Mother murderers?

The last execution in the UK took place in August 1964. The following year, Parliament passed a law suspending the death penalty across Great Britain (this did not extend to Northern Ireland) for all crimes except high treason, “piracy with violence”, arson in royal dockyards, and espionage. It was only with the Human Rights Act coming into force in 1998 that the death penalty was banned under UK law in all circumstances.

The UK is a member state of the Council of Europe which drafted the European Convention on Human Rights in 1950. The Council of Europe has made abolition of the death penalty a prerequisite of membership. As a result, nobody has been executed in any of the Council of Europe’s member states since 1997.

We are, I think, happy that we, and the rest of Europe, have banned the death penalty: finally in the Human Rights Act in 1998. Now, it would appear, it is only human beings in the womb who are liable to the death penalty. Their crime? Being a nuisance to the interests of the owner of the womb. Pretty tough stuff, I think.

Of course many would say that the entity in the womb cannot, initially, be regarded as a human being. But the truth of the matter is that we all change and grow throughout our lifetimes through the development of our bodies and brains. Indeed, the very acting of writing these words is changing me — through changes in my brain. It’s still me! And it started 86 years and three months ago, at the moment of my conception. Was I conscious of myself at that time? I suspect not. But then I do not regard older humans who, for whatever reason, happen to be unconscious, that they are, at that point, not human beings, and so can be despatched at my will. And the child in the womb is my neighbour.

Yes, I am sympathetic towards women who are pregnant when they do not wish to be. But I do not believe that they are entitled to take their baby’s life as a price for their convenience. Why should babies be excecuted while murderers are not?

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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25 Responses to Mother murderers?

  1. John Candido says:

    Well, Quentin!

    That was an inflammatory post that should get the blood racing through our bodies, especially if you support medical terminations as I do.

    ‘Mother Murderers?’ is out of bounds.

    ‘ Now, it would appear, it is only human beings in the womb who are liable to the death penalty. Their crime?’

    An abortion is not ‘the death penalty’ despite the unfortunate fact that the life of the fetus will come to an end through this procedure.

    A death penalty applies in a court of law and is administered by a judge after a jury has found the accused guilty of a serious crime, like murder, beyond reasonable doubt,.

    A fetus never commits a crime.

    An abortion by law is not the same as a mother taking the life of their baby.

    Get a sense of proportion, please.

    • ignatius says:

      “An abortion is not ‘the death penalty’ despite the unfortunate fact that the life of the fetus will come to an end through this procedure.”

      Ok, how about “an abortion is an execution” Will that do?

      • John Candido says:

        Ah! That’s more like it! Thanks, ignatious.

      • pnyikos says:

        “execution” still has connotations of the unborn developing human being punished for the wrongdoing of having been conceived and implanted. A sufficiently detached and materialistic person might even claim that the invasive trophoblast, part of which is destined to become the placenta, is guilty of trespass by actively invading the maternal endometrium.

        I much prefer the term “homicide,” which literally means killing a member of the genus Homo and whose leagal meaning is subject to qualifications “excusable” and “justifiable,” and whose meaning encompasses the various degrees of manslaughter and murder.

        Still legally speaking, I view abortion as “excusable homicide” up to the point specified by the Texas Heartbeat law, about which I will make a separate reply, and possibly a little further, but no later than the time traditionally set for human embryologists to switch their designation from “embryo” to “fetus.” This is 8 weeks after fertilization, roughly 10 weeks LMP. This is where Portugal draws the line between excusable homicide and voluntary manslaughter. Portugal also has a sliding scale of penalties that increase with fetal age.

        I start calling abortion “murder” when it is the intentional killing of a viable unborn child. However, I go with the unbroken American tradition of punishing only the abortionist, not the mother. However, I do believe the mother should have to do (at most) 200 hours of community service for having deprived our low-fertility society of a potentially valuable member.

        I beg everyone’s indulgence if I sound too clinical in all this. This is the way I argue with abortion rights zealots on the internet, and I recommend this kind of language for debate with them to any but those who are most experienced at reaching them on a spiritual or emotional level.

  2. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes ( ) :

    // Of course many would say that the entity in the womb cannot, initially, be regarded as a human being. //

    Certainly not if they’re dead set against capital punishment. Humans desire to protect themselves against the distress of cognitive dissonance. Another example: if you choose to free yourself from the sacrifice of caring for an aged dog by having the vet kill her, you will first need to objectify her. Then you can tell yourself and your friends that she was suffering and had to be put down.

    The modern establishment are tying themselves into cognitive knots trying to deal with death. They’re making an unholy mess of it. They’ve lately created the “scientific” discipline of “bioethics” to sort it all out. This has the effect of quantifying morality. *Must*. Avoid. Cognitive. Dissonance.

  3. John Candido says:

    David, contemporary societies aren’t entangled in conceptual knots over legalised abortion. Civil societies provide medical terminations to protect mothers facing difficulties with their pregnancies.

    • pnyikos says:

      John, you are completely ignoring the second human being involved here. Just be glad that your mother did not have you killed just before the 20 week stage with a procedure that is the equivalent of drawing and quartering known as “Dilation and Evacuation” (D&E).

      It is now well established that the developing human is capable of feeling excruciating pain, and I can hardly think of a more horrible death: the comforts of the womb, so well known as to require no explanation, being permanently obliteratee by being torn limb from limb in one the most agonizing deaths to which human beings can be subjected.

      I didn’t think that I would get so un-clinical so soon after my parallel reply with you to ignatius, but you asked for it with your callous indifference to the sufferings that some abortion victims go through. After all, we have laws against cruelty to animals; why not laws against cruelty to unborn human beings?

      • Alan says:

        pnyikos – “It is now well established that the developing human is capable of feeling excruciating pain”

        At what stage of development is this considered well established? I find quite mixed messages if I search for up to date information about this from medical sources in general.

  4. galerimo says:

    “Mother bashing” might become a favourite pass time on secondsightblog. We’ve given abortion a good airing, January, June, September and now December, in 2021.

    But at least this time, you have kept God out of the picture!

    Although He seems to be sneaking back in as “executioner”, even though it is exactly the same thing as “dealer in death penalties”.

    “I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh; they will be as drunk on their own blood as on new wine” (Isa. 49:25-26) Destruction of one’s own flesh echoes our favourite topic here.

    Consider too, when Pharaoh was beginning to weaken in favour of the Hebrews, God steps in, “And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh” (Ex.:12) with plagues resulting in the horrible deaths of thousands of men, women and children.

    Our emerging pass time would have to point to the presence of pregnant women in that population too.

    The ghastly massacre of Pharaoh’s army, drowning in the dead sea would is an execution that we still celebrate today. Another prominent place in execution.

    The awful cruelty of burying human beings alive, “along with their wives, children and little babies” (Num. 16:27) is God’s direct action too, despite the interventions of his own leaders.

    Bound to be some pregnancies among those poor unfortunes to help us pass the time.

    The massacre of the Amalekites is fairly laid at the feet of God, who hunted the entire nation down for generations.

    And stripped Saul of his kingship for showing leniency towards them leaving his own prophet Samuel to complete the genocide of this nation.

    “Do not spare him, but slay man and woman, child and babe, ox and sheep, camel and ass”. (1 Sam.15:2-3). Definitely more material for us to rail at from our high moral ground where me might choose to pass the time.

    Not too happy with David because he conducted a census, so, God sends a “pestilence” on Israel that kills 70,000 on the first day! (2 Sam.24). Any pregnancies in there. I think so!

    And just as in Samuel and Kings and in the Gospel, God is the model. So best to keep God out of any discussion on abortion, or anyone else in a masculine type role just focus on the women.

    And our theme song for this pass time might become Psalm 137 “Happy is the one, who seizes your infants, and dashes them against the rocks” (Verse 9).

    All together now! One, two, three…

    • pnyikos says:

      The only way that these things can be reconciled with the mercy of God is the Christian belief in the Resurrection and the life after death that Jesus earned for us (including those who died before Jesus lived) through his crucifixion. We Catholics celebrate that horrible death with our crucifixes, which Protestants seem to shy away from, unlike their hero St. Paul:

      “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” [Galatians 6: 14]

      “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” [I Corinthians 2:2].

      I cannot resist closing with a comment about one thing you wrote:

      The ghastly massacre of Pharaoh’s army, drowning in the dead sea would is an execution that we still celebrate today.

      I learned from a Jewish friend of mine that the Talmud depicts the angels celebrating those “executions,” and God telling them “Do not celebrate the deaths of my children.”

      I get almost choked with emotion whenever I talk or write about that, as I am now.

  5. David Smith says:

    Quentin points out ( ) the odd imbalance between modern Western society’s refusal to execute condemned criminals and its insistence on killing unborn children. Observing that curious comparison can lead to an instructive exercise in how and why the West’s value systems have changed radically in a mere fifty or sixty years.

    In starting to think along these lines, I realized that there was far too much to toss off in a post of a few short paragraphs. So I’m submitting a sort of pre-preliminary outline for your consideration.

    Causes contributing to the change:

    • The gradually increasing power of Enlightenment thought nourished by several centuries of continual progress in science and technology. Power of man over nature.

    • The coming of age of children taught in schools whose administrative and teaching staff were believers in the romantic notion of the supremacy of the individual and, within the individual, of the pre-eminence of a desire for continual pleasure.

    • The greatly accelerated pace of scientific and technological change over the past half century. Enlightenment thinking greatly magnified.

    • The concentration of cultural power in densely populated and mechanized cities. Bees in a hive: man as an economic widget, subservient to a system. Pressure of urban dwellers to think alike, because of enforced propinquity.

    • The first half of the 20th century a time of great human slaughter. The cheapness of human life.

    • The great post-war increase in popular affluence. Increase in leisure time and leisure activities. The predominance of pleasure.

    • The feminization of labor and the consequent breakup of the traditional marriage and family.

    • The withering away of traditional Christianity. Elevation of human will. Denial of anything not detected by material science. Removal of impediments to personal desires.

    Only a few generations ago, the prevailing morality condemned abortion as the killing of a child. Then, in only two or three generations, abortion had become not only sanctioned by the state and by a large segment of Christians but regarded as a civil right of every woman. The child in the womb had gone from being a human being in gestation to being a growth in a womb, the sole property of the mother, to nourish or dispose of, as it pleased her.

  6. David Smith says:

    pynikos writes ( ) :

    // Still legally speaking, I view abortion as “excusable homicide” up to the point specified by the Texas Heartbeat law, about which I will make a separate reply, and possibly a little further, but no later than the time traditionally set for human embryologists to switch their designation from “embryo” to “fetus.” This is 8 weeks after fertilization, roughly 10 weeks LMP. This is where Portugal draws the line between excusable homicide and voluntary manslaughter. Portugal also has a sliding scale of penalties that increase with fetal age.

    I start calling abortion “murder” when it is the intentional killing of a viable unborn child. However, I go with the unbroken American tradition of punishing only the abortionist, not the mother. //

    This all seems sensible to me. Thanks. The Church should probably stay away from it, though. Once you start splitting hairs, there’s no stopping.

  7. John Thomas says:

    As a firm believer in the value and sanctity of all human life, I’m obviously against abortion, and other aspects of the Culture of Death which we live under – but what makes me spitting mad is the way our rulers, and many others – yes, including Christians – think that becasue we have no death penalty for convicted murderers, that we are somehow a “better” society than that before – we are far worse, and kill a few million totally innocent people for every guilty person we killed in the past. The smug – and erroneous – assumption of the Moral High Ground by so many, and our rulers, etc. is really appalling. When a young journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge covered the Nuremburg trials of Nazi leaders, and he pointed out that it was only a matter of TIME before the victorious nations (then trying the Nazis on charges of war crimes) carried out things as bad, and arguably worse, than anything the Nazis had ever done; that time has now come. What is even more vile, to my mind, is the parading of their supposed-moral superiority, by commercial bodies (and other organisations, eg. charities) who support the abortion industry. Fortunately, SPUC has an online list of nasty people to avoid (I’ve heard of Catholics who won’t support BBC Children in Need, for a related reason).

    • pnyikos says:

      Livescience is not a professional science journal; note the complete lack of citations, and its pretentious title whose second half is “What the science says.” But science does not study subjective conscious experience — that is the domain of phenomenology and the philosophy of mind– but only its physical concomitants, which have been known to be unreliable.

      Most crucially, it is not known whether subjective consciousness, including consciousness of pain, requires a cerebral cortex at all. A famous researcher of anencephalics and hydrocephalics, John Lorber, has said:

      There’s a young student at this university…who has an IQ of 126, has gained a first-class honors degree in mathematics, and is socially completely normal. And yet the boy has virtually no brain…instead of the normal 4.5 centimeter thickness of brain tissue between the ventricles and the cortical surface, there was just a thin layer of mantle measuring a millimeter or so.
      –Lewin, R. (1980). Is your brain really necessary? Science 210(4475):1232-1234

      Here “brain” is used synonymously with cerebral cortex. The most frequently mentioned alternative is the thalamus, the main “relay system” in the body.

      The Livescience article makes no mention of these issues, and seems to be summed up in two paragraphs:

      Scientists’ knowledge of the fetal nervous system was summed up in a 2005 review in the journal JAMA. The authors of that review outlined in detail the evidence on how this system develops, based on a number of previous studies on the anatomy of the fetus at various stages of development.

      Davis, who was not involved with that review, noted that though it was p<ublished in 2005, the research is still valid, because the scientific community's understanding of fetal development is "pretty much stable." Indeed, since the publication of the review, "no research has contradicted its findings," said a recent statement from ACOG.

      There is a major flaw in that article, however. Although it writes a lot about thalamocerebral connections, and is chock full of references (96 to be exact) there is NO reference given to the only statement that talks about whether fetuses can feel pain:

      Pain is an emotional and psychological experience that requires conscious
      recognition of a noxious stimulus. Consequently, the capacity for conscious
      perception of pain can arise only after thalamocortical pathways begin to function, which may occur in the third trimester around 29 to 30 weeks’ gestational age, based on the limited data available.

      Back in 1992, thirteen years before this article was written, when I first started to debate abortion on the internet, the above assertion was widely paraphrased by abortion rights zealots, but never with any evidence. And besides the lack of a reference, it is highly suspicious that the lead author, Susan J. Lee, is a JD (Doctor of Jurisprudence) – and was found out after the article was published to have had a post in NARAL.

  8. David Smith says:

    Quentin ( ) gives a URL pointing to a discussion of pain and the fetus. That’s useful information, but in skimming it I didn’t see a mention of distress. I would think any life form that’s aware that it is being attacked will feel a great deal of distress.

  9. John Nolan says:

    The American satirist PJ O’Rourke wrote some thirty years ago:

    ‘The second item in the liberal creed, after self-righteousness, is unaccountability. Liberals have invented whole college majors – psychology, sociology, women’s studies – to prove that nothing is anybody’s fault. No-one is fond of taking responsibility for his actions, but think how much you’d have to hate free will to come up with a political platform that advocates killing unborn babies but not convicted murderers. A callous pragmatist might favour abortion and capital punishment. A devout Christian would sanction neither. But it takes years of therapy to arrive at the liberal view.’

    • milliganp says:

      Having read Chesterton and C S lewis, I am of the opinion the rot set into our culture early in the 20th century in, what was then, the upper classes but the watershed period was in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s when the amorality tricked down into the middle and working classes.
      Perhaps, in trying to salve collective consciences about the horrors of 2 world wars, we had to invent a new morality rather than admit our failure at the eternal one.

  10. galerimo says:

    Let’s not make this special season become one where we are left with the after taste from the question, Mother murderers?

    And with, what could be all too easily construed as, the fulminations of stale pale males telling women how to behave once men have impregnated them.

    People are different. For some abortion or clinical terminations should be available for their use.

    Not so for others.

    But just like us, others too can make decisions that have terrible consequences on the lives of others, born or unborn. We are all abortionists, if one of us can do, so could anyone of us.

    It is only by the grace of God we can manage the circumstances of our individual lives.

    When we don’t believe it is the right thing to do, we try our best to avoid it.

    When we don’t think it is the right thing for others we make our position known with respect in a reasoned way, as mentioned by others here.

    We also have our choices when it comes to voting who best represents our views or what legislation we approve.

    Let me ask you. Is Jesus the Lord of history or is he not?

    Has all this huge process of evolution and progress in society got a direction in it or a purpose or has it not?

    Even if we cannot see how, can God be involved, as God, in our world for its betterment?

    I think we could benefit from answering these questions in order to gain a fundamental stance in relation all the evil that we see today.

    Including abortion, and the fathers who have a hand in the murder their born and unborn too.

    If we are Christian how can we ignore Jesus, when he says –

    “I have told you these things,
    so that in me you may have peace.
    In this world you will have trouble.
    But take heart! I have overcome the world”. (Jn 16:33)

    Our constant hammering and hymning of the same song regarding this recurring topic suggests to me that it has become an obsession. Not good.

    We have a Brother who has overcome the world and who gifts us with peace.

    We have the power of prayer at our disposal.

    And we have the example of a God who has obviously become far less belligerent in His dealings with us through the more forgiving love that He manifests and extends to us in Jesus.

    And showing us how we can extend that love to others – those whom we see as enemies. Enemies of our faith, of our views or, of our way of making our world.

    Its Christmas time approaching. And time to celebrate all the wonder of that birth from our mother, Mary.

    And celebrate all the birthing that goes on in our world with its abundance of new life.

    And pray for the needs of all who are aborted for whatever reason and for whoever aborts them, for whatever reason.

    And receive that peace that has been offered to all of us at this time because of the birth of a Saviour.

  11. Hock says:

    I fail to see how legislation here in the UK and beyond that allows for abortion up to the point of birth ( as when Down’s is suspected , ) can be seen as a pain free procedure. We already have examples of reasons for killing up to birth can easily be argued for killing after the birth. I read that In one of the Nordic countries they are able to claim that they have eradicated Down’s. What they mean is that that have killed it in the womb ( and beyond ?) Indeed legislated for it as a compulsory procedure.
    That awful phrase of ‘partial birth abortion’ that was supported by some, including leaders of a country, is a natural consequence of a philosophy that makes judgements on the value of human life in the womb.

  12. milliganp says:

    I thoroughly disagree with the title “mother murderers” – even if it is factually correct. You rarely win any argument where you start by insuting the person with whom you are in dialogue.
    We, collectively, in other ways have allowed a society to emerge that leaves many women with a choice between destitution, if they carry their chhild to term, or some, perhaps misplaced, hope for the future if they terminate their pregnancy.
    The advocates of “Life” seemed to be filled with those who have little concern for the child that would be born if the pregnancy were to go to term, or the future life and happiness of the child or mother.

    None of this makes abortion right, but it makes the arguments against abortion seem callous an indifferent. We need a different language – not euphamism but one that starts from a position of love for both the mother and the unborn child.

    • FZM says:

      I think it depends on the circumstances.

      Perhaps it is a generation difference, but by the time I was at university abortion was relatively normalised and being in the UK post-2000 none of the abortions I have known about involved anyone destitute (or anything close to it). There is a question about what in wealthy Western countries counts as destitution, and what changes are proposed to resolve the destitution that still exists in countries like the UK and, say, Germany. Especially when the fertility rate of the majority population in both those countries is under 1.4 children per couple, and their economies are partly sustained by immigration from countries where the attitude towards abortion is often more negative and restrictive. The Soviet Union is another interesting example, they maxed out on emphasising wealth redistribution and equality, but in the 80s ended up with an abortion rate of more than 50% of pregnancies.

      From my own experience I’d say Galerimo has a point in her post about the role of men, and that this is an issue that isn’t often directly raised.

  13. ignatius says:

    I think its time we packed this topic in.

    • David Smith says:

      I hope mankind never packs this one in. If all humans come to accept mass murder as normal, Christianity will have died.

      • ignatius says:

        Yes that’s true, but its christmas and unless we are planning to actually DO ANYTHING about the subject (which we most likely aren’t) then, just like the Christmas Armistice.. lets just pack it in for a day or two.

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