Voices
Krieg Barrie

Beware of ‘comfort care’

Abortion | A physician’s failure to help a baby struggling for life is comforting only to the physician

Issue: "Terrific and timely," June 29, 2013

Infanticide is the new abortion. I’m not saying infanticide will be the new abortion, but that it is. Wherever abortionists kill late-term babies—across the fruited plain—inconvenient live births occur. And inconvenient live births are taken care of. If your patient is shelling out a thousand bucks to end the life of her baby, you are not about to send her home with a baby and a formula starter kit. 

Infanticide was the unseen presence throughout the Gosnell trial, formally listed among the charges but never addressed until Judge Jeffrey Minehart sprung an 11th hour surprise by spelling it out in his instructions to the jury. Till then the two months of heated debate had seemed to be between murder and innocence. When the judge finished his presentation, reporters rushed the defense attorney for clarification. He tossed off a thumbnail sketch while packing his suitcase: Murder involves killing; infanticide is withholding help.

The judge had been more specific in his definition of infanticide: (1) the defendant is a physician; (2) the physician attended the birth of a live child, i.e., a “human being” who was “completely expelled from the mother” and exhibiting signs of life; (3) the physician failed to provide that child care; (4) the physician did so “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly.”

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This took me back to the first week of April when a witness for the prosecution described what she does at her hospital with aborted babies born alive: She administers “comfort care,” which turns out to be draping the baby with a cloth “until it passes.” Why, that sounded positively Florence Nightingale-like. Such wording does not conjure a struggle for life, or a gasping for breath.

After writing for WORLD about “comfort care,” I received this email: 

“Your mention of ‘comfort care’ for the babies born alive and then killed shocked me. My 84-year-old mother was put into hospice after she hit her head on a door. There was some bleeding but she was able to move both arms and legs. She struggled to get out of bed. She was very strong—used to taking long walks every day—and her heart was in excellent shape. Yet they put her on morphine and refused to let her wake up—and took away her water until she died after 7 days. This was called ‘comfort care.’ We were all bamboozled into thinking it was the right thing to do. I am traumatized by what happened. Watch out for ‘comfort care’ if you are deemed to be too old in this society. It’s not just for aborted babies.”

I once managed a little café. Anyone who has worked in an eating establishment can tell you horror stories from behind kitchen doors—the “six-second rule,” the dropped dinner rolls quickly salvaged, the human frailty and temptation, the multi-purpose hand towel. If this is the case where the stakes are a $10 sandwich, imagine the pressure to make an abortion turn out right. Add to that the ease with which one can create a desirable outcome—whether the quick slice of Gosnell’s knife, or the self-delusional “comfort care” of a baby left alone until its breathing gently ceases. I made a batch of granola once and sent it to Brooklyn. My guileless granddaughter told me some time later: “You know what happens to the granola you send? We put it in the freezer until it goes bad and we have to throw it out.” 

Granola is only granola, and even in this paltry matter, note how a “ceremony” of sorts serves to buffer the reality of a squeamish undertaking. The history of infanticide shows the same penchant for euphemism as we have in our day. From ancient Greece we read: “I am still in Alexandria. … As soon as we receive wages, I will send them to you. In the meantime, if (good fortune to you!) you give birth, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, expose it” (Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, 1 B.C.). Note, he says “expose,” not “kill.”

In Rome an unwanted baby was put in a clay pot and left on the road: Roman “comfort care.” After all, no one killed the child, who merely died of natural causes.

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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