Barbara Kay: Mothers who abandon or kill their infants have a friend in the courts
National Post - Monday April 2nd, 2012
In May of 2007, April Halkett gave birth to a baby boy at the Prince Albert, Saskatchewan Wal-Mart and walked out alone. The baby was found shortly afterward, and was saved. Charged with the crime of child abandonment, she was tried and acquitted in 2009. In weighing the facts and statements presented, Queen’s Bench Justice Neil Gabrielson ruled that the mother should be judged subjectively and, having considered Ms. Halkett’s fear and confusion, found she was guilty of negligence in leaving the store, but her action was not criminal.
The Ontario attorney general seeks to intervene in the case when it comes before the Supreme Court later this year, because it will affect future criminal cases involving child abandonment if Ms. Halkett’s acquittal is upheld.
The judge’s knightly exculpation of Ms. Halkett is typical, not exceptional, in Canadian cases of infant abandonment and killing by mothers. Judges have a soft spot for moms, and willingly accept excuses of post-partum depression (even a year after the birth, even for second killings), ignorance, stress, whatever. A cursory perusal of Christie Blatchford’s archived accounts of non- or under-punished mothers will provide distressing material for anyone under the illusion that justice is gender-blind in Canadian courts.
It’s getting worse, not better. In April of 2005, 19-year old Albertan Katrina Effert gave birth to a baby boy in her parents’ home, strangled him with her underpants and threw the body into a neighbour’s yard. She got a suspended sentence. Controversially, the judge, Justice Joanne Veit, indulged herself in a fairly creepy reasoning process for her merciful attitude.
Veit wrote: “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.” So basically the judge approached the murder of the baby as a kind of post-birth abortion that the stressed-out mother had not gotten around to sooner.
As it turns out, Justice Veit’s curious strain of logic was prescient. Last month in the prestigious Journal of Medical Ethics, two medical ethicists from Australian universities, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, both with impeccable standing in their profession, published an article entitled “After-birth Abortion: Why should the baby live?” Their answer: It shouldn’t. They write: “What we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where the newborn is not disabled.” (They mean in addition — obviously — to the case of a disabled baby.)
The authors point to all kinds of situations where a baby that was originally wanted might no longer be at the time of the actual birth. Say the baby is fragile, or that the mom realizes it is more expensive than she thought it would be to raise it, or her partner has skipped out. Pretty well any reason will do for these ethicists. They write: “When circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible” (their italics).
Couldn’t the mother simply give the child up for adoption, you reasonably ask? No, according to these ethicists. You see, if the mother kills her baby, why then she knows the baby is gone forever, and she is forced to “accept the irreversibility of the loss.” But knowing the baby is still alive and being raised by adoptive parents “makes it difficult to accept the reality of the loss” and she “might suffer psychological distress.” A woman suffering psychological distress is just not on, it would seem, so the death of a baby is a small price to pay for her peace of mind.
The authors of this article and their editor were shocked — shocked! — to find that their inboxes were suddenly jammed with hate mail once the article hit the Internet. They issued a (sort-of) apology in response: “We are really sorry that many people, who do not share the background of the intended audience for this article, felt offended, outraged, or even threatened. The article was supposed to be read by other fellow bioethicists who were already familiar with this topic and our arguments.”
Oh, the simplisme, as French intellectuals might say, of the Great Unwashed. Do you see? It wasn’t the article that needs apology; it was sharing it with intellectual dhimmis that they regret. The nuanced sophistication of after-birth abortion is a concept that we thick-headed proles, our tiny childish brains all cluttered up with notions of morality and respect for human life, simply cannot grasp.
Journal articles are the end result of a long intellectual gestation. Justice Veit’s anticipatory nod to the obscene concept of after-birth abortion did not arise from a vacuum. This hideously deformed perspective was conceived in the petri-dish of a women-worshipful ideology, implanted at university in the mind of a justice surrogate and delivered in a Canadian courtroom. Expect more of such “reasoning” in future cases.