Friday, July 8, 2011

Casey Anthony story highlights confusion regarding value of human life

By Priscilla Lundquist

Casey Anthony is scheduled to go free on July 17 after her trial came to a close this week. Most of her four-year prison sentence was served while awaiting trial. The jury's verdict of "not guilty" on all but four minor charges came more than three years after she was arrested.

Anthony's trial captivated the nation. The media coverage and public attention it received have been compared to the O.J. Simpson trial. Part of the reason for the media frenzy is that the idea of a mother murdering her two-year-old daughter shocked and horrified people. It seemed unnatural that a mother would knowingly harm her child. Anthony was found to be not guilty of the murder.

File:Caylee anthony.jpg
Caylee Marie Anthony died at two years of age.
The difference between the reactions to the murder of a toddler and the murder of an unborn baby struck me forcibly. If Anthony had wanted to kill her baby daughter it would have been legal for her to do so two years earlier, before she gave birth. If Casey's parents had reported to police that their daughter had aborted Caylee, nothing would have happened. There would not have been any trial, prison time, or media scrutiny. Every day, 4,000 mothers in the U.S end the lives of their babies. It is not considered murder and the media is not horrified by it.

So why is there such a difference in reactions? Why does the nation respond with outrage to Casey's not-guilty verdict, but take no notice when mothers kill their unborn babies? What is the big difference that makes one terrible and the other acceptable?

Does a baby's location in the mother's womb make a difference in whether a baby is considered alive? Seventy-two percent of Americans do not seem to think so and oppose late-term abortions, according to a Gallup poll. The womb is clearly not a material difference between the two. A child is not less alive than a college student simply because the child lives in her/his parent’s home.

Is it that unborn babies are less developed than babies outside of the womb? Babies inside and outside of the womb have complete sets of DNA. Unborn babies' hearts are beating by week three and have brain waves as early as six weeks from conception—both important medical evidence of life. "It's scientifically inaccurate to say a human embryo or a fetus is not a human being simply because he's at an earlier stage of development than an infant," Randy Alcorn writes in his book Why Pro Life? "This is like saying that a toddler isn't a human being because he's not yet an adolescent."

Or is it viability—the ability to survive outside of the womb—that makes an unborn baby alive? Before a baby is viable is it just a part of the mother's body? "A body part is defined by the common genetic code it shares with the rest of its body. … The unborn child also has a genetic code, but it is distinctly different from his mother's," Alcorn writes. A premature baby who would have died 50 years ago can be saved with today's technology. Viability will always be changing, determined by improvements in technology and doctors' understanding. If viability is the standard for life, it will not remain constant.

The differences between unborn babies and babies outside of the womb do not make unborn babies less valuable or alive. Development, location, being inside of the mother, and viability do not make a mother's killing of her unborn baby less awful.

Media attention and public obsession with the Casey Anthony trial demonstrate our nation's value of, yet confusion regarding, human life. We need to continue to educate and help people understand that there is no fundamental difference between babies inside and outside of the womb. Both deserve protection.