In 2015, Anna Yocca, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, approx. 24 weeks pregnant, decided to run a warm bath and kill her child in utero with a coat hanger. However, troubled by the amount of blood now shed in the bath and “concerned about her safety”, she alerted her boyfriend who took her to St Thomas Rutherford Hospital. Both the mother and child were saved, but the child sustained permanent injuries to his brain, lungs, eyes and heart, that would require continued medical care for the result of its life.
This case is illustrative of the incoherence of the law with respect to abortion. The mother deliberately harmed the child. In fact, her intention was to kill the child in utero. She failed, but as a result of her actions, the child sustained serious injuries to its vital organs that will permanently frustrate his health and well-being. The mother was charged but as a result of a plea bargain, she admitted guilt only to the lesser charge of procurement of a miscarriage serving only a single year in custody, the minimum amount for this infraction of the law. Initially, she was charged with attempted murder in the first degree, dropped to aggravated assault, and then, finally, to one count each of aggravated assault with a weapon, attempted procurement of a miscarriage and attempted criminal abortion.
In other words, we have a situation in which a person can deliberately injure another person, grievously, leaving them permanently harmed and impaired beyond their sojourn in utero, and the situation as a matter of law, is simply to pretend, either that that person, at the time of their injury or death, was not a person, and/ or, that their status at that time is irrelevant because the person that injured or killed the child is a member of a protected class; that is, that they can injure their child in utero, without legal penalty, or can license anyone else to procure the same end, and all because they are its mother. This, of course, is one of the perverse implications of the abortion license; to set mother and child apart at the outset, as if they were morally unrelated and without enduring obligations to each other, but I digress.
What moral justification is there for denying the child in utero the protection of the law, but then providing it once the child is born? This problem is brought into stark relief, in this instance, because the mother’s failure to kill the child in utero has left the child to bear those marks, those injuries to its brains, eyes, heart and lungs, for the term of its natural life. Its good permanently harmed by the failure of the law to protect it in utero. There is simply no moral reason to deny the child in utero the protection of the law simply because of its location in the womb of its mother. In fact, the moral reasons that justify the law’s protection of the child after birth apply just as well before birth, if not more so because of the child’s vulnerability.
The great task of our time is to relieve this incoherence, among others, in the law. There is something deeply wrong in the present situation. It cannot persist. It must not.