Reading the Grand Jury Report on the Gosnell Case

Wednesday, April 17, AD 2013

MrsDarwin has done the public service of reading through the entirety of the Grand Jury Report on the Gosnell case. The following is a reprint of her post.

In The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan proposes a thought experiment:

Tell me yourself, I challenge you — answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature — that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance — and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth.

I was reminded of that passage this afternoon when I read the entire Grand Jury report on the Kermit Gosnell case:

pg. 101: After the baby was expelled, Cross noticed that he was breathing, though not for long. After about 10 to 20 seconds, while the mother was asleep, “the doctor just slit the neck,” said Cross. Gosnell put the boy’s body in a shoebox. Cross described the baby as so big that his feet and arms hung out over the sides of the container. Cross said that she saw the baby move after his neck was cut, and after the doctor placed it in the shoebox. Gosnell told her, “it’s the baby’s reflexes. It’s not really moving.” 

The neonatologist testified that what Gosnell told his people was absolutely false. If a baby moves, it is alive. Equally troubling, it feels a “tremendous amount of pain” when its spinal cord is severed. So, the fact that Baby Boy A. continued to move after his spinal cord was cut with scissors means that he did not die instantly. Maybe the cord was not completely severed. In any case, his few moments of life were spent in excruciating pain.

Gosnell was an eager butcher, one who was willing to torture babies for women under the desperate illusion that they could attain “peace and rest at last” through this “foundation of the unexpiated blood of a little victim”, as Ivan puts it. He had a psychopathic distain for the external nicetices of the abortion business: the sterile clinic, the efficient staff, the quiet, hidden murder and the quick disposal of the bodies. It was all in the open at 3801 N. Lancaster St., insanely blatant in the sheer horrific scale of murder, murders of babies born alive, infanticide, violations of the Controlled Substances Act, hindering, obstruction, and tampering, perjury, illegal late-term abortions, violations of the Abortion Control Act, violations of the Controlled Substances Act, abuse of corpse, theft by deception, conspiracy, corrupt organization, and corruption of minors.

Think I’m exaggerating? Those are the charges recommended against Gosnell and members of his staff by the appalled Grand Jury (pg. 219).

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15 Responses to Reading the Grand Jury Report on the Gosnell Case

  • “jaw-drop”….i still say that when they give Gossnell the death penalty they do exactly what was done to all those babies…jam scissors in the back of his neck and cut his spinal cord…

  • “Jesus Wept!” was my constant thought as I read through the Grand Jury Report. After thirty years at the bar few things shake me, and this report did. The degrading and corrupting impact of legal abortion on us as a people was on full display on every page.

  • That this went on so long is remarkable.

  • I’m assuming even Obama didn’t have him on the short list for Surgeon General??

  • I think some strong female perceived leader in the Left will stop forward to disavow this and proclaim that this is Not what they are for, that they are against This. And people will be mollified by her (maybe Michelle’s) aghastness and quit worrying about it.
    If it is done in more clean and sanitary conditions, and just an inch inside the mom, it will still be ok

  • Why was my comment to J.A.C., admonishing him for wishing a painful death upon another human being, deleted?

  • JL,

    I don’t see one, and I haven’t deleted one. Did you perhaps have that discussion on another thread?

  • I didn’t delete any comments, having been busy in the law mines all day.

  • Yes, to be clear: I see you have some comments like that on another thread. I think that the comment you’re looking for here is there.

  • Whatevs. In a nutshell, let’s make sure we don’t let our desire for righteous justice be perverted into an unChristian thirst for vengeance.

  • HuffPost Live host Marc Lamont Hill recently said on his show “for what
    it’s worth, I do think that those of us on the left have made a decision not
    to cover this (Gosnell) trial because we worry that it’ll compromise abortion
    rights. Whether you agree with abortion or not, I do think there’s a direct
    connection between the media’s failure to cover this and our own political
    commitments on the left. I think it’s a bad idea, I think it’s dangerous, but I
    think that’s the way it is”.

    Well, OK then. I’m sure that the folks down at the Pennsylvania Dept. of
    Health and the operators of abortion mills everywhere are breathing a bit easier
    today. We’ve already heard of ‘too big to fail’, and now we’ve got ‘too PC to

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  • If as Gosnell claims, the babies were already dead, then why was it necessary for him to cut their necks, spinal cords and decapitate them?
    I do not believe in the death penalty, however, I find it difficult to argue against applying it to him.
    There must be a criminal violation that can be applied to Staloski and others in the Dept. of Health. There must be at least a charge or public embarrassment for the two governors, mayors and others in charge of doing nothing.
    There should be murder charges filed against the mothers that took their babies to the slaughter house to be killed.

  • How disgusting…And this abomination occurred in our ‘civilized’ time, under our ‘civilized’ government, when ‘civilized’ people concern themselves with cruelty to animals while our future children remain unprotected…!!! May God have mercy on us…!!!

Will Money Make Everyone Virtuous?

Friday, September 21, AD 2012

One of the many divides among modern Catholics is between what we might call the “moralizers” and the “justice seekers”. “Moralizers” are those who emphasize the importance of teaching people moral laws and urging them to abide by them. “Justice seekers” seek to mitigate various social evils (poverty, lack of access to health care, joblessness, etc.) and believe that if only these social evils are reduced, this will encourage people to behave better.

Moralizers tend to criticize the justice seekers by pointing out that following moral laws is apt to alleviate a lot of the social evils that worry the justice seekers, arguing, for example, that if one finishes high school, holds a job and gets married before having children, one is far less likely to be poor than if one violates these norms.

Justice seekers reply that the moralizers are not taking into account all the pressures there work upon the poor and disadvantaged, and argue that it’s much more effective to better people’s condition than to moralize at them (or try to pass laws to restrict their actions) because if only social forces weren’t forcing people to make bad choices, they of course wouldn’t do so.

(I’m more of a moralizer myself, but I think that we moralizers still need to take the justice seeker critique into account in understanding where people are coming from and what they’re capable of.)

One area in which the justice seeker approach seems to come into particular prominence is the discussion of abortion. We often hear politically progressive Catholics argue that the best way to reduce abortions is not to attempt to ban or restrict them, but rather to reduce poverty and make sure that everyone has access to health care. There’s an oft quoted sound bite from Cardinal Basil Hume (Archbishop of Westminster) to this effect:

“If that frightened, unemployed 19-year-old knows that she and her child will have access to medical care whenever it’s needed, she’s more likely to carry the baby to term. Isn’t it obvious?”

You’d think that it was obvious, but I’m suspicious of the idea that having more money or resources makes us better or less selfish people (an idea which strikes me as smacking of a certain spiritual Rousseauian quality that doesn’t take fallen human nature into account) so I thought it would be interesting to see if there’s any data on this.

I was not able to find data on the relationship of abortion to health insurance, but I was able to find data on the relation of abortion to poverty, and it turns out that the Cardinal, and conventional wisdom, are wrong.

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39 Responses to Will Money Make Everyone Virtuous?

  • “Having more money and resources does not make us better people. Those who are better off are just as capable of doing wrong than those who are less well off. Indeed, in this case, it appears that people who are better off are more likely to do wrong than those who are less well off.”

    The poor usually have not had the “advantage” of a politicized college education where abortion is viewed as a sacred rite. It usually takes much such “education” for a woman to convince herself that the child within her womb has no more moral worth than a piece of disposable garbage. Most faculties, including at many Catholic institutions, might as well have a sign outside the faculty lounge saying Sophists-R-Us!

  • In addition to being wrong on the facts, there is also an either/or attitude that always irks me. There is no reason we can’t push for illegality of abortion and support for pregnant women.

    As for more money and resources making people morally better, when has that ever been apparent? Many “elites” are the most vile people in the world.

  • To Don & the A.C.

    Two Weeks ago I found your site via Spirit Daily.
    I wish to thank you and your research talents.
    This post is most interesting and is being bookmarked for further education purposes.
    God bless you and the members of A.C.
    Philip Nachazel.
    M.I. (Militia Immaculata)

  • I think the relevant statistics are comparators of abortion rates as a function of household income. As such, it is pretty evident that abortion rates for poor pregnant women and their babies is multiples of women making more money.

    The intended vs.unintended pregnancy doesn’t start the relevant question, but simpler questions do: does income level impact the decision to abort? For this one has to evaluate all pregnancies vs. income level. There seems to be a relationship.

    In fact considering the high rate of abortion at or below the poverty line, that it is multiples of the rate of abortion above the poverty line, and that these may be intended pregancies often (by the above statistics), one has even more concern as to the perceived compulsions to abort intended pregancies.

    Household income factors seems to factor into these choices, or at least be very closely related, as it has for millenia.

  • Dan C,

    The reason why “abortion rate” data that is discussed is deceptive is that the “abortion rate” is the number of abortions per 1000 women per year. By that measure, yes, poor women do have a higher abortion rate than other women.

    The thing is: In order to make a decision whether to abort or note, a woman has to actually be pregnant first. This is called the abortion ratio, the percentage of pregnancies that end in abortion.

    Poor women (under the poverty line) abort 42% of their pregnancies (that’s ignoring the intended vs. unintended question.)

    Women living at more than 2x the poverty line abort 59% [corrected] of their pregnancies.

    In other words, a woman making more than 2x the poverty line is more than 40% more likely to abort if she gets pregnant than a woman living below the poverty line.

    Now, it’s true that when asked why the abort, women often cite financial concerns. But the numbers are stark. Poor women are less likely to choose abortion when they are pregnant than better off women.

  • Darwin,
    You should add in another very big variable: those just above 200% of poverty can be insurance less as to hospital bills ( making $30,270 plus but working for a small business that doesn’t cover them) ergo they must pay for prenatal, delivery, and post partum care out of small funds.
    Those exactly at 200% above FPL and lower are covered in New York by medicaid that covers pre natal, delivery, and post partum.
    In other words, medicaid is helping the poorer opt against abortion while those just above 200% of FPL have an additional sinful temptation of increased bills compared to a $400 abortion at 10
    weeks…and compared to poorer women who are covered by medicaid.
    Here is NY’s chart:

    Therefore Ryan’s desire to greatly reduce Federal medicaid can have abortion increasing results.
    That is not his fault before God IF he sees national bankruptcy as probable and as a greater evil if medicaid is not reduced. It’s the fault of those below 200% if they choose less expensive abortion if faced with medicaid cuts. But the Eisenhower Research Institute just tallied the full long term cost of the Iraq war as 4 trillion dollars and no candidate seems to be seeing that as a waste even if
    well intentioned at the time by Bush. Knowing what we know now, would we have spent lives and 4 trillion on Iraq as critical to US defense?

  • Is the 42% vs. 49% a statistcally significant difference? And by how much?

    Also, the poverty line is about $10,000? So at the massively enormously different income of $20,000, we are ok with these folks as being described as financially secure? The 200% number is an interesting number, however, the individual at this income level will only be insured through state-sponsored programs, since most jobs providing this level of income are without benefits. The point: this is not a secure position economically despite the apparent astronomically increased income (200%!) over what counts as really and truly poor.

    Finally, comparing 42 vs 49 percent, I do not get the 40% more likely to abort. The increased likelihood would be the 49 – 42 divided by 42? I get 17%.

  • Just looked it up: poverty level for 2012 for single woman is $11000.

  • So…the better terminology: financially insecure vs. desperately poor. The financially insecure person likely works, likely works without benefits in what would politely be termed, unenlightened work environments. This group will likely be in and out of employment- laid off, fired, etc. The person at the poverty line or lower is likely 100% surviving on government support.

    Does this offer any further insight into the dynamic of those desperately poor vs. very financially insecure?

  • Bill,

    I would really love to see data by insurance situation, I just wasn’t able to find a detailed breakdown, though Guttmacher clearly has some data on it. All they provide is a general statement that women with private insurance have a lower abortion rate than women with no insurance or with public insurance.

  • Dan C,

    First off all, I mis-typed when copying from Excel: Women who make more than 2x the poverty rate abort 59% of their pregnancies. (Thus they’re 42.6% more likely to abort when pregnant than women below the poverty line.)

    I agree that making 22k is not much, though since this is individual income we could be talking about a woman making 22k with a boyfriend who’s making and additional 22k. But more importantly, keep in mind that Guttmacher is splitting all women in the US into three groups: Those making less than the poverty line, those making 100-200% of the poverty line, and those making more than 200% of the poverty line.

    Thus, when we talk about women (between 20 and 29) making more than 200% of the poverty line abortion 59% of the their pregnancies, we’re talking about women making 22k but also women making 50k or 100k or $1mil. The whole range.

  • Darwin – There’s a lot of merit to your analysis. But the abortion ratio is higher for unmarried women, and a higher percentage of lower-income women are unmarried. What you’d need to do is control for marital status. I note that the report you linked to doesn’t have the necessary split. If I get a chance, I’ll see if the numbers are available on the site.

  • What this argues, for me, is that we need to attack both ends. Women need to be paid to be mothers and the best way to do that is to tax abortions to the point they are no longer afordible to even the rich. If an abortion cost 4x as much as a pregnancy, you would see those numbers change drastically and we could fully fund WIC.

  • I suspect one reason women at the higher income levels have abortions more often than lower income women is that they feel they have more to lose from an unplanned pregnancy. A poor teenager living in an environment where unwed motherhood is pervasive and few women attain higher education or professional jobs may not see an unplanned pregnancy as “the end of the world” in the same way that, say, a middle-class woman working toward a degree or professional career might. It is for this very reason that Mary Cunningham Agee (google her name to find out more) founded The Nurturing Network to assist college/professional women in choosing life.

    As for Ted’s idea that abortions should be taxed heavily (at least as much as tobacco and liquor), I’d suggest, only partly in jest, a reverse Hyde Amendment requiring ALL abortions to be paid for by Medicaid — because there would probably be no better way to drive abortionists out of business, given the months-long payment delays Medicaid providers (at least in Illinois) endure.

  • Seems some people care more about social evils (poverty, lack of health, unemployment) than about moral evils (abortion, class hate, fornication, sodomy, violent crime, etc.).

    Can the BLS measure the amounts poverty and unemployment that are caused by sloth, gluttony, lust, wrath, etc.?

    Anyhow, money is the root of all evil. Vegas casinos and many liquor stores are awash with food stamps.

    Recently, a NYC deli clerk was knifed for refusing to accept food stamps in payment for beer.

  • I like your division of moralizers vs. justice seekers.

    For the moralizer, I note the following, and this delves into all aspects of education to promote behavior change, in engineering, or patient safety or catechism: very clearly, education is the weakest form of promoting change. Forcing functions is the best.

    I also think some judicious language will help.

    I would like to note that voluntary poverty has much merit. Involuntary poverty must never be seen as desirable or normative. Certainly, few would desire involuntary poverty for oneself.

    I do like your argument, although I clearly find it arguable. Itbis hard to make sense of pro-lifism’s discussion of the impact of poverty, because sometimes when one is talking about abortion, one hears the movement’s line: poverty has no impact on the decision. This has been a clear notion for years, repeated. But then everry new statistic like the rate of African American abortion in NYC or the rate of abortion in the ghetto and pro-lifism makes noise inconsistent with the previous argument.

    Just an observation.

  • “Poverty” isn’t always just economic.

  • Ted Seeber: Both Hitler and Musollini paid women to bear children to become taxpayers and soldiers. America needs to replace 54 million aborted people to secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterty.

  • I should certainly like to see a law against abortion, as an expression of our social values. However, I doubt if such a law would have any great impact on the number of abortions.

    Anyone who remembers France in the 1950s and 1960s, before the Veil law will know that every village seemed to have its «faiseuse d’anges» [angel-maker]. Everyone knew it; nobody talked about it and the police regarded it as “women’s business,” and largely ignored it. Occasionally, a woman died and the Parquet, like Captain Renauld in “Casablanca,” would be “shocked, shocked to discover” that such things went on.

    Now this, remember, was before misoprostol or other abotifacient drugs became widely available. Banning them would probably be about as effective as the current laws banning marijuana.

    Catholic involvement in the quest for social justice may, as Blondel thought, lead persons of good will to respect Christianity and “to find only in the spirit of the gospel the supreme and decisive guarantee of justice and of the moral conditions of peace, stability, and social prosperity.”

  • Most of these studies (for practical reasons of data collection) are limited to correlational analyses rather than proving causal relationships. Also bear in mind that the imprecision of most such statistics makes only the largest differences worth analyzing (as Dan C alludes to). I prefer looking at the contingencies or results (sometimes referred to as decision theory) in following a course of action (or inaction). For example, Income would have a causal relationship with abortion frequency if abortions were very expensive And only performable in an accredited hospital And no one subsidized it. Since abortion is heavily subsidized and can be performed in a variety of settings, we would Not expect income as a Direct factor to play the major role. Without writing a term paper, it’s safe to say that in the US, abortion is more prevalent where there are (at least initial) economic and social benefits to the Individual making that decision. Since it is an individual making the decision here, there can be many idiosyncratic factors affecting that decision. All one could do is find those factors, if any, in common with large numbers of these individuals. Then those factors would have to be varied (through policies) to see if there were changes in abortion frequency. In practical terms, usually there have to be many different kinds of bad outcomes to the individual to prevent them from making decisions that would provide them some perceived benefit. (Recall how strictly the work requirement in welfare reform had to be written to get any effect).

  • Sacred Scripture is very clear about moralizers vs social justice types:

    If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2nd Chronicles 7:14

    If we don’t behave morally, then we don’t deserve social justice. In fact, what we deserve (since we murder unborn babies just as King Manasseh made his children to walk through the fire in sacrifice to Molech) is exactly what God gave rebellious Israel and Judah: deportation and enslavement.

    It’s the Gospel of repentance and conversion – “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto thee as well.” Murder babies and expect the consequences – “The wage of sin are death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

  • See the UPDATE on the post above, I got to thinking about how these percentages added up and took a second look at the report, and realized that although it’s not super obvious, it must be the case that the table is showing abortion ratio by demographic breakdown for the sub-group of unmarried women only. The top of each table breaks down overall pregnancy rates for married and unmarried women. Then all the other groups discussed (breakdowns by age, race, income and education) are for unmarried women only.

    I’ve re-written the post to reflect this. I think in some ways it strengthens the case a bit (since we’re now clearly talking about women in the same situation: unmarried women below the poverty line vs. unmarried women making more than 2x the poverty line) but it does mean that we’re not seeing the effect of the current social trend towards the poor marrying far less than the better off. If we looked at all women making more than 2x the poverty line, we might see a lower or equal abortion ratio to that for women who are below the poverty line, because women who are married abort far less than women who are unmarried. Unfortunately, Guttmacher doesn’t provide that data, only the comparison of unmarried women to unmarried women.

    That said, I think that reinforces the point that for women in the same position (unmarried and in an unplanned pregnancy) are actually less likely to choose abortion if they are extremely poor (below the poverty line) than if they are better off (making more than 2x the poverty line) which is exactly the opposite of the common wisdom on the topic.

  • JACK is correct.

    The most massive, most widespread poverties confronting America are in Faith in Jesus and His Holy Church; Hope in eternal life (not in this World); and Love of God and Neighbor.

  • “I should certainly like to see a law against abortion, as an expression of our social values. However, I doubt if such a law would have any great impact on the number of abortions.”

    Well laws against abortion certainly had an immense impact on the number of abortions in this country MPS before abortion was judicially legalized by Roe.

    I think the Guttmacher numbers on pre-Roe abortions are inflated (based on the deaths from illegal abortions I suspect their estimate on pre-Roe abortions are at least 50% too high), but even using their figures the number of abortions post Roe doubled. Beyond that, there is a world of difference between living in a society where abortion is condemned as a heinous crime, and one in which it is celebrated as a constitutional right.

  • Mary De Voe @11:04am, too, is correct.

    It’s politically incpoerrect so agenda-driven ideologues, that call themselves economists, will never report that lack of popuation growth (replacement rate less than one) is a massive problem contributing to rump Europe’s economic, cultural and poltical problems.

  • Maybe I missed it in all of this but, is there any data on why the women had abortions?

    A poor woman may have an abortion but for reasons other than being poor.

  • I haven’t used my handy-dandy, HP-12 financial calculator yet today – hmmmm.

    Anyhow, I just did a quick calculation.

    Since late 2008, the FRB printed and gave away about $2,900,000 millions.

    Since late 2008, fedreal deficits added up to about $5,000,000 millions.

    The population of the USA over that near four-year period is, say, 310 millions.

    That comes to just under $255,000 for each man, woman and child since late 2008.

    Where’s the money?

    If someone can find our piece of the action and send it to me, my wife and our three sons, we’d be truly virtuous!

  • MPS, RU486 requires multiple visits to medical clinics. (And is it really your thesis that the drug laws have no effect on the prevalence or incidence of drug use?)

    A couple of points you do not make which Edward Banfield might have suggested:

    1. Impulsiveness and circumscribed time horizons tend to be associated with ill considered sexual encounters and with various sorts of behavior that diminish one’s earning power. Moral decision making and good work benefit from discipline and prudence (though it helps to have a good heart).

    2. Education, marriage, &c are all very well and good, but they may just be correlates of the sort of dispositions and behaviors which enhance one’s earning power. They are ‘answers’ to problems in the social economy only if so doing enhances one’s human capital (and thus one’s wages) in sum and/or vis-a-vis other social strata. As a rule, all strata of society in 1948 behaved quite well in certain spheres. We were, however, a materially poorer society (something which applies as well to the lower economic strata).


  • Art says “Moral decision making and good work benefit from discipline and prudence (though it helps to have a good heart).” This is a golden statement and memorable.

    However, risk taking behavior (which includes impulsiveness) is not that correlated with socioeconomic level. Bill Clinton was certainly prone to frequent ill considered sexual encounters but mainly because there were no serious consequences to it (outside of a thrown object by Hillary once in a while.) Lack of planning with money is certainly associated with lesser economic outcomes, if for obvious reasons. However people with good financial planning skills don’t necessarily have good planning skills with anything else.

  • I am perplexed that when this discussion arises there is no mention of adoption as a solution to the unintended pregnancy. There are millions of couples who want to adopt, yet there are few babies available for placement. My husband and I tried for 5 years to adopt and were unsuccessful. Adoptive couples cover expenses for the birthmother which certainly would help with the financial issues during and immediately following the pregnancy. Clearly there is another alternative.

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  • It is impossible, of course, to determine the number of abortions before legalisation, but some statistics are suggestive. In the century or so from the battle of Waterloo to the outbreak of WWI, the French population rose, in round figures, from 31 million to 41 million, or about a third. During this period, there was little or no access to mechanical or chemical means of contraception. Over the following 98 years, from 1914 to 2012 the population rose to 66 million, again about one-third. Now, during the first 50 odd years, up to 1971 of that period, the policy of “Republican Natalism” severely restricted access to contraception. These figures confirm anecdotal evidence that abortion was not uncommon throughout a period of nearly two centuries.

    In the very different ethos of Victorian England, between 1815 and 1914, the population trebled, from 11 m to 33 m; this in a country with much higher rates of emigration. Between 1914 and 2012, the population increased from 33m to 52 m. an increase if one half, a period during which contraception became much more common.

    There is nothing in the mortality rates of the two countries to account for this stark variation. It is the result of the birth rate alone.

    Hence my contention that social attitudes play a much more significant role that legislation.

  • Michael,
    You may have to adjust your concept though for coitus interruptus in France. John Noonan in his book, ” The Church That Can and Cannot Change” cites the fact that the French Jesuit Theologian, John Gury, writing in 1850 wrote:  “In our days, the horrid plague of onanism has flourished everywhere”.  

  • Bill

    Making every allowance, I doubt if a nine-fold difference in fertility rates can be accounted for by coitus interruptus.

    I cited the demographic figures as lending support to the widely-held perception and the wealth of anecdotal evidence to suggest that abortion was common throughout the period in question.

    As for social attitudes, the pro-natalist legislation of the 1920’s fixed the penalty for abortionists at 5 years; more would have given the accused a right to trial by jury and juries were notoriously unwilling to convict

  • I doubt if a nine-fold difference in fertility rates can be accounted for by coitus interruptus.

    MPS, the figures you quote make for a four-fold difference in the rate of increase. Since France’s population was increasing during that century, it is a reasonable inference that the total fertility rate exceeded replacement rates. Even in societies with exceedingly low infant and juvenile mortality, that is still 2.1 live births per mother per lifetime. Somehow I doubt British women were popping out 19 babies a piece.

  • Art Deco

    I apologize for the unfortunate slip of the pen.

    What I meant to say was that the French population increased by 33% from 1815 to 1914 and the English by 300%. That is the nine-fold difference I was referring to.

    Of course, in each case the increase is spread over three to four generations, taking 25 to 30 years for a generation.

  • The formula is as follows:

    ln(Rg)/ln(Rf); Rg=3, Rf=1.33.

Sebelius’ Morning After Pill Decision: Politics or ‘Anti-Science’ Pro-Life

Friday, December 9, AD 2011

On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled an expert panel at the FDA which had recommended allowing children under 17 to purchase the “morning after pill” Plan B One-Step over the counter. Under current regulations, Plan B is available without a prescription to people 17 and over, but those 16 and under would need a prescription in order to purchase it. The pill is designed to be taken within 72 hours after having “unprotected” sex and is claimed to reduce the chances of pregnancy from such sex from 1 in 20 to 1 in 40. It does this by preventing ovulation through a boost in hormones. Like other forms of hormonal birth control, it also serves to make the uterine lining more resistant to implantation by a fertilized egg, so even if ovulation does occur (or has already done so) it can make spontaneous miscarriage/abortion of the zygote far more likely. As such, it is often considered potentially a form of early abortion, though the frequency with which it acts through preventing a zygote from implanting (versus acting through preventing ovulation) is not known.

In prior policy moves in relation to Plan B, the Bush Administration had originally overruled a request that the pill be made available over the counter, but eventually allowed it for purchasers who were 18 or over. The Obama administration acted in 2009 to make Plan B available to those 17 and over, but until now has continued to require a prescription for those young. This means that the pill (which costs around $50 per dose) is generally held behind the pharmacy counter and provided without a presciption to those who show ID proving they are 17 or over.

This latest move on Plan B has many left leaning commentators up in arms, accusing the Obama Administration of ignoring ‘science’ and bowing to the interests of the religious right. James Fallows at The Atlantic compares the move to something one would expect from a Michelle Bachman administration and suggests Sebelius and Obama should be criticized accordingly.

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8 Responses to Sebelius’ Morning After Pill Decision: Politics or ‘Anti-Science’ Pro-Life

  • “If he wins, this decision may well get reconsidered in 2013.”

    We can bank on that! The reaction of the Left is interesting as they completely miss the moral element involved here, which is intriguing as no group in our society uses more morally drenched argument, at least rhetorically, than the Left, except in one area, sex. If sex can be brought into the picture all moral arguments are to be banished to the nether regions. This is the one area of life where moral calculus seems to completely dissipate, unless it can be dressed up as sexual harassment, and even there the moral aspect flies right out the window if he harasser, Bill Clinton is the prime example, is a powerful Democrat elected official who is a pro-abort. I recall Alexandra Kollantai, a Bolshevik contemporary of Lenin thought that under the Bolshevik regime sex would have no more moral significance than drinking a glass of water. Lenin, even though he had a mistress earlier in his life, was shocked and Communist official morality in regard to sex was fairly straight-laced, but the view of Kollantai has ultimately triumphed on the Left.

  • This analysis sounds about right. Obama has to know that no decision on his part is going to garner a vote from social conservatives already opposed to him. A politically-calculated appeal to moderates makes much more sense.

  • Four moral concerns are brought up.

    1. Contraception is immoral. This point isn’t within the realm of science so it’s not anti-science. However, only a small minority (very conservative Catholics) actually take this view. This doesn’t explain why Protestants would want to restrict access to Plan B.

    2. It may prevent implantation. This is a legitimate concern though, since it isn’t intended to prevent implantation, one may not be morally culpable for abortion. If contraception is morally permissible and it isn’t used as a method of abortion, though abortion may unintentionally result, Plan B is morally permissible. This is probably the view of most Americans including religious Protestants.

    3. It encourages promiscuity. Empirical data says otherwise. This is part of the “anti-science” criticism.

    4. Parental rights. What right is being infringed? The right to deny medical treatment for your children? If none of the previous points apply, why would you want to deny it for your children? It would be completely irrational.

    Basically, if you aren’t Catholic, opposition is probably irrational or anti-science.

  • RR if you are ever around Pontiac, Illinois, I could introduce you to the staff and volunteers, all evangelical women, at the crisis pregnancy center that I have the honor of serving as chairman of the board. They would explain to you that they are neither irrational or anti-science and that they oppose this human pesticide. When you have kids, my daughter is 16, perhaps you will understand why most parents would not want anyone dispensing either abortifacients or contraceptives to them behind their back.

  • RR,

    2) Actually, Plan B is intended prevent implantation. That is an effect which the makers seek to achieve and specifically describe as a purpose of the medication, as the NY Times article describes. I’m not clear how often it happens, as (as the NY Times article also notes) studies have not shown Plan B to actually reduce either pregnancy rates or abortion rates to any measurable degree. So although in controlled test environments it does reduce the chance of pregnancy, when you actually throw it out there into the realm of real human behavior it appears that if it’s being taken by the right people at the right time, it’s happening infrequently enough that it’s now showing up clearly in the final data. But preventing implantation is an intended and advertised effect of the drug, however infrequent.

    3) I’m not clear where you get the idea that increased promiscuity is a claim. Certainly, there has been a significant increase in promiscuity in coordination with the wide availability of birth control in general, but I am not aware of anyone (certainly not the Department of Health and Human Services) making the claim that Plan B in particular measurably increased promiscuity in a way distinct from other forms of birth control.

    4) This is where your argument simply doesn’t make any sense. The purpose of requiring a prescription for a medication is simply to get a responsible expert or adult involved in the dispensing of the medication, it’s not necessarily to “deny treatment”. The DHHS ruling did not say that children under 17 cannot be given Plan B at all, it said that they can’t buy it without a prescription. In many states, it’s legal for a pharmacist to write a prescription right there. In other cases, a doctor would have to be consulted, or the minor would have to get someone 17 or older to go buy the prescription for them. That’s a pretty low hurdle. Sebelius’ stated rationale was that the studies conducted did not satisfy her that the medication was safe for girls as young as 11, and that girls that young could be relied on to use it safely. Also operative, however, I think, is that most Americans would simply be much more comfortable with a doctor, parent, or other adult being pulled in to a situation in which a girl that young (in many cases, under the legal age of consent) is given a medicine which is only needed once she has already had sex under conditions which may suggest poor judgement or abuse. There’s certainly nothing irrational (even from a strictly secular and pro-birth-control point of view) in not liking the idea of actively helping to cover up the kind of situations that would lead to very young teens wanting to get hold of the Morning After Pill.

  • “This is a legitimate concern though, since it isn’t intended to prevent implantation, one may not be morally culpable for abortion.”

    Aside from the question of whether it prevents implantation or not, one would be morally culpable if it does and one does not intend the abortion. Just as someone who sets fire to a building to get the insurance money is culpable for murder if he knows someone is in the building when he sets fire to it.

    Perhaps there would be mitigation of the moral culpability due to the person being ignorant of the full effects of Plan B (if it is indeed also an abortifacient) but the material aspect of the sin would remain.

  • Pingback: SATURDAY EDITION |
  • I completely agree with DarwinCatholic– if (God between us and evil) Obama is
    re-elected, this decision will be reversed. It’s merely a sop to the center, and costs
    the administration nothing politically. Freed from the need to give lip service to
    any voters, a re-elected Obama would probably try to have Plan-B One Step passed
    out in elementary schools.

A Few Topical Thoughts on Capital Punishment

Thursday, September 22, AD 2011

Sometimes I get the feeling I haven’t caused enough controversy lately, so here it goes…

1) It strikes me that in many ways the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia underscores a lot of the points that opponents of capital punishment which make cause even supporters to feel a bit uncomfortable: The execution occurred 20 years after the trail, and only after numerous appeals that cost the state more than life in prison would have. Several witnesses recanted their testimony after the fact and alleged police coercion (though other witnesses continued to maintain they had seen him commit the crime). Claims were made about poor defense representation. Claims were made about the race composition of the jury being an issue (though I’m unclear how this works, and Davis is black and the majority of the jury was as well.) Etc. All of this does not necessarily serve to clear Davis, but it is the sort of thing that could make many people wonder if it would be easier all around to simply lock such cases up and not deal with trying to use the death penalty.

2) On the other hand, the execution on the same day of Lawrence Brewer in Texas underscores why most Americans support capital punishment in at least some situations. There was absolutely no question as to Brewer’s guilt in the sadistic and racist murder of James Byrd, Jr., and the day before Brewer’s execution he told a reporter, “As far as any regrets, no, I have no regrets. No, I’d do it all over again, to tell you the truth.” For all the claims that society can be kept safe from such people without the use of capital punishment, most people, I think, naturally feel both that someone like Brewer (who had been in prison and released twice before he participated in Byrd’s murder) needs to be executed for the safety of society and also that there is a two mile stretch of bloody highway which “cries out to heaven” for justice.

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44 Responses to A Few Topical Thoughts on Capital Punishment

  • I don’t buy the deterrence argument. Is life in prison not enough of a deterrent? I don’t buy the safety argument. Life without parole keeps society plenty safe. But I do buy the retributive justice argument. Justice for the murder of James Byrd can be satisfied by nothing short of the life of Lawrence Brewer.

    I think the most compelling case against capital punishment is that it isn’t foolproof. On rare occasion, innocent people will die no matter how careful you are. That’s a very powerful argument.

  • “Life without parole keeps society plenty safe.”

    Except for guards, fellow prisoners, lifers who order hits on those outside from prison, hostage situations, etc. True life without parole in a supermax facility is the most likely combination to keep murderers from murdering again. Ironically both of these have come under attack as “human rights abuses” by many of the same people who oppose the death penalty.

    The death penalty has never been a hot button issue for me, unlike abortion. Ban it, have it, use it, don’t use it, it matters little to me as a matter of public policy. I find the arguments of most death penalty opponents fairly weak, except the argument of an innocent dying under the death penalty. Of course the same could be said about an innocent being sentenced to prison. Death penalty cases at least receive high scrutiny, while appeals of sentences involving lengthy prison sentences receive much less.

    However, on a pure emotional level, I can understand why people support the death penalty. I have known two murder victims in my life: a three year old boy and a five year old girl. They were shot to death by their father. He dumped their bodies in a river and would not reveal their location or whether they were alive or dead after he was captured following a nationwide manhunt. Their mother, my client, lived an unbelievable agony for a week until a fisherman found the little boy’s body. After the river was searched, the little girl’s body was found the next day. I always regret that he committed that atrocity in a state which did not have the death penalty, and is still alive while his children have been in the grave now for almost 9 years. Yes, I can understand why for some crimes nothing but the death penalty will do.

  • I have always thought that deterrance (and rehabilitation, for that matter) is a somewhat dangerous idea to use around any punishment, not solely death penalty arguments. I am influenced by C.S. Lewis, among others, on the idea that the type and extent of punishment should be determined solely by one one has done, rather than whether the punishment one receives serves to deter other’s from engaging in similar crime.

    Lewis noted in “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment”, that:

    “It is maintained that the only legitimate motives for punishing are the desire to deter others by example or to mend the criminal. When this theory is combined, as frequently happens, with the belief that all crime is more or less pathological, the idea of mending tails off into that of healing or curing and punishment becomes therapeutic.”

    And added:

    “…[T]the concept of Desert is the only connecting link between punishment and justice. It is only as deserved or undeserved that a sentence can be just or unjust. I do not here contend that the question ‘Is it deserved?’ is the only one we can reasonably ask about a punishment. We may very properly ask whether it is likely to deter others and to reform the criminal. But neither of these two last questions is a question about justice. There is no sense in talking about a ‘just deterrent’ or a ‘just cure’. We demand of a deterrent not whether it is just but whether it will deter. We demand of a cure not whether it is just but whether it succeeds. Thus when we cease to consider what the criminal deserves and consider only what will cure him or deter others, we have tacitly removed him from the sphere of justice altogether; instead of a person, a subject of rights, we now have a mere object, a patient, a ‘case’.”

  • I also remain somewhat on the fence on this issue, and, like Don, it’s not one where I care very passionately about either way. More often than not I find myself agreeing with supporters, particularly when it comes to its constitutionality.

    Your first point is one of the more compelling reasons against, though I have a slightly different take. The death penalty would be more just if applied even more frequently. There are some 50 executions per year in the US, a paltry sum when one considers the number of murders. The number of executions that have been carried out since it was re-instituted in the early 80s is barely more than the number of murders in some major cities per year. The haphazard way in which it is applied makes it an arbitrary punishment meted out on the people who weren’t able to string out the system.

  • One thing C. S. Lewis said of Captial Punishment: nothing better focuses the person onto death so that they can prepare for it if they wish.

  • Jonathan,

    I don’t think it would make any sense to support a punishment for its deterrent value if it weren’t already proportional. However, given proportion it seems to me that the deterrence factor would be one of the ways a society protects the common good through dispensing just punishments for crimes.

    RR, I would tend to think capital punishment has a more visceral deterrent effect than life without parole.

    Don, Agreed.

    Paul, Very much agreed.

  • A more traditional take on capital punishment. Not that it hasn’t been reformed by the Catechism. But it does provide a deep insight to the pre-Catechism view. And by someone that holds that all lying is sinful. 😉

  • I think we could live just fine without the death penalty, but IF it’s going to be used, it should be reserved ONLY for cases in which there is absolutely no doubt that a murder took place and there is no doubt that the defendant did it — the only question is what was the accused’s mental state at the time.

    There seem to be plenty of cases in which no one, not even the defense attorney or the defendant himself, tries to argue that he didn’t do it, or that it was an accident. The only argument they offer is that he was temporarily insane or whatever. In those cases, the death penalty could justly be on the table IMO. But if there is ANY chance at all that someone else did it or that the death was not really a homicide, the death penalty should be off the table. Period.

  • The banned Catholic Anarchist made a futile attempt to leave acidic comments on this thread, the latest in a long line of such attempts to get around his banning. Sheesh, Iafrate, get a life! Do we have to take out an anti-stalking order against you?

  • Well, DC, as you might have suspected from my liberal politics, I found the killing of Troy Davis repugnant.

    A few things. First, I oppose capital punishment, so I oppose execution by the state either way, but the case was muddled with doubts — there was no forensic evidence and the whole case against him was eye-witness testimony based, with seven out of nine swearing they did not tell the truth during the trial, or are giving conflicting statements now, and so on and so forth. We don’t need to re-open that whole argument.

    I try dearly to steer clear of claims of racism. I generally find them highly unproductive. I am not even sure if this is a case of racism, but in 2008, the Georgia Parole Board of Pardons commuted the sentence of Samuel David Crowe to life in prison without parole, less than three hours before he was to be executed.

    This is wonderful, because I abhor unnecessary violence. On another level, it is most interesting. Crowe was convicted for armed robbery and murder, having shot someone three times with a pistol, and beat that person with a crowbar and a pot of paint. He plead guilty. This was a case where there was no doubt.

    The Parole Board gave no reason for granting clemency, though media reports state that Crowe’s lawyer argued that he had profound remorse, a record of good behavior in jail, and was “suffering from withdrawal symptoms from a cocaine addiction at the time of the crime.”

    Why clemency in one case, and not the other? It seems a mystery to me because I’d like to not simply assume the worse.

    Second, I opposed the killing of Brewer, and was given hope by Byrd’s son publicly opposing his execution.

    Third, this is true and there too are those who oppose both, at least consistently.

  • One thing I would note is that Texas did not have life without parole as a sentencing option until 2005, so if a jury wanted to ensure there was no chance a guy got out of jail and committed more crimes, the only way to do this was via a death sentence. Since 2005 the number of death sentences handed down in Texas has dropped 40% (though this isn’t apparent in the number of executions yet because of the lag time between when a person is sentenced to death and when the sentence is actually carried out).

  • The death penalty would be more just if applied even more frequently. There are some 50 executions per year in the US, a paltry sum when one considers the number of murders.

    Yes, but instances of homicide with multiple victims are far less frequent than instances of homicide per se. IIRC, instances with two victims average about 500 per year and instances with three or more average about 100 per year.

  • Ergo, the death penalty is morally equivalent to abortion.

    These people employ prudential judgments over capital punishment to contort consciences and justify voting for the radical abortion extremists so long as said pre-born baby mass murderers consistently recite their personal concepts of social justice.

    I blame this phenomenon for the one big a$$ed mistake America that is running America into a ditch.

  • Davis got to live 22 years after he killed the cop, became another poster boy/cause celebre for the libs and bleeding hearts. Can’t believe the Pope bought into his innocence and weighed in on the side of clemency. What does he know about the case? When guilt in a homicide is found by a jury to be beyond a reasonable doubt and all appeals have been exhausted, then the law and justice must prevail. There’s an infamous case in California where $22 million was spent trying a murderer who keeps filing paperwork to stay his execution. How much has it cost the state to keep Charles Manson alive when he should have been worm food years ago? On the other hand, the cost of a bullet or a piece of rope is not only a lot cheaper but expeditious and saves everyone the trouble of wringing their hands.

    And if I hear one more “insanity defense” like the Tucson shooter, I think I’ll lose it. If ever there was a justification for drawing and quartering that’s it. All you need is a couple of horses and some rope. Better yet, show it on TV.

    It boils down to one thing and one thing only: punish the guilty and spare the innocent. But many today have just the opposite view: kill innocent babies in the womb and let the murderers live.

    We live in a sick world and, as someone once said, there is no justice in or out of court.

  • Judge William T. Moore who ruled on the Davis habeas corpus petition last year, and who was affirmed by the US Supreme Court, wrote an exhaustive 174 page opinion in which he characterized the alleged new evidence that Davis was innocent to be largely smoke and mirrors, the judge’s phrase, and that Davis simply was not innocent of the murder. Read the opinion here:

  • Thanks for posting that, Don.

    I suspect that one of the things which causes so much doubt about these cases, in regards to guilt, in the mind of the casually sympathetic public is that the anti-capital punishment advocacy groups put massive amounts of time and resources into confusing each of the very small number of cases put up for the death penalty each year. While it’s certainly possible that at times all of the machinery of justice goes astray and an innocent man is executed, I suspect it’s far more frequent that those who are against the death penalty regardless of guilt manage to convince casual observers that someone is likely innocent when he is in fact not. (After all, it’s not really in their interest to take a balanced view of the evidence the way it is for a court — they are only looking for exculpatory evidence, regardless of whether or not it’s true.)

    The especially unfortunate side effect of this is that this creates in the mind of the public the idea that the justice system in general is constantly convicting innocent people.

  • Well, as a factual matter, Davis was certainly guilty. He fled the area after killing Officer McPhail, and bullet fragments from a shooting the prior evening that Davis certainly did, matched bullet fragment from the McPhail shooting. Of course, there were scads of eyewitnesses who fingered Davis as the shooter, and the supposed “recanters” don’t say Davis did NOT shoot McPhail, they now claim they can’t be sure who the shooter was. Two eyewitness still steadfastly maintain that Davis was the killer.

    As I point out on my blog, the irony of the two executions, Davis and Brewer, underscore the insincerity of a vast portion of the left about capital punishment. Davis, a favored killer because he feeds into leftist stereotypes, is virtually canonized, while Brewer, a despicable racist, did not generate a hundredth of the anti-DP fervor as Davis– because his execution did not feed into the left’s stereotypes.

    Why the Pope intervened in one and not the other I will have to pass over in respectful silence, lest I encourage the cynical to conclude that the Pope in this instance allowed himself to be used a tool for the left’s agenda.

  • Darwin, fret not… since the re-introduction of the death penalty in the 1970s, there has been not ONE verifiable wrongful execution, despite the frantic efforts of the groups you allude to. They throw lots of sand, and generate lots of heat, but there is no light.

    And frankly, even if it could be shown that there had been a wrongful execution, I’m not certain that it would be a decisive argument against the DP (while it would certainly be a propaganda coup), since there will always be cases of unquestionable guilt where the defendant deserves, and society needs, recourse to the death penalty.

  • I’m another fence sitter, but basically my thoughts mirror Paul’s. What it boils down to in this country is that if you have the money to afford competent representation, you don’t get the death penalty. The Menendez brothers being a case in point. Hell, sometimes if your case is notorious enough, you can still attract competent representation–the dreadful Ms. Anthony is Exh. A (thank you, Nancy Grace).

    What that leaves us with is a death row that is overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately non-white. That’s not just, even if all of the people sitting there are guilty. About which I have nagging doubts, too: a lousy trial performance can be fatal, as the family of Terri Schiavo will sadly tell you, albeit in a different context.

    What keeps me from joining the abolitionists are the truly heinous, hellish crimes that Don describes, as well as ones that have the potential to rend the fabric of society in a truly disturbing way (domestic terror incidents). Lines have to be drawn. Will the abolitionists be satisfied with life without parole? I have my doubts, too. The Western European example is instructive: it is astonishing to me that Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist, will be free in twenty years.

  • My father, who works in health care, once told me that he found the reason people support the death penalty and the reason people support euthanasia seem to spring from the same impulse: that one is uncomfortable with the fact that the other is still alive. With euthanasia, it is usually the family and friends of the dying person who feel that they can’t go on watching this suffering, that they need some sort of catharsis that comes with an orderly death. With the death penalty, it is often the family of the victim and members of the public who can’t feel that they are “done” with the case until the perpetrator dies.

    In the James Byrd case, both the victim’s wife and children have stated their opposition to the execution of the murderers.

  • Side note: though I am opposed to the death penalty in the US (I don’t think we have a country where the DP serves the purpose it is supposed to: to eliminate the danger from the community for the common good) I do think it has application in some areas.

    It’s also rather unhelpful that many anti death penalty crusaders tend to focus on manifestly guilty people and hold them up as an example of someone who deserves freedom due to their innocence, rather than arguing the case that life without parole is fit punishment. Like Mumia Abu Jamal, who is certainly guilty of his crimes, and should never have been allowed to don the mantle of “political prisoner”.

  • What it boils down to in this country is that if you have the money to afford competent representation, you don’t get the death penalty.

    One might replace assigned counsel plans with professional public defenders’ offices with a similar salary scale and per capita caseload to the public prosecutor’s office. If county governments lack the skilled manpower, one can ensconse it in the state welfare department.

    What that leaves us with is a death row that is overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately non-white.

    Do not know what the situation is now, but at one time the proportion of blacks on death row was almost precisely the same as the proportion of blacks convicted of murder. Such was admitted by David Bruck in the articles he was writing a generation ago, at which time he and his confederates developed a more elaborate argument concerning the probabilities of being executed for black-on-black murders, black-on-white murders, white-on-white murders, and white-on-black murders.

    The criminal population in general is overwhelmingly drawn from the impecunious, except on television detective serials.

  • @ Darwin

    “I don’t think it would make any sense to support a punishment for its deterrent value if it weren’t already proportional. However, given proportion it seems to me that the deterrence factor would be one of the ways a society protects the common good through dispensing just punishments for crimes.”

    A differentiation to make, given our comments, is between calculation and effect. For instance, one calculates punishment based solely upon what was done, a.k.a., retribution. However, deterrent effect is natural when laws include the threat of that punishment, and I think that is unavoidable.

  • The criminal population in general is overwhelmingly drawn from the impecunious, except on television detective serials.

    This is why WordPress needs to invent a line-item “like” feature.

  • Mr. McKenna’s additional information is why I’ve started to try to avoid coverage of legal actions where I don’t have either personal knowledge to help sort through stuff or a big enough interest to do a good job of it. The trial around that poor little girl’s death a few months back formalized it– these things are just way too prone to group-think, manipulation and story-making.
    Then, once you DO manage to sift the truth out, you have to figure out how to 1) get people to listen, 2) counter those who were misled (and figure out why/how) 3) deal with those who are deliberately misleading.
    There are few things more frustrating than good people who are trying to do good and thus excuse themselves from un-handy facts.

  • Tom McKenna, “Well, as a factual matter, Davis was certainly guilty. He fled the area after killing Officer McPhail, and bullet fragments from a shooting the prior evening that Davis certainly did, matched bullet fragment from the McPhail shooting. Of course, there were scads of eyewitnesses who fingered Davis as the shooter, and the supposed “recanters” don’t say Davis did NOT shoot McPhail, they now claim they can’t be sure who the shooter was.”

    All of that is consistent with Davis’ story that he was there but didn’t do the shooting. Combine that with the fact that the gun belonged to someone else at the scene and there’s no physical evidence linking Davis to any shooting, and you have reasonable doubt.

  • Of course, the jury convicted Davis and 25 years of appeals sustained the conviction and the sentence because the dude that owned the gun was white . . .

    Davis used the Obama defense (which all convicts use), “It wasn’t me!”

  • Capital punishment was enforced in the O.T. context of Israel. The New Testament is addressed to Christians who comprise a kingdom separate from the world and its political entities. The Bible does not speak to capital punishment in these times. It simply isn’t a matter for Christians and the Kingdom of God. That is not to say it doesn’t concern us as we live out our earthly lives. It is just to say that there is nothing we can say dogmatically either way. We can only argue.

  • [D]eath row… is overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately non-white.Dale Price

    And overwhelmingly disproportionately non-female.

  • Although this may appear to be a VERY minor issue or even a distraction from the debate on the death penalty itself, there is also the matter of the State of Texas announcing that condemned prisoners will no longer be allowed to choose their last meals (they will simply receive the same fare as other prisoners). The announcement was prompted by Brewer’s over-the-top request for a triple bacon cheeseburger, meat lover’s pizza, a pound of barbecue and other items which, when finally delivered to him, he didn’t eat.

    The combox debate over this issue doesn’t seem to have reached the Catholic blogosphere yet, but I find it interesting nonetheless. Many people favor abolition of the last meal tradition on the grounds that last meals are wasteful and an insult to the victims who were never granted any such privilege. Why not, some argue, just not bother feeding Death Row inmates at all in their final week or so since they’re going to die anyway? Who cares whether they suffer or endure indignity, after all, they didn’t think about that when they killed their victims, right? Another “con” (pardon the pun) argument from death penalty opponents: does granting the condemned a last meal simply make the practice of capital punishment seem less barbaric than it really is and condition people to think of it as acceptable or traditional?

    However, it’s the pro arguments (still very much in the minority) that I find most intriguing. Yes, it may be true that a person about to be put to death for a heinous murder (or several) doesn’t “deserve” a fancy meal, but that’s not the point. The point is that even as the condemned is about to be ultimately punished, the State, acting on behalf of society, still tries to be more merciful than the criminal was and allows him to experience one of life’s great pleasures — eating a favorite food — one last time. The request can be kept within reasonable bounds (for example, only being allowed to choose items that are already in the prison kitchen or whose cost is within a certain range) but to abolish it altogether seems kind of petty. The fact that a lot of people no longer want to bother with this form of very rudimentary mercy to the condemned is not, in my opinion, a good thing.

  • I am against taking away the tradition of the last meal for the condemned Elaine, as I would be against taking away the right of the condemned to say his last words or to be offered a blind fold if he is to be shot. Traditions help guide us in a frequently chaotic world and their observance helps us find our way. Of course currently traditions are contstantly under attack and thrown away at a moment’s notice. This is a mistake and merely makes modern life ever more graceless, utlilitarian and gray.

  • RR,

    Wasn’t Davis’ story that he left before the shooting? My understanding is that the cops found McPhail’s blood on Davis’ shorts, but that this was excluded as the fruit of an unlawful search.

  • You anti death penalty folks must think the Catholic Church began around 1980,when Pope J P 2 started to talk against the death penalty. You are wrong.
    The early Christians evidently had nothing against the death penalty. They approve of the divine punishment meted out to Ananias and Sapphira when they are rebuked by Peter for their fraudulent action (Acts 5:1-11). The Letter to the Hebrews makes an argument from the fact that “a man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses” (10:28). Paul repeatedly refers to the connection between sin and death. He writes to the Romans, with an apparent reference to the death penalty, that the magistrate who holds authority “does not bear the sword in vain; for he is the servant of God to execute His wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). No passage in the New Testament disapproves of the death penalty.

    Turning to Christian tradition, we may note that the Fathers and Doctors of the Church are virtually unanimous in their support for capital punishment, even though some of them such as St. Ambrose exhort members of the clergy not to pronounce capital sentences or serve as executioners. To answer the objection that the first commandment forbids killing, St. Augustine writes in The City of God:
    The same divine law which forbids the killing of a human being allows certain exceptions, as when God authorizes killing by a general law or when He gives an explicit commission to an individual for a limited time. Since the agent of authority is but a sword in the hand, and is not responsible for the killing, it is in no way contrary to the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” to wage war at God’s bidding, or for the representatives of the State’s authority to put criminals to death, according to law or the rule of rational justice.

    In the Middle Ages a number of canonists teach that ecclesiastical courts should refrain from the death penalty and that civil courts should impose it only for major crimes. But leading canonists and theologians assert the right of civil courts to pronounce the death penalty for very grave offenses such as murder and treason. Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus invoke the authority of Scripture and patristic tradition, and give arguments from reason.

    Giving magisterial authority to the death penalty, Pope Innocent III required disciples of Peter Waldo seeking reconciliation with the Church to accept the proposition: “The secular power can, without mortal sin, exercise judgment of blood, provided that it punishes with justice, not out of hatred, with prudence, not precipitation.” In the high Middle Ages and early modern times the Holy See authorized the Inquisition to turn over heretics to the secular arm for execution. In the Papal States the death penalty was imposed for a variety of offenses. The Roman Catechism, issued in 1566, three years after the end of the Council of Trent, taught that the power of life and death had been entrusted by God to civil authorities and that the use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to the fifth commandment.

    In modern times Doctors of the Church such as Robert Bellarmine and Alphonsus Liguori held that certain criminals should be punished by death. Venerable authorities such as Francisco de Vitoria, Thomas More, and Francisco Suárez agreed. John Henry Newman, in a letter to a friend, maintained that the magistrate had the right to bear the sword, and that the Church should sanction its use, in the sense that Moses, Joshua, and Samuel used it against abominable crimes.

    Throughout the first half of the twentieth century the consensus of Catholic theologians in favor of capital punishment in extreme cases remained solid, as may be seen from approved textbooks and encyclopedia articles of the day. The Vatican City State from 1929 until 1969 had a penal code that included the death penalty for anyone who might attempt to assassinate the pope. Pope Pius XII, in an important allocution to medical experts, declared that it was reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life in expiation of their crimes.

    Summarizing the verdict of Scripture and tradition, we can glean some settled points of doctrine. It is agreed that crime deserves punishment in this life and not only in the next. In addition, it is agreed that the State has authority to administer appropriate punishment to those judged guilty of crimes and that this punishment may, in serious cases, include the sentence of death.
    The current Pope, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, stated in 2004:
    3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia” THATS A QUOTE
    “Here’s the site….READ IT

  • BA, Davis says he was there for the fight but left before the shooting. I believe the bloody shorts rumor was started by Eric Erickson. There were shorts but they were of no forensic value.

  • Don Curry is right, I think. I know the Christian consensus has always favored the death penalty. I was unaware that John Paul II was the one who altered that. But I maintain that the death penalty in N.T. times can only be argued for or against. Nothing dogmatic can be said. Scripture doesn’t address it because it addresses the church, not the world.

  • “There were shorts but they were of no forensic value.”

    No, that is not the case. They were taken from a dryer at the home of the mother of Troy Davis. The defense successfully kept them out of the trial by a motion to suppress, on the grounds that the search of the home of the mother of Davis had been without a warrant. In the numerous appeals the State fought to have the shorts considered by reviewing courts.

  • Recantations years and years after the verdict from a jury are very suspect. And, if you look at the details, the defense HAD the statements years before they filed for new trial. (Why did they sit on them?) EVERY court…every one….ruled the jury verdict correct. And Ill tell you this—IF there were reasonable doubt at the jury trial…with a black defendant…I guarantee you, ONE of those 7 blacks on the jury would have held out for acquital. You can take that to the bank !As a former prosecutor, Ill tell you a black majority jury does not convict a black guy unless there is OVERWHELMING CREDIBLE EVIDENCE !

  • Don, you obviously didn’t read the opinion you posted. On page 161:

    “The State introduced evidence regarding Mr. Davis’s “bloody” shorts. (See Resp. Ex. 67.) However, even the State conceded that this evidence lacked any probative value of guilt, submitting it only to show what the Board of Pardons and Paroles had before it. (Evidentiary Hearing Transcript at 468-69.) Indeed, there was insufficient DNA to determine who the blood belonged to, so the shorts in no way linked Mr. Davis to the murder of Officer MacPhail. The blood could have belonged to Mr. Davis, Mr. Larry Young, Officer MacPhail, or even have gotten onto the shorts entirely apart from the events of that night. Moreover, it is not even clear that the substance was blood.”

  • Yes I did read it RR, but obviously not carefully enough to catch footnote 97. I assume that the Defense then filed their motion to supress just for the heck of it, or perhaps they filed it because the substance was blood and they were fearful what a DNA test would reveal, even though Davis’ mom had thougtfully laundered the shorts for him. I know in my defense cases I generally do not file motions to suppress evidence that I know will not hurt my client.

  • “In the Papal States the death penalty was imposed for a variety of offenses.” -Don Curry

    Sounds like an argument from Tradition. Now I’m curious if any books have been written about the Papal States’ domestic and foreign policy. I think that would be very illuminating.

  • The church is now against the death penalty. You may stop debating about it.

  • Completely untrue.

    “3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

    Cardinal Ratzinger

  • Hey Randy…nope you are totally wrong…I can still, as a Catholic, still be in excellent standing with the church, and not so with Abortion and euthansia. Here’s what the Pope says: QUOTE
    3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”
    Here’s the cite
    So when you dismiss my opinion…remember Randy…the Pope doesnt.

Choice and Gendercide

Friday, June 24, AD 2011

Last weekend’s Wall Street Journal featured an interesting review of Mara Hvistendahl’s new book Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. The topic is one that pro-lifers are all to familiar with — the use of sex selective abortion throughout the world which has resulted in the death of 163 million unborn girls being aborted over the last 40 years, specifically because their parents wanted a boy instead. (In other words, over and above all of the abortions going on for other reasons.) The sheer number of “missing girls” is staggering — imagine a number of women equal to the current total populations of France and the UK combined.

Mara Hvistendahl is worried about girls. Not in any political, moral or cultural sense but as an existential matter. She is right to be. In China, India and numerous other countries (both developing and developed), there are many more men than women, the result of systematic campaigns against baby girls. In “Unnatural Selection,” Ms. Hvistendahl reports on this gender imbalance: what it is, how it came to be and what it means for the future.

In nature, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. This ratio is biologically ironclad. Between 104 and 106 is the normal range, and that’s as far as the natural window goes. Any other number is the result of unnatural events.

Yet today in India there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls. In China, the number is 121—though plenty of Chinese towns are over the 150 mark. China’s and India’s populations are mammoth enough that their outlying sex ratios have skewed the global average to a biologically impossible 107. But the imbalance is not only in Asia. Azerbaijan stands at 115, Georgia at 118 and Armenia at 120.

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6 Responses to Choice and Gendercide

  • Sex-selective abortion is a problem that more stringent abortion laws and government regulations will not change, because the root of the problem is cultural. These cultures do not value their women; they are seen as inferior and undesirable when compared to sons for various reasons, many of them financial (see, for example, the use of dowries in India). If these cultures started treating their women with respect instead of as commodities, there would be less “incentive” to abort a female child, and women would be less pressured by their families to abort for this reason.

  • The British stopped suttee in the Nineteenth Century by threatening to hang those who immolated a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre. Cultures do change in the face of laws that are enforced. If one is waiting for sex selection abortions to end as a result of oriental cultures equally valuing women to men, than in regard to some of those culutures I suspect one would still be waiting when Gabriel sounds the Final Trump.

  • I understand what you are trying to say re: sati, but from what I’ve read, the practice of sati never reached epidemic proportions, and was practiced only in certain sects of Indian culture. It still occurs very rarely in India, even though there are laws against performing and even observing sati. It’s disingenuous to say that the British stopped it, and it’s not comparable to sex-selective abortion.

    “Cultures do change in the face of laws that are enforced.” I agree. But the key word is enforced. Dowries were made illegal in India in 1961. Nonetheless, due to insufficient enforcement, it’s still a common practice, to the point that women who refuse to pay dowries (or have “insufficient” dowries) can find themselves verbally and physically abused, even murdered.

    If you were to simply outlaw abortion (sex-selective or otherwise) in these countries, yes, there would be a rise in female births. However, there would also be a rise in female infanticide and neglect. An unwanted female child will not suddenly become wanted because of legislation. Education (teaching, among other things, that daughters have rights, and are valuable members of society, just like sons) is an essential factor in changing cultural attitudes, perhaps the most important one.

    Please don’t misunderstand me and think that I am advocating or approve of sex-selective abortion. But singling out and focusing on abortion over all other things is like treating a broken bone with painkillers — it’s treating a symptom and failing to deal with the reasons why it’s happening in the first place.

  • The British did stop suttee for all practical purposes. A law cannot stop all incidents of any brutal practice, but it can greatly reduce the rate of occurrence. Laws against infanticide can greatly lessen the chance that a parent will murder their child, just as the absence of such a law can mean that infanticide becomes accepted as was the case in ancient Greece and Rome. With the rise of Christianity, laws were passed against infanticide. They did not work overnight, but the incidence of infanticide was greatly reduced, and orphanages were established to care for abandoned children. Cultures rarely change by themselves until the law points the way.

    Today, advocates of abortion promote abortion as a safe and legal solution to unwanted children within the womb for any reason or no reason. In that environment I have a hard time understanding how an advocate of legal abortion can say that a sex selection abortion should not occur, while still steadfastly holding that abortion for no reason is acceptable. Once the law begins to ban certain types of abortion, then the “abortion liberty” is in danger, which is why advocates of abortion fought so hard to preserve the disguised infanticide known as partial birth abortion.

    Atheist and uber pro-abort Richard Dawkins has no problem with sex selection abortions in theory as long as the deaths are handed out even-handedly:

    “Even sex selection itself and selective abortion of early embryos is not necessarily a social evil. A society which values girls and boys equally might well include parents who aspire to at least one of each, without having too large a family. We all know families whose birth order goes girl girl girl girl boy stop. And other families of boy boy boy boy girl stop. If sex selection had been an option, wouldn’t those families have been smaller: girl boy stop, and boy girl stop? In other words, sex selection, in societies that value sexual equality, could have beneficial effects on curbing overpopulation, and could help provide parents with exactly the family balance they want.”

    His main point is that it is the nasty religious and cultural prejudices against women of societies that are to blame rather than scientific abortion for sex selection abortions aimed exclusively at girls. He is, as usual, wrong. The problem is people believing that it is perfectly proper to kill children either in or outside the womb for any reason or no reason.

  • One would think that in a society where women are scarce, they would be treated with GREATER reverence and protection, kind of like we treat endangered species of plants and animals or rare materials like gold or jewels. Instead the opposite seems to be the case — they get treated worse, subjected to all sorts of violence, coercion and discrimination. Maybe some environmentalist group should declare Chinese and Indian women to be an endangered species? (Of course it will be a cold day in hell before that happens…)