September/October, 1997 Volume XII Number 8
Barbarism goes to the prom
Birth and death of baby in bathroom should give pause to moral tutors -- even in today's abortion cullture
by George Will
According to a friend, 18-year-old Melissa Drexler paused in front of the mirror in the bathroom to touch up her makeup before rejoining her date on the dance floor at the prom. She had just tossed her 6-pound, 6-ounce baby boy into a trash bin next to the bloodstained stall in the bathroom where she had given birth. "She seemed to be enjoying herself," said a classmate about Drexler's postpartum dancing.
Medical examiners have determined that the baby was alive during the birthing process, which occurred early in the prom. He was soon discovered by a maintenance worker who thought the trash bag was unusually heavy. Unsuccessful attempts were made to resuscitate him.
Believe it or not, much may depend on whether it can be determined that the baby died before the umbilical cord was cut. Or whether the air sacs in his lungs inflated, indicating that he breathed, however briefly, independent of his mother. Drexler may be charged with something. Maybe murder. Maybe endangering a child. (Maybe conducting a partial-birth abortion at a prom without a license?)
Who taught Drexler to think, or not think, in a way that caused her to regard her newborn as disposable trash? Many people and things, no doubt.
She may have come from a less than attentive home environment. An assistant prosecutor says family members did not know she was pregnant. She has grown up in a society that does not stress deferral of gratification, and it's not her fault that the baby arrived during the prom, for Pete's sake. She has come of age in a society where condom-dispensing schools teach sex education in the modern manner, which has been well-described as plumbing for hedonists.
If she is like millions of other young adults, she has spent thousands of hours watching movies and television programs not designed to suggest that sexuality has morally complex dimensions and serious consequences. If she is like millions of other young adults, she has pumped into her ears thousands of hours of coarsening lyrics of popular music. And she certainly has grown up in a social atmosphere saturated with opinion leaders' collaboration with the political program of reducing abortion to a mere "choice," like choosing to smoke a cigarette.
However, foremost among the moral tutors who prepared Drexler to act as she did is the Supreme Court. By pretending in Roe v. Wade not to know when life begins, the Court encouraged looking away from the stark fact that abortion kills something. Ignoring elementary science, the Court said, preposterously, that a fetus is "potential life." But as Walker Percy, an M.D. as well as a novelist, wrote, it is a commonplace of modern biology that life begins "when the chromosomes of the sperm fuse with the chromosomes of the ovum to form a new DNA complex that henceforth directs the ontogenesis of the organism."
"The onset of the individual life is not a dogma of the church but a fact of science. How much more convenient if we lived in the 13th Century, when no one knew anything about microbiology and arguments about the onset of life were legitimate."
Biology does not allow the abortion argument to be about, or anyone to be agnostic about, when life begins. Conscientious people can disagree about the appropriate moral and legal status to be accorded the life that abortion ends. But science complicates -- to say no more -- the "pro-choice" movement's project of making the world safe for the likes of Drexler, the project of presenting the ending of an inconvenient young life as akin to a bowel movement.
Pregnancy is a continuum. What begins at conception will, if there is not natural misfortune or deliberate attack, become a child. If it becomes a child at a prom, it must be attacked quickly, lest the whole night be a bummer.
The barbarism at the prom is being termed a "tragedy" calling for "compassion" all around. No, an earthquake is a tragedy. This was an act of wickedness -- a wicked choice -- and a society incapable of anger about it is simply decadent. Perhaps the brevity of the life of Ms. Drexler's son will accelerate the transformation of the nation's vague unrest into vivid consciousness that today's abortion culture, with its casual creation and destruction of life, is evil.
© 1997 Advocates for Life Ministries