Monday, October 25, 2010

40 Days, and infanticide

Don't know if you saw this terrible story:

READING, Pa. - A woman who conceived several children through an affair with a man unaware of her pregnancies was charged Monday with homicide after tests on remains found in coolers or encased in concrete showed at least four infants were born alive but killed, authorities said.

Michele Kalina, 44, of Reading, kept the remains in her closet until her husband and daughter found them in July, authorities said Monday.

Kalina, a nurse's aide, also bore a daughter from the same affair in 2003 but gave the baby up for adoption, authorities said. She and her husband have a teenage daughter and had a 13-year-old son who died in 2000 after a long illness.

The husband and daughter found five sets of infant remains in a closet this summer in coolers, one of which was filled with cured cement, police said. At least four of the babies were born at or near term, then killed in a manner consistent with asphyxia, poisoning or neglect, authorities determined.

Kalina will be held without bail pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday. She has been in custody since August on abuse-of-corpse charges. Her public defender, Holly Feeney, declined to comment Monday after Kalina was arraigned on criminal homicide, aggravated assault and other charges.

Kalina denied that she had had any other children or pregnancies until confronted with the adoption paperwork, police said.

This is, of course, a sad and disturbing story--but one of the things I always wonder about when I read news stories detailing infanticide is this: would it really be any different if the mother had simply aborted the children legally before birth?

To me, infanticide is a logical extension of the abortion mentality--something that bioethicist Peter Singer has admitted. If you don't think that a fetus at six or seven months' gestation is a person, then there's really very little logical reason to call a neonate, particularly a premature one, a person. Not much changes for a full-term fetus at birth; she begins to breathe air and can hypothetically receive sustenance other than her mother's milk, where before her oxygen and food came via her connection to her mother via the umbilical cord--but she doesn't suddenly and magically sprout limbs, facial features, or brainwaves--those were all present in the womb. If you can legally kill her thirty days (and more) prior to birth, then why shouldn't you be able legally to kill her thirty days afterward, as Singer proposes? In fact, given that you can kill a human being at any time during her nine months' gestation, wouldn't it really be logical to allow for post-birth abortions for nine months after birth, especially since some physical or mental handicaps or abnormalities aren't diagnosed immediately and may not present until a child is three or six months old or later?

As someone who thinks that all human life is intrinsically valuable, I, of course, reject infanticide as immoral. But how do those who support abortion reject it? Isn't Singer's view, that some degree of infanticide ought to be permissible, more in line with the morality of those who favor legal abortion?

And under that idea--shouldn't someone like Kalina just demonstrate the need to make infanticide safe and legal?


MightyMighty said...

I agree that the inconsistencies are glaring. Another Another thing that I always wonder about with stories like these are, "How did her husband not notice her being pregnant six times? Giving birth? Bleeding for six weeks at a time? Having such an extended affair?

I always wonder with situations like this if the people involved are 100% trashy/clueless, or if there is something sinister pervading the whole family. (I have priest friend who knows several "families of murderers." -Not "murderers' families. Literally families where numerous brothers/cousins/parents have killed off other people.)

Red Cardigan said...

The article says her husband was disabled, MightyMighty, so that might have been an aspect of his being unaware.

L. said...

"...would it really be any different if the mother had simply aborted the children legally before birth?"

Yes -- whether one has no moral qualms about abortion, or whether one thinks they are morally equivalent, most people will agree that killing a full-term baby is an entirely different physical process than killing a baby in the zygote/embryo stage.

This majority of people who favor abortion rights see the point of viability as a game-changer. Maybe someday there will be a way to safely remove a human embryo and implant it into a surrogate, but until then, there is no way to do it without causing its death (and some people, to be sure, are indifferent to its death). But once a baby can survive on its own, there are ample opportunities to relinquish its care without causing it physical harm.

Also, repeated pregnancies and possible hormonal imbalances might have exacerbated this poor woman's mental illness (not to mention the medical risks of unattended births). I feel just as sorry for her as I do for the babies.

L. said...

meant to say, "...whether one thinks abortion and infanticide are morally equivalent..."

Anonymous said...

It's not different - dead is dead. Murdered is murdered. No (poorly constructed) legal threads can change it - a life existed, then he didn't, at the hands of his mother. It sounds like a bad movie.

People ask after her husband, what of this "affair"? Is he (are they?) not complicit? Or was it only her choice to make?

L. said...

Yes, dead is dead, but there is a huge difference in saying, "A woman should be able to remove anything or anyone from her body, even if its removal is going to be fatal to the person being removed," and saying, "A woman should have the right to kill any baby, outside or inside her body."

Even if you believe they are equally murderous, the situation is quite different.

If abortion is murder, then shouldn't women guilty of abortion (or use of abortificiant contraception) be required to relinquish custody of all of their born children? If a woman kills her unborn children, then isn't she at risk of murdering her born children as well. Shouldn't the state step in to protect the children of all the murderous contraception users? After all, if they would kill a zygote, who's to say they wouldn't strangle their teenagers? If murder is indeed murder, and there really are no differences, this would be the only logical conclusion.

Anonymous said...

L., your whole last paragraph? My suggestion is that we not kill anybody, problem(s) solved.

L. said...

True! That would solve the problem going forward -- but it would still leave the problem of how to deal with all the murderous women. If a baby is found buried in someone's garden, there is an effort to track down the person who buried it there. If a woman once killed multiple babies using her contraception, aren't her born children equally at risk?

priest's wife said...

Pray for the people who have to work with the bodies of the babies- how awful!

My last baby was born at 4 pounds and was in the NICU for 5 weeks- the baby next to her was born at 1.5 pounds. The pro-abortion people should really just say- yes- it is a baby- we don't care- because viability is a bad argument. anyway- my 11 year old girl isn't independent from me- does that make her less of a human?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I look at it exactly the opposite way. If abortion were illegal, this woman would have done exactly what she did. Even with the option of legal abortion, she delivered full-grown babies... and then killed them anyway.

It would have been far better if she had aborted in the first trimester, than to grow a complete baby, then kill it.'

I have taken on the argument that "it's also OK to kill a one, two, or five year old, because they don't really know much yet." I'll take on anyone who wants to raise it.

Disturbingly, I usually encounter it from "pro-life" people, who think it will get a rise out of someone, more often than from people who actually believe it.