Some choices people made

November 25, 1996|By George F. Will

WASHINGTON — ''RACINE, Wis. -- On a cold night last March, Deborah J. Zimmerman, drunk and nearly nine months pregnant, was wheeled into a local hospital for an emergency Caesarean section. As the obstetrics staff pleaded with her to allow attachment of a fetal monitor, Ms. Zimmerman at first refused. Insisting that she did not want to give birth, she told a surgical aide, 'I'm just going to go home and keep drinking and drink myself to death, and I'm going to kill this thing because I don't want it anyways.' Later that night she gave birth to a girl whose blood alcohol level was .199, nearly twice the threshold for a legal finding of intoxication in Wisconsin. . . . Ms. Zimmerman . . . has been charged with attempted murder.''

6* -- The New York Times, August 17, 1996

''CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- A man who drove drunk into a pregnant woman's car was convicted today of killing the woman's baby, who was born a month and a half premature because of the crash. Jurors were not required to consider whether Krystal Zuniga was a person or a fetus at the time of the accident. . . .''

5) -- Associated Press, October 17, 1996

''A healthy baby girl only a few hours old was found yesterday in a cardboard box outside an apartment building in Brooklyn. . . .''

7+ -- The New York Times, October 28, 1996

''COMMACK, L.I. -- A cleaner found the body of a newborn in a movie theater restroom this morning, and the authorities said the infant had died of asphyxiation.''

8, -- The New York Times, November 19, 1996

''The college student accused of helping his girlfriend kill their newborn son after she gave birth in a Delaware motel room became the subject of a nationwide police search last night after he failed to surrender to face murder charges.''

-- The New York Times, November 19, 1996 WASHINGTON -- Questions come to mind concerning some recent exercises of the right of ''choice,'' the foundation of ''reproductive freedom.''

About the two 18-year-olds who are charged with having chosen to kill their seven-and-a-half-pound boy, putting his body in a trash bag in the motel's Dumpster: Don't young people read newspapers? Don't they know that, thanks to President Clinton, they could have chosen to have a doctor suck their baby's brains out, and Delaware would not have chosen to charge them with murder?

RTC How did the person who chose the Long Island movie theater restroom as the place to discard the asphyxiated baby make that particular choice? How does one choose that venue over, say, a Starbucks? Has the mother subsequently received any, well, questioning looks from friends, family or co-workers? Pregnant one day, not pregnant the next, when is the baby shower?

Instead of scandalously choosing to leave the baby in a box in Brooklyn, why did the woman, if it was she, not choose, a few hours earlier, to exercise her presidentially protected (by President Clinton's veto of Congress' ban on the procedure) right to a partial-birth abortion? The baby would have been pulled by its legs almost out of the birth canal, the doctor would have stuck scissors into the base of its skull, opened the scissors to make a hole for a suction tube, and sucked out its brains. No box, no scandal.

Morally equal to hamburger

How could the Corpus Christi jurors decide that a murder had occurred without deciding whether the victim was a person or a fetus? What was murdered, ''fetal material?'' The logic of Roe v. Wade, as of partial-birth abortion, is that until birth, a fetus has the legal status and moral standing of hamburger in a woman's stomach. How could the Corpus Christi man, drunk or sober, be guilty of murdering Krystal when Krystal's mother has that presidentially cherished right to choose to have Krystal's brains sucked out?

For that matter, why does not Ms. Zimmerman's constitutional ''privacy'' right -- ''our bodies, our choices'' -- give her the right to choose to kill her fetus with alcohol? Why is a doctor's scissors and suction tube a preferable choice?

Meanwhile, back in Delaware, the Delaware law requires prosecutors to seek the death penalty when a homicide victim is under 14. So the two 18-year-olds who are charged with choosing to kill their baby just minutes after it was no longer eligible for a partial-birth abortion are themselves eligible for capital punishment.

In Delaware such punishment is by lethal injection. Could Delaware choose to execute the two by inserting scissors into the bases of their skulls, opening the scissors, inserting suction tubes and sucking out their brains? Of course not. The Constitution forbids choosing cruel and unusual punishments.

George F. Will is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 11/25/96

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