Gassel ’12: The case for infant rights

Opinions Columnist
Friday, March 18, 2011

Imagine for a moment that a local pediatrician’s office offers to painlessly euthanize newborns at the request of struggling mothers. Perhaps the mothers are too young, old, poor, busy, embarrassed, unstable or unprepared to raise a child. These are all potential reasons why a woman might abort her fetus — but I ask you, where do they stand when it comes to putting to death a newborn infant? The horror most feel at the practice of infanticide is the same horror felt by people who call themselves “pro-life” and who extend the idea to fetuses in the womb.

In a recent column by Kathleen Braine ‘11.5 (“Keeping my head down no longer,” March 4), she maligns anti-abortion protesters, defends herself against their charge that she was “hurting women” as an intern at Planned Parenthood and counters that recent Republican efforts opposed to federal funding for Planned Parenthood are hurting women. Braine paints herself as defender of the weak, working long hours for “voiceless women,” but I counter — are infants not the truly voiceless? In the womb, they are not only unheard but invisible, making it easy to ignore them in favor of a “vulnerable” mother who has been legally empowered beyond the limits of ethical behavior.

Let me tell you a story. Twenty-one years ago, a woman became pregnant with a child she could not raise. Though she had the legal right to abort her child, she did not. She gave birth to the baby on June 16, 1990 and gave her up for adoption. The child was adopted into a loving home, by parents who desired a child but could not conceive and grew up to study at Brown and ultimately, to write this article.

Had my birthmother exercised control over her body at a vulnerable time, I would not be here today, annoying your conscience. Just as no one had the ethical right to take my life as a newborn, no one had the right to say my mother could choose whether or not I was to live while I was in the womb. Both abortion and infanticide would result in my non-existence on this earth — are they truly separate practices? I say this to give the cause a face, but I am no more deserving of life than the millions of children who are put to death by a mother’s will or a father’s pressure every year.

Let us now turn to the present Planned Parenthood controversy with the gravity of the taking of human lives impressed upon our hearts and minds. The government does not fund abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics, and abortions comprise a mere 3 percent of their annual services. Three percent sounds insignificant, but what if I told you that this makes up approximately a third of annual abortions in the United States? In 2009, Planned Parenthood provided abortions to 332,278 women.

It is deplorable judgment when this human carnage is termed a service, equal to the service of handing a woman a pack of pills or the service of examining her breasts. What paucity of the noble progressive spirit, what twisted method of reasoning, what ignorance of the value of a human being it must take to put the taking of a life on the same footing as a life-preserving medical procedure.

Even more telling is that in 2009, there were a mere 977 referrals to adoption agencies by Planned Parenthood, compared to a medium-sized city of people prevented from being born. And now I must ask you — is Planned Parenthood working for the good of voiceless children? Is it promoting the option of adoption as morally higher than the murder of a child? Is it giving a voice to those truly without voices? By these statistics, it is unequivocally failing in the pursuit to preserve human life, and instead complying with the hardening hearts of mothers and aiding them in the ending of their children’s lives.

As long as Planned Parenthood provides abortions as a service, its high moral purpose of helping low-income women is fundamentally tarnished. If helping one person comes at the expense of another’s life, is any good accomplished? While the providing of contraception, education, sexually transmitted disease testing and medical exams are good in their own right, it is difficult to praise the vision of an organization that takes away the lives of future Americans.

Were Planned Parenthood to stop providing abortions and to promote adoption as the only satisfactory solution to an inconvenient pregnancy or the heart-wrenching dilemma of being unable to raise one’s own flesh and blood, my full support would be behind the organization. Until that day comes, I will continue to declare my right to be alive, hoping to convince others that every child conceived also has such a right. One cannot be too careful when it comes to human life.

Sarah Gassel ‘12 thinks it’s time for Brown students to take up the mantle of infants’ rights. She can be reached at

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One Comment

  1. except there’s a difference between an infant and a fetus. a fetus, in most cases where abortion is permitted, is a clump of cells. it is not a living, breathing person. it should not have its rights protected over the rights of a person already in this world. no one should ever equate the abortion of a fetus to the murder of an infant. it’s not the same.

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