We must begin by recognizing that this tragic situation follows from the widespread efforts to normalize abortion in the United States. Not all will agree with that conclusion, but a variety of factors suggest its accuracy. Since abortion was declared a constitutional right in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, the pro-choice movement has worked hard to undermine the full personhood of the preborn. We have been told again and again that the child in the womb is a fetus, not a baby. We are told that abortion is not the ending of a life; it is the termination of a pregnancy. This cold and detached terminology is intended to downplay any emotional reaction to abortion.
The problem is that if a preborn child in the eighth or ninth month of gestation does not have the moral status of a person, why should we think a change of geography from inside the womb to outside the womb suddenly establishes personhood? There is no substantive difference between the preborn and the newly born. If we are desensitized to the death of the former, it will lead us to be decreasingly sensitive to the latter. The road from Roe to Gosnell is a downhill slope.
This connection can clearly be seen in a variety of recent arguments made by abortion advocates. In 2012, bioethicists Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva argued in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Ethics for what they called “post-birth abortion.” They claimed that newborns, like fetuses, do not have the moral status of a person and, therefore, the killing of a newborn should be permissible even when the newborn has no disability or defect. Upon the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote a piece for Salon.com titled, “So what if abortion ends life?” in which she argued that the child inside the womb is as much a life as the one outside. She did not go as far as Dr. Giubilini and Dr. Minerva by arguing for infanticide, but when you agree that the preborn and the newly born are alive in the same sense, it is a short and logical step from pre-birth abortion to infanticide. More recently, a representative of Planned Parenthood argued to Florida lawmakers that the decision to offer life-saving care to a child born alive after a botched abortion should be left to the mother and her physicians rather than guaranteed by law.