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Infanticide-abortion connection? Nooooo kidding.

Special "infanticide" laws are bad laws. I have blogged about them before here. (See also here.) These are laws that create a special category of crime called "infanticide," separate from murder, for mothers who kill their newborn children, supposedly under special (though vaguely defined) post-partum stress.

This is a classic case of the old adage that hard cases make bad law. In essence, such laws take something that may be a mitigating factor in certain cases--a woman's being partially mentally unhinged by post-partum depression--and use that as a reason to create a presumption that a mother who kills her newborn baby is not to be held responsible or punished. This, in essence, makes it open season on newborns, at least where their mothers are concerned. These are what one commentator in one of my threads called "needs killin'" laws for newborn babies. And that's a bad, bad thing.

It's easy enough to see that we would react differently--at least, we in the West would react differently--if such laws were proposed in other areas. For example, some Middle Eastern countries have special laws for male family members who kill their womenfolk when under the special "stress" of believing that the women have "dishonored" the family. The emotion the men might feel in these cases is considered so severely mitigating that a whole class of crime is created under which the penalties are extremely light. Similarly, while we might feel sorry for a husband with a seriously nasty wife who nagged him day and night, it would be a very bad idea to have a special category of "nagging wife killing," separate from murder, for which a man gets only a light sentence.

But somehow, when it comes to newborn infants, people can't see the problem, and quite a few foreign jurisdictions, including Canada, have this special crime called "infanticide" with a seriously limited sentence attached to it.

Which brings me to the present story: Katrina Effert has been repeatedly convicted by juries of murdering her newborn baby. The crime was apparently premeditated. She hid her pregnancy from her parents, gave birth secretly in their bathroom, strangled her newborn son, and threw his body over a fence. Each time a jury convicts her of murder, a higher court throws out the conviction. Most recently, the Alberta Court of Appeals overturned her conviction and replaced it with a conviction for the lesser crime (!) of "infanticide." On Friday, Justice Joanne Veit of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench gave Effert a three-year suspended sentence, and Effert walked free. Here was what Veit had to say as part of her reasoning:

Canada’s lack of an abortion law indicates that “while many Canadians undoubtedly view abortion as a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy, they generally understand, accept and sympathize with the onerous demands pregnancy and childbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support.”

“Naturally, Canadians are grieved by an infant’s death, especially at the hands of the infant’s mother, but Canadians also grieve for the mother,” she added.

So Effert was just engaging in a little last-minute birth control, using a less-than-ideal method, and Canadians "grieve for" her as the mother. (Why do they grieve for her? Because it was such a pain to have to do such a messy thing as strangling her baby and throwing him over the fence?)

Supposedly
, the special infanticide law requires positive evidence that the mother was mentally disturbed. This requirement turned out to be just as paper-thin as one might have expected. Veit decided that Effert was "without support" (and hence mentally disturbed?) apparently because she chose to hide her pregnancy from her parents and give birth alone! Um, yeah, that makes sense. Wow, what a high evidential standard for mental disturbance. See above on open season on newborns.

The connection to abortion is both shocking and predictable. Veit is without shame. She's telling it straight: If a woman can kill her baby right up to birth, because of those "onerous demands" of pregnancy and childbirth, why not immediately after? One might try to answer, "Well, because the onerous demands of pregnancy and childbirth are over at that point, right?" But let's not worry about logic. Let's get to the heart of the matter: Abortion is about being made a non-mother after having become a mother. Abortion is about getting rid of that unwanted baby, er, I mean, unwanted pregnancy. And a woman has a right, darnit, to be made a non-mother if she wants to. If she waits a little extra time to do that and has to strangle the baby after birth, so be it.

This has been coming for a long time. Let's not forget that the President of the United States, while an Illinois Senator, was specially solicitous for those poor abortionists who might be "burdened" by a Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. They might actually have to do something if the baby wasn't just "coming out limp and dead." How onerous. We can't have that.

Infanticide was always the next step. Let's hope Texas never passed that special infanticide law I blogged about here. Anybody know? (A quick Google search leads me to think that the proposal died somewhere along the way. Good thing. If it hadn't, it would definitely have needed to be strangled.)

Comments (45)

Hmmm. How barbaric. And you thought the Mc'Naughton test was defendant-friendly in its obscurity.

a conviction for the lesser crime (!)

Just a note on this, which might already be common knowledge around here. But for the benefit of those who might not know, "Lesser crime," or more fully, "lesser included offense," is a legal term of art that describes a crime for which all of the elements are also elements of some other crime (invariably carrying a stiffer sentence) that also requires some additional element. For instance, manslaughter is a lesser included offense to murder because its elements (the reckless---or some similar mental state above completely unwitting and below intentional---killing of a human without justification) are contained within the elements for murder (intentional killing of a human without justification). The "reckless" mental state is considered to be "included" within "intentional" because 1) it's a "lower" mental state requiring less rigorous proof, and 2) mental states are like lobster traps, you can always go up to a higher state to convict for a crime requiring a lower state.

That doesn't mean infanticide should be a lesser-included-offense of murder (if anything, it should be the other way around: murder 1 should be a lesser included of infanticide, the [especially barbaric] intentional killing not of any human, but of an infant), of course.

Similarly, while we might feel sorry for a husband with a seriously nasty wife who nagged him day and night, it would be a very bad idea to have a special category of "nagging wife killing," separate from murder, for which a man gets only a light sentence.

Actually, one more note, purely for entertainment purposes. For what it's worth, in most states, if a husband catches his wife and another man in flagrante delicto and kills one or both on the spot, he's entitled to a presumption that his crime is only manslaughter, not murder. (Wives can use the same mitigation defense.) It's very nearly the only "the SOB had it coming" defense available in American law. But it's only available under those precise circumstances (e.g., he has to see them not merely in compromising circumstances, but in media res, so to speak).

I am a Canadian. I do not grieve for her.

2) mental states are like lobster traps, you can always go up to a higher state to convict for a crime requiring a lower state.

I'm getting myself confused about that one, Titus. Could you explain it a bit more? I always thought if a prosecutor went for a conviction for a worse crime than he might have chosen, he got blamed for "trying too hard" or "being too ambitious" or something if the defendant were found not guilty.

For what it's worth, in most states, if a husband catches his wife and another man in flagrante delicto and kills one or both on the spot, he's entitled to a presumption that his crime is only manslaughter, not murder.

Good point, and I had known that but had forgotten it. Question: Is it not plausible that such a law is more or less obsolete and wouldn't actually be allowed? It might even be found unconstitutional, but no one's ever bothered to challenge it. I'd say as a general rule that anyone who tried to pass any new "the victim had it coming" law now in a Western country would get absolutely nowhere--unless, of course, it's an infant or a disabled person or some other newly disfavored class.

I've had a great idea for one that I'm sure wouldn't see the light of day but would maybe even make _more_ sense than the infanticide law: Teen-icide. Everyone knows that parents of teens are under a lot of stress. Most parents with a child going through puberty have suffered from hair-tearing in one way or another. So "Americans grieve" for parents of teens and all the suffering they endure. Perhaps we should offer a lesser crime of teen-icide for a parent or guardian who kills his child between the ages of 13-18 if he can show that his "judgement was impaired" from the "psychological anguish" of parenting said teenager.

I am a Canadian. I do not grieve for her.

Believe me, I didn't take Judge Veit's word for it. Actually, I find it distasteful for her to be obviously making her _own_ judgement of sympathy for the murderess while trying to pretend that she is merely some sort of mouthpiece for the views of "Canadians." But apparently not the Canadians on the juries who convicted Effert of murder!

Maybe Titus can help us out with the practice of having a judge simply throw out the verdict and replace it with another (lesser) verdict: presumably, there is some kind of legal constraint upon the judge so that he (or she) cannot simply do this at will? Must the judge provide a rationale as to why the jury, say, did not actually follow the law? What bugs me here is that the judge did not appear to address the points of the law. Well, so far as the article presented. The article showed the Crown's case that the mother was not mentally disturbed, and left us with the appearance that no evidence was presented to invert that position. If a judge simply refuses to abide by the law even so far as appearances go, (and this is let stand) then law no longer rules.

It's Canada. My guess (but this is only a guess based on the story) is that the appeals judge is allowed latitude in re-judging the facts of the case rather than, as in America, being supposedly restricted to judging procedure. It certainly looks that way from this bit in the article:

Justice Veit agreed with defense lawyer Peter Royal, saying that this was “a classic infanticide case — the killing of a newborn after a hidden pregnancy by a mother who was alone and unsupported.”

There's something really strange right there: The girl had to hide the pregnancy, the birth, and of course the killing from her parents. She wasn't "alone and unsupported" except in the sense that she _chose_ to be alone. What this sounds like to me is that he judge is saying that her hiding everything is itself definitional of a "classic case" which the law was designed to cover. That tends to support my point--that the law is a bad law.

But in any event, as the prosecutors and juries evidently thought, hiding a pregnancy should not be regarded as good evidence of mental disturbance of any mitigating sort what-so-ever. If anything, it's evidence of an intention to deceive, which could well indicate premeditation of a crime against the child. It's disturbing that the judge takes the very hiding of the pregnancy as evidence in the mother's favor rather than against her.

I'll say this outright, though, Tony: If it's really true that the law actually is intended to let murderesses like this go free, or free with only a slap on the wrist, then it is a horribly unjust and wicked law, and even if the judge has divined the intent of the legislators correctly and "law rules," all is not well in the State of Alberta by a long shot.

But I'm sure you agree with me there.

The Texas bill appears to to have died after being voted out of committee.

I don't see the connection between abortion and infanticide as the infanticide law predates the legalization of abortion by several decades. Infanticide was likely a bigger problem during the heyday of abortion being illegal. If anything, abortion being legal (along with the availability of contraception, adoption, and changing community attitudes towards unwed motherhood) argues for the obsolescence of infanticide laws - you are getting things backwards. I realize that spoils your slippery slope but the logic is better.

"...always thought if a prosecutor went for a conviction for a worse crime than he might have chosen, he got blamed for "trying too hard" or "being too ambitious" or something if the defendant were found not guilty."

Prosecutors overcharge all the time - plea bargains and all that. Which is what the prosecutor appears to have done in this case (overcharge). The thing that hit me was her tossing the kid over the back fence into a neighbor's yard. Hardly seems an ordered mental state. Five minutes with a shovel and that would have been that.

"I've had a great idea for one that I'm sure wouldn't see the light of day but would maybe even make _more_ sense than the infanticide law: Teen-icide."

Now you're cooking and it has seen the light of day. My favorite Bible verses,

"18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:

19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;

20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.

21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear."

BTW, do you have a link for this that isn't from an issue site?

“while many Canadians undoubtedly view abortion as a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy, they generally understand, accept and sympathize with the onerous demands pregnancy and childbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support.”

This was in the regular news sources,

"“Naturally, Canadians are grieved by an infant’s death, especially at the hands of the infant’s mother, but Canadians also grieve for the mother,”

but the first quote wasn't in the ones I read. The issue sites I checked repeated the quote but none source it. If the justice actually said it (big if) she's not thinking clearly because the infanticide law dates from the time when abortion was illegal.

I don't see the connection between abortion and infanticide as the infanticide law predates the legalization of abortion by several decades.

The connection is by way of the quotation from the judge's opinion! Really, Al, sometimes you get on the nerves even of one like me with the patience of Job. (No comment on that, please.) The way you talk, you'd think I just make stuff up out of the back of my head.

but the first quote wasn't in the ones I read. The issue sites I checked repeated the quote but none source it. If the justice actually said it (big if) she's not thinking clearly because the infanticide law dates from the time when abortion was illegal.

Oh, well, in that case I'm sure the pro-lifers just wrote that up as a phoney quotation from the judge's opinion for partisan purposes. (Please.)

And if the judge was "not thinking clearly," well, it wouldn't be the first time, would it? In any event, on the assumption that your silly aspersions on the accuracy of the quote are so much moonshine (which I do assume), this application of the infanticide law, by this judge, letting this murderess go free, does _not_ predate abortion permissiveness in Canada. Whaddaya know.

"And if the judge was "not thinking clearly," well, it wouldn't be the first time, would it? In any event, on the assumption that your silly aspersions on the accuracy of the quote are so much moonshine (which I do assume), this application of the infanticide law, by this judge, letting this murderess go free, does _not_ predate abortion permissiveness in Canada."

Lydia, the statements attributed to the judge (both sourced and unsourced) are more likely to be dicta then actual on point legal reasoning. From what I was able to find out the prosecution had some pretty outrageous conduct and given the treatment of similar cases the sentence was unjustified. Given that there was testimony that she was mental at the time (something that the weird way she disposed of the body supports), the final outcome was predictable. If you want a really hinky case google "Holly Ashcraft"; your story is just sad, Holly is a real piece of work.

"Oh, well, in that case I'm sure the pro-lifers just wrote that up as a phoney quotation from the judge's opinion for partisan purposes. (Please.)"

I think you trust too much. I don't trust much of anything unless I can verify it. Your side has serial liars like Betsy McCaughey, James O'Keefe (googling "james o'keefe liar" gets over 3,000,000 hits), Andrew Brietbart, Linbaugh, etc., etc. If I double check folks like Ezra Klein and Mark Thoma, there is no way I'm going to take an unsourced, ideologically convenient statement at face value. Frankly, I would expect most people would be suspicious of an unsourced, ideologically convenient statement. Am I accusing you or your source of lying? Of course not, but until I see some provenience that goes beyond everyone doing copy I will continue to find it, well, too convenient.

And, of course, even if the justice is a moron and did say it, dicta is a still only dicta and her decision was still based on the way the law has been enforced since it was passed in 1948 (when abortion was still illegal). And, I will still maintain that the logic of easily available abortion, easily available contraception, a welfare state, and the increasing lack of social stigma with unwed motherhood in the Anglosphere argues for getting rid of infanticide laws not for enacting them.

I think it's safe to say that if I were canadian, this would make me leave the country.
Forever.

For al: non-issue site. Or at least non-conservative, non-morally traditional non-Christian nutcase site.

"even if the justice is a moron and did say it, dicta is a still only dicta and her decision was still based..."

So it was important for Lydia to source it but...not really?

Saying that abortion has reduced infanticide is along the lines of saying that lynching reduced capital punishment.

Hey, and ain't it great to know that liberals don't lie? I guess Jesse Jackson was right the other day when he said that the 10th Amendment was the "slave amendment," and implied that the Tea Partiers wanted to bring back slavery. Or that the endlessly repeated claims that conservatives want to starve poor children and freeze granny (or is it starve granny and freeze poor children?) are accurate.

Note that to Al this is a "your side vs. my side" thang. Iow, he's just as much of an ideologue as the righties he condemns. Why you all even bother with him is beyond me. As one who's had many conversations with non-ideological liberals, trust me -- he isn't one.

From what I was able to find out the prosecution had some pretty outrageous conduct and given the treatment of similar cases the sentence was unjustified.


See, when women hide their pregnancies and strangle their babies immediately after birth and throw them over the fence, they have _usually_ been released under this law. So the judge was just "following the law." See my comment on that above. I feel so much better.

By the way, Al, I think your idea that her throwing the baby's body over the fence was a sign of mental illness is loony. I can think of lots of fences over which it would make perfect sense to dispose of a small body, and a lot faster and less noticeable to the people you live with than digging a hole in the back yard.

But do, do tell: What is this other telling evidence that she was not responsible for her actions?

Oh, NM, we know, we know.

We bother with him only 1) because he manages to say outrageous things without getting outright abusive, 2) because he's a good illustration to readers of the horrible things liberals actually think (e.g., that it's good to abort or throw babies in the river if they are going to be future criminals--see his comments in another thread), and 3) because just occasionally he comes up with info. that we're interested in, though of course we're not terribly interested in his silly interpretations thereof.

NM, I certainly do intend to ignore Al's implication that any judicial opinion quoted in a pro-life article is prima facie a lie or a misquote and that for my blog posts I must find, say, the the entire judicial opinion and quote from that directly. Or, in lieu of that, quote from an article that doesn't have a pro-life opinion on the story. That's absurd, and I won't be bound by it. Moreover, it would be a complete waste of my time to try to follow Al's strictures, because he would just find something else to say. He is terminally dense. A liberal can say, "I make a connection between abortion and being lenient on infanticide," and Al will say _something_ to dismiss it and to imply that pro-lifers are being ideological opportunists for daring to point out what the liberal said! He's a real case.

And there is this, from another non-issue site:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2011/09/09/edmonton-effert-infanticide-suspended-sentence.html


The judge noted that infanticide laws and sentencing guidelines were not altered when the government made many changes to the Criminal Code in 2005, which she says shows that Canadians view the law as a "fair compromise of all the interests involved."

This story also contains that same, oh-so-suspect quotation from the judge about abortion. Whaddaya know.

I love the title of this post! Like, no one has POSSIBLY made that connection already?

That story from Canada is awful and heartbreaking and horrible. What was that judge thinking??? I hope she can't sleep at night.

What was that judge thinking???

I'm afraid she was thinking that women who kill their little babies have her sympathy. If that sounds harsh, it's borne out by the story. Her conscience is seared. She'll have no trouble sleeping, I'm afraid.

"So it was important for Lydia to source it but...not really?"

Thanks William, I'll take the CBC as a source but the context is still foggy. Here we need to back up a bit. The quote is irrelevant and Lydia's point fails because, besides being mere dicta, it also was made at the Queen's Bench sentencing hearing this month. The jury verdict of second degree murder was set aside by a three judge Appeals Court panel last May. That decision was based on current law which has nothing to do with Lydia's hobby horse du jour. Judges sometimes do a stream of consciousness thing at sentencing; Lydia is making an offhand remark do way too much work.

http://www.albertacourts.ab.ca/jdb%5C2003-%5Cca%5Ccriminal%5C2011%5C2011abca0134.pdf

"Infanticide is a partial defence to murder, and where the facts support both a conviction for murder and infanticide, the jury should be instructed to enter a verdict of guilty of infanticide: R. v. L.B., 2011 ONCA 153 at paras. 97-9. The burden is on the Crown to prove that the partial defence of infanticide does not apply; to obtain a conviction for murder the Crown must prove that there is no reasonable doubt that the accused did not kill the child “by reason of her mind being disturbed”: R.
v. L.B. at para. 137."

"[29] But here the test is whether a reasonable and properly instructed jury would not even have been left with a reasonable doubt about the appellant’s state of mind. Viewing the matter “through the lens of judicial experience” it is impossible to say that there was not at least a reasonable doubt present on this record. That conclusion would mean the jury found the opinions of both experts were so seriously flawed that they should be given virtually no weight at all. Even accepting the Crown’s
criticisms of the expert evidence, it still had significant probative value."

An interesting article,

http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/sundayreader/story.html?id=60527175-b3dc-4002-a27d-e9cf2f1ddd62

"Saying that abortion has reduced infanticide is along the lines of saying that lynching reduced capital punishment."

Which indicates reading comprehension issues with NM as that was not my point.

"I can think of lots of fences..."

So can I as mine would be one of them. If it was raining I'd probably go to google earth and settle your point but the reality is that most folks don't have hundreds of acres of forest around. We also have the trial testimony and the Appeals Court verdict which you should read.

My main point still holds. A little skepticism is healthy as well as necessary as we live in a world where mendacity is too often well rewarded.

Maybe the law just reflects the natural human tendency to believe that infants do not have a rock-solid right to life. After all, if a mind as noble as Plato's couldn't see the immorality of exposure, how could one expect that realization of the masses?

Why do I bother? Al, the judge's "stream of consciousness" influenced her sentencing decision. I see no reason to doubt that. After all, she said it herself at the sentencing hearing, and you are just engaging in special pleading by insisting that it is irrelevant.

John H., I have to tell you: It wasn't _all that_ long ago that in Western countries "the masses" actually did realize that strangling your baby was wrong. Surprise, surprise. Also, "the masses" were represented in this case by *two different* juries of Canadians who somehow managed to find this woman guilty of murder.

I don't grieve for her. I think she's a baby killing [edited].
There was a case in Washington state a few years back, where a woman murdered her four year old step daughter. It was plea bargained down to manslaughter and the woman got less than 9 years. Is that sick or what?

I'm starting to think that the only solution to this bull#$%^ is for pro-lifers to just use jury nullification in murder trials. If the government is going to legalize murder, it shouldn't get to discriminate against sociopaths. Sociopaths, like gays, are just a misunderstood behavior-defined minority.

(And yes, I was being at least 50% sarcastic in that last sentence)

I note that the appeals court's opinion would effectively mean that if any "expert" witness says that the defendant was "disturbed mentally" at the time of the crime, even if there are multiple deficiencies that can be pointed to in the testimony and even if it was not based on any professional relationship with the defendant at the time of the crime, the defendant must be found guilty only of infanticide, and a jury verdict to the contrary must be overturned. This is revolting. The jury ought to be able to decide that the "expert" witnesses are not sufficiently credible. Instead, by saying in essence that the jury must have no reasonable doubt that the defendant was _not_ mentally disturbed at the time, and by implying that pretty much any "expert" testimony to the effect that the defendant was mentally disturbed is sufficient to create a "reasonable doubt" that the defendant was not mentally disturbed at the time of the crime, the appellate court makes it nearly impossible to convict a mother of a newborn of murder. It is always easy enough to find after-the-fact "experts" to opine that she must have been mentally disturbed at the time.

And once again, as I would have suspected from the judge's opinion, the "expert" treated the very fact that the woman systematically concealed her pregnancy as evidence that she was mentally disturbed at the time that she gave birth and strangled her child, which is also evidentially ridiculous.

All we have from the experts, in the appellate opinion, are psychobabble phrases ("in effective denial," "suffering from a stress disorder").

This is sickening.

Legally, I have to wonder whether applying the "reasonable doubt" standard in the way outlined above, which the court undoubtedly did, was the intent of the legislature. If so, that's a problem. Usually "beyond reasonable doubt" is supposed to refer to the commission of the crime. Most people who commit heinous crimes are in _some_ sense or other "disturbed." If we have to conclude beyond reasonable doubt not simply that the mother committed the crime, not simply that she understood what she was doing, but that she was not in the slightest degree "mentally disturbed," and if such a reasonable doubt can be created merely by a couple of "experts" throwing around phrases, then there's an end of the protection of newborns.

John H., I have to tell you: It wasn't _all that_ long ago that in Western countries "the masses" actually did realize that strangling your baby was wrong. Surprise, surprise. Also, "the masses" were represented in this case by *two different* juries of Canadians who somehow managed to find this woman guilty of murder.

Vox Day has repeatedly reminded his readers that Plato was a living argument for forcing Socrates to drink hemlock...

John H seems to forget that "noble minds" like Plato frequently saw righteousness in the atrocities of the 20th century while the common man was horrified.

It's almost like one has to be "anti-intellectual" to stand up for the intellect.

I think your idea that her throwing the baby's body over the fence was a sign of mental illness is loony.

Is this a meta-joke? She is loony if Al is loony?

Actually, I could see a very few number of paranoid women who might have such an inconsistent break from reality, but I have no evidence that the woman in question had such a psychotic break. Certainly, (and here is the important thing, Al), she was judged competent to stand trial.

The whole focus of the infanticide-abortion connection is the notion that it is okay to kill or dispose of that which you do not want. This implies that volition to possess is nominative for the legality of keeping a baby. Ultimately, is this not the will to power?

In our consumerist society, where controlling the means to ownership is the most important thing, where Apple has its walled-garden App Store and no one gets to use Mickey Mouse until Disney ceases to exist, is it so hard to imagine the moral blindness that would make a woman think that her baby is under her control, to let live or to sanction at will?

The woman, in her mind, and, apparently, in the mind of the judge, was pregnant with an IPad, not a baby. One can own an IPad, so one can dispose of an IPad. Where the Hell did modern women get the notion that they own their child? I'll tell you where (I'm gonna get flamed, but...): when marriage was defined legally instead of sacramentally. Every act of marital relations is a sacramental: a visible sign pointing to an invisible reality. Every baby is a sacramental product (from Wikipedia):

Sacramentals are material objects, things or actions (sacramentalia) set apart or blessed by the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Churches, and Old Catholic Churches to manifest the respect due to the Sacraments, and so to excite good thoughts and to increase devotion, and through these movements of the heart to remit venial sin, according to the Council of Trent (Session XXII, 15).

Babies are supposed to excite good thoughts and increase devotion and in the context of a sacramental marriage, they do just that. I would guess it very likely that Effert is not married, or perhaps civilly so, at best. Clearly, she does not have access to sacramental graces. She hid the pregnancy from her parents (!), which tells me that she was not married and the father either didn't know or wasn't willing to fight to stop her. Indeed, in reading a bit, I found that she tried to blame the father for the murder.

She is morally insane in exactly the same way that P. Z Meyers is morally insane - sticking a consecrated host with a nail - not being willing to see the greater reality present.

The judge is just plain incapable of doing any sort of ontological reasoning. Poor mother, so suffering...Ha. In mathematics, we have something called an implicit function, where the x and the y are reversed. Suppose, suddenly, the baby became the judge and the judge became the baby. I wonder, if the judge had to live like the baby for ten minutes and know the sheer terror of being strangled to death, would she even care if the mother were "inconvenienced," because she had to endure a little shame?

"the onerous demands pregnancy and childbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support.”

is particularly telling, inasmuch as Effert hid (deliberately) her pregnancy, so how was she SUPPOSED to get support? That she didn't get support was not due to a paranoid incapacity to let anyone near her, it was because of a calculated effort to keep the pregnancy hidden.

Oh, but if she had just aborted the baby... Well, why didn't she? I am willing to bet that Canada has state-sponsored abortion mills. Was she being held at home against her will? Is that the onerous demand of pregnancy the judge is talking about? Preposterous. In a word, she was an immature adolescent who panicked. Unfortunately, this sense of hopelessness is a common reason for abortion. It is well-known that if some women are given societal support from friends, family, clergy, or pro-life people who are willing to take care of them, then abortions would be less common, but, goodness...

She didn't panic enough to have an abortion, even if legal and free, so she might have been in denial until the due date, when reality set in and she panicked and killed the baby. I can see giving her a conviction under second-degree murder, but infanticide? She didn't suffer from psychotic post-partum depression. That would be a justifiable reason for the infanticide conviction, but this woman was simply too immature to be having babies. Oh, but we must let men and women have sex, don't you see. It is their right. Well, their right cost the life of an innocent.

I mean this, sincerely: if it were up to me, I would make fornication a crime punishable by six months in jail per incident. Maybe then, people would do the honorable thing and get married. It is better to marry than to burn. Sometimes, one can get burned by standing too close to a fire, as this judge is in danger of doing.

The Chicken


All we have from the experts, in the appellate opinion, are psychobabble phrases ("in effective denial," "suffering from a stress disorder").

Yes, yes, yes...being in effective denial and having stress are reasons to reduce the verdict to second-degree murder, as was done, but neither denial nor stress are psychological disorders, per se, unless Effert had a brain tumor that preconditioned her to heightened stress. Denial and stress they are existential in nature and totally situational. They justify a reduction in the ontological status of murder to second-degree.

The question is, did she realize what she were doing? Of course, she did. She might have been in denial, but in denial about what, eh? That is what the psychologist didn't explain. She was not in denial about the fact that she was pregnant. If she had thought she had a tumor growing in her body that for some bizzare reason resembled the shape of a baby, THAT would be denial sufficient for infanticide. No. She knew it was a baby.

She was in denial in the same way that someone who doesn't want to hear the truth is in denial and sticks their fingers in their ears and goes, "La, la, la..." We have a term in theology for this sort of denial - crass negligence. The only reason she could be in denial was that she didn't consider the baby to be worth enough to acknowledge its existence as something of value. Her stress was because she wasn't woman enough to admit when she had done something wrong. Pretty amazing: having sex is legal, but the baby is at fault if it appears.

The judge was simply wrong. She didn't look at the facts. Neither did the "experts". Any fifteen year old could tell the judge exactly what happened.

This was not infanticide by any reasonable interpretation of the Canadian statutes. It was second-degree murder. It was not either second-degree murder or infanticide, such that the jury had to choose infanticide. It was a clear-cut a case of murder as is reasonably possible to define.

"But, but, I didn't want to kill my husband, but his snoring kept me from sleeping and I was getting stressed."

Does that sound like a good defense for matricide?

The Chicken

"In our consumerist society, where controlling the means to ownership is the most important thing... is it so hard to imagine the moral blindness that would make a woman think that her baby is under her control, to let live or to sanction at will?"

Careful about that sentiment, Chicken. You're going from preachin' to meddlin.'

Careful about that sentiment, Chicken. You're going from preachin' to meddlin.'

It was just that sentiment that was used to justify Row v. Wade. Can't meddle. Must have privacy. In fact, mys statement is theologically correct. Children are not under the blanket control of parents. Indeed, there are some instances when children must disobey their parents. I thought we solved the slavery problem. Children are not chattle. If a baby could escape the womb of a mother that thinks she owns it like a piece of electronics, then it would have morally right to do so. Yes, I would meddle to make it so. The baby would certainly thank me, if it could.

However, preaching a hard truth is not meddling anymore than telling people the risk damnation for sex outside of marriage is.

The Chicken

Chicken: "I mean this, sincerely: if it were up to me, I would make fornication a crime punishable by six months in jail per incident. Maybe then, people would do the honorable thing and get married."

I'm not convinced that thousands, maybe millions, more bad marriages constitute a step up from sex outside marriage, whether morally or socially. You're trading one kind of evil for another. And if you want to criminalize sex outside of marriage, you might as well go the whole way and criminalize foolish unions too. Both exert their horrid consequences on the culture at all levels. Of course, given your avowedly sincere penchant for incarceration, you might respond that those who have married stupidly are already in jail and need no further punishment.

Normally, Chicken, even as a Reformed Protestant myself, I often endorse your comments, which are habitually clever, insightful, pertinent, and memorable. But not this time. This one doesn't even rise to the level of silly. Perhaps it would if you didn't "mean this sincerely." Given its seriousness, it's downright diabolical.

"preaching a hard truth is not meddling anymore than telling people the risk damnation for sex outside of marriage is"

I hear ya, I'm just saying. The connection between consumerism and sexual libertinism is something that neither the Left nor the Right wants to hear about, as it makes both sides complicit in the mess which is our culture.

Of course the bulk of men did at one point allege that infanticide was immoral, and probably would today, even if not as wrong as killing a teenager; the question, however, is whether that can be *expected* of them. I suspect that they held this opinion simply because the authorities told them it was true and the culture around them supported it, not because of some exercise of reason.

Claiming that Plato would have supported 20th century atrocities is quite a stretch. Aristotle certainly wouldn't, and he was a defender of infanticide. Odd that the two philosophers of greatest impact on Christianity both defended the institution...

"Legally, I have to wonder whether applying the "reasonable doubt" standard in the way outlined above, which the court undoubtedly did, was the intent of the legislature."

There is a lengthy discussion in an Ontario Appeals Court case cited in the instant case,

http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onca/doc/2011/2011onca153/2011onca153.html

I report, you decide.

As I see it Lydia, in order for the comments to have any significance at all, the sentence would have to be inconsistent with other infanticide sentences imposed by other courts over the decades since the law was passed. This appears not to be the case.

Real charming. This judge concurs with Veit (now, where have we heard that name before?) in a 2009 case about Effert (sound familiar?) that the crown bears the burden of proof to show that the defendant's mind was _not disturbed_, even though the claim that the defendant's mind _was disturbed_ is being raised by the defense as an affirmative defense to a murder charge (the defense attempting to reduce the crime to "infanticide").

Frankly, I think that's a pretty silly interpretation of the law as written, and the dismissal of the connection to the insanity defense is the barest special pleading. If the onus is reversed in the case of one defense on the basis of the disturbance of the balance of the mind, it seems that it should also be in the other.

As I said above, placing the burden of proof on the crown and holding this not to be fulfilled if _any_ "expert" testimony is brought on the defense side amounts to declaring open season for newborns from their mothers, especially if the mothers hide the pregnancy.

However, let's please remember that one of my major points in the main post is that *these are bad laws*. They positively invite such nonsense. They invite defense attorneys to try to claim a "get out of jail free" card, and they would not be tolerated if it were not for the stark fact that the people who pass them are unduly sympathetic to homicidal mothers and that newborn babies are a disfavored class. Such invitations to murder would not be tolerated for many other classes of people.

John H., I believe that it is morally expected of people that they consider infants to deserve _special_ protection, if anything, not _less_ protection than the rest of us. In this I concur with Titus's comment far upthread. To consider it "not to be as wrong to kill a newborn as to kill a teenager" is monstrous and indicates a withering of natural human impulses of tenderness and protectiveness toward babies.

Wasn't the lady who drowned her children in the bathtub supposedly suffering from post-partum?

Whether she was or not, it seems debatable whether even a woman in that situation should morally get off with a lesser charge.

The Elephant

Yes, Yates was found eventually not guilty by reason of insanity, a verdict I'm inclined to doubt. Note, though, that (and this is why I doubt the eventual verdict), the "not guilty by reason of insanity" conclusion is supposed to mean that the person literally did not know what he was doing, literally did not understand the nature and consequences of his actions. As you are implying, M.E., even a woman suffering with severe post-partum depression may very well not meet such a standard.

The "infanticide" standard as stated in the Canada law appears to be much, much lower than the insanity standard and requires only that one be "mentally disturbed."

Michael, People do not go to hell for joining unions (well, not usually). They can go to hell for having an illicit union outside of marriage. Fornication used to be a crime in some states. The nonsense of right to privacy in Roe v. Wade effectively ended any possibility of enforcement. Bad marriages would happen much less if people didn't sleep around cavalierly before marriage. If people really took marriage seriously as a for-life once-and-only thing, they would learn to start looking at people for the qualities of character they have, rather than superficialities. Sin darkens the mind when it is needed most. The Chicken

Of course the bulk of men did at one point allege that infanticide was immoral, and probably would today, even if not as wrong as killing a teenager; the question, however, is whether that can be *expected* of them. I suspect that they held this opinion simply because the authorities told them it was true and the culture around them supported it, not because of some exercise of reason.

Likewise, one could suspect that the reason men did not hold each other's lives in the same regard they once held children was that it was obviously bad for their health. Children have little recourse against infanticide. Men who are to be victims of murder are far more dangerous and likely to kill their assailant than babies and children.

As one who tends toward misanthropy, I can't think of any reason why the bulk of grown men should be suffered to live while the unborn and infants exist at the sufferance of those whose sole claim to authority is having survived longer than them.

Claiming that Plato would have supported 20th century atrocities is quite a stretch. Aristotle certainly wouldn't, and he was a defender of infanticide. Odd that the two philosophers of greatest impact on Christianity both defended the institution...

And some Catholics wonder why the Protestants often reject greek philosophy as heathenism...

Of course, I never said that Plato himself would have supported those atrocities. Rather, I said that it was primarily the "great minds" who found ways to excuse the atrocities. Left-wing intellectuals generally refused to see the Soviet Union for what it was. That's still true today in many areas. What's worse, they often disdained the common man as a moron, useful idiot and capitalist running dog for having the temerity to point to the obvious fact that any good these governments did was completely washed away by their evil.

I'm not convinced that thousands, maybe millions, more bad marriages constitute a step up from sex outside marriage, whether morally or socially. You're trading one kind of evil for another. And if you want to criminalize sex outside of marriage, you might as well go the whole way and criminalize foolish unions too.

Michael, you don't REALLY propose that people are, these days, making vastly fewer bad marriages, because they can get sex outside of marriage if they want, do you? Neither do statistics nor human psychology lend their weight to such an idea. In sheer percentages, people now make clearly bad marriages far more often than people 100 years ago made clearly bad marriages. And what Chicken said about sin blinding the mind and weakening the will is quite right: people who have willingly enslaved themselves to the vices of sexual sin are less likely to make a good marriage than people who live lives of chastity and temperance. The sexual revolution was supposed to prevent the "life of silent desperation" of the housewife, but it has not. All it has done is enable her to go on to 2 or 3 or 4 more marriages of silent desperation without ever figuring out that sex separated from its natural meaning is what is causing that desperation.

MC, I would make the punishment be 9 months, not 6 months. And I would levy an additional fine actuarially determined by the value of raising a child for 18 years, with the probability of having conceived such child.

John H., I have to tell you: It wasn't _all that_ long ago that in Western countries "the masses" actually did realize that strangling your baby was wrong.

Yeah, but that was in the day that Western countries either were still Christian or were living on the moral capital built up during their Christian centuries. Now that that capital is being depleted, you'll find such pre-Christian views as toleration of infanticide ("the natural human tendency to believe that infants do not have a rock-solid right to life") returning.

'Now that that capital is being depleted, you'll find such pre-Christian views as toleration of infanticide ("the natural human tendency to believe that infants do not have a rock-solid right to life") returning.'

Yes, with the distinct possibility that the post-Christian culture will be worse than the pre-Christian. Paganism's got nothing on nihilism. To paraphrase the great political philosopher Walter Sobchak, "Say what you want about the tenets of paganism; at least it's an ethos."

As David Bentley Hart puts it, our choice is between Christ and nothing:

http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles2/HartChrist.php


The substrata of this latest outrage is the feminist's operative maxim: "we side with the female no matter what."

From that, there followed much casting about for rationalizations to dress up the desired outcome. Peel away the legal finery and one finds implicit assumptions such as a woman is like a child, legally, and can't be held responsible the way adults (read: "men") must be, her hormones made her do it (but there's no "testosterone defense" for men), and other female-only defenses for crimes, including murder.

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