakers wanted to rein them in or something, and even so, a _very_ clumsy and unfortunate way of doing so.

Mark Butterworth, if you're still reading the thread, what was your evidence on that? Was it just a conjecture?

I don't know how easy it's going to be actually to find out concretely when the law was passed originally.

I can't find any evidence on when the law in question was written, nor the text of the law to which the investigator is referring. Anyone who gets more concrete details, please do post them here.

The relevant state code, which contradicts the news story, was upheld by a federal appeals court in June 2009.

I saw that on Free Republic, Step2.

(Does it make you feel strange to be citing the same thing one of the Freepers cited? :-))

But since that obviously can't be the law the investigator is referring to, then where _is_ the law the investigator is referring to? I even thought for a moment that it was the final section (where it says that the mother cannot be prosecuted for any action of a physician in violation of the act) that the investigator had in mind. But that would make sense only if the whole rest of the act is taken to refer only to physicians, whereas it says "any person" right at the beginning.

Either there is some legislative or court interpretive history on that act which interprets it as not applying to the mother, or else there is some other act that is taken to supersede it to which the investigator is referring.

I really just don't believe that the investigator is simply _making up_ what he says. The only other possibility I can think of is that the earlier case occurred before the passage of this law (which was obviously historically intended--let's all admit it--to address PBA more than post-birth smothering by the mother) and that the investigators haven't caught up with the program.

However, I have now read that the governor is saying he's going to sign a new law ASAP to "close this loophole" and wants the legislature to send it to him in January, so that seems to mean that there really _is_ a legal situation with an exception for the mother.

Further insights welcome.


Your last point is excellent.

Okay, it took some digging around, but I finally found the court decision being used. It is Lane v. Commonwealth (1978), where a defendant claimed the baby did not cry, was not breathing, and did not move or open its eyes. There were no signs of violence or airway obstruction. The medical examiner was also unable to determine the cause of death. From her overturned conviction came the guidelines that prosecutors had to show that 1) the baby was born alive and established an independent and separate existence and 2) the baby's death was the result of defendant's conduct.

Given that the current law has a different definition of live birth, I'm not even convinced that Lane is able to used as a defense, because the guideline was intended to establish that the baby could have survived on its own, which simply is what live birth implies. Furthermore, I don't see how any of this would stop a prosecution based on the law I previously mentioned.

Step2, thanks. Right from the first I strongly doubted the claims of the "police investigator's" ideas on what can be prosecuted. It seemed much more likely that he was way, way out there and just about making it up on the spot.

Guys, I disagree that the investigator is making it up. Mistaken, perhaps, though even that I question. There would have to be major deceit going on here, because the story expressly says that the investigators attempted to get the law changed after a similar case and were told that it was "too close to the abortion issue." That's pretty obviously something relatively recent. It lies within the institutional memory of the prosecutors who wanted to prosecute _this_ case. They remember having tried to get specific lawmakers to change the situation after being blocked from prosecuting a similar case and being told that the lawmakers wouldn't do it. The investigator would have to be lying wholesale to make that up.

It seems to me just barely possible that that approach to lawmakers took place before the passage of the partial-birth infanticide law Step2 cites, and that somehow the prosecutors didn't get the memo that now they can go ahead. But if so, why does the governor seem to agree with them?

Step2, I appreciate your looking up the case and the guidelines. I wouldn't have known how to go about it.

I'm really wondering if the partial-birth infanticide law is taken to apply only in medical contexts, even though its wording doesn't say that.

In that case, the earlier guidelines would apply, and I'll say this: Intent or no, it does sound to me like the "separate existence" guideline is very much what the investigator is talking about here and _has_ been taken to mean that they cannot prosecute if the child is attached to the mother by the umbilical cord at the time of death.

Look: It sounds like these investigators wanted to prosecute. I don't think they are making up some excuse not to. I think they are frustrated, particularly with the memory of an earlier, similar case. Someone is telling them they can't prosecute, rightly or wrongly.

I should continue to press Wesley J. Smith to blog on this. He might be able to find out more.

Lydia, this is shocking, but readers shouldn't be surprised. They should be shocked and furious with the culture of law, legislation and enforcement and the callousness and gutlessness to do anything about it. I think Greg Koukl noted in his Making Abortion Unthinkable series that in many urban areas people get more jail time for killing or harming their animals than harming their newborn children. A few years back we had a rash of babies left to die in dumpsters down in Las Vegas. I testified in Carson City to an assembly hearing regarding a Baby Moses bill to allow distressed moms of newborns drop their newborn off at locations for up to 30 days or so without being charged with abandonment and etc. I saw little empathy for the child, only the mom who had killed/abandoned the child. It's hard not to have contempt for those legislators. Their attitude says crimes against animals in many areas are worse in the prosecutors' and legislators' minds than what happens to new born children. I'm sure this experience is not unique.

Wow, Lydia. What a terrible thing. Virginia has a history of being a very conservative state and has made me proud to be a Virginian often in the past. But the past few decades have seen quite a few waves of Liberalism sweep through the state government and those waves, even when the sweep back out, leave destructive after-effects.

You can thank the Clinton and Bush administrations for that. Clinton centralized a lot of the federal government and federal contract work in metropolitan DC, and Bush **greatly** expanded them in the name of the "Wah on Terra." The main result was that we now have several counties in Northern Virginia which are so tied to Washington DC that if DC ever gets voting rights, it'll probably get it as part of a new state formed by Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun joining into a new state with it and Prince George's County.

Post a comment

Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.