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Italy’s Dirty Laundry

ve8QAd   |   April 30, 2010

A tiny life is getting worldwide attention this week. After a hospital chaplain found an abandoned baby still breathing the day after an abortion, jaws dropped. Just 22 weeks, the aborted baby had been wrapped in a sheet and left to die.

His mother opted for the abortion after scans showed he had a cleft lip and palate – a condition fully-treatable with surgery. It’s doubtful anyone told her the baby came out alive. In fact, only when their secret was discovered did doctors do anything about it. By then, it was too late. After a two-day struggle, the baby died just hours later.

This isn’t the first time this has happened, and I fear it’s all too common an occurrence.

Three years ago, doctors at another Italian hospital began an abortion on what they thought was a disabled baby boy. When he came out perfectly healthy, they frantically worked to save his life. He, too, was born at 22 weeks.

The contrast is startling. In one hospital, a disabled baby is left to die. In another, a “perfect” child is rushed to be saved. How callous must a heart be to dismiss the life of one who most needs our help. To shut the door on a helpless infant – a living, breathing, moving child – simply because he’s different. This is what grieves the hearts of so many, and I pray it is the beginning of a larger revolution.

After all, why should we feel so much pity for an aborted baby who’s born alive and left to die, but not feel that same pity had the baby been “successfully” killed in the womb? When will we all recognize that we’re mourning the same tragedy?

As my friend Hadley Arkes tells his students at Amherst College: our location does not change our value. There is nothing mystical about a baby’s journey down a birth canal that transforms it from non-human to human. But in the greatest irrationality of our time, it’s only a matter of inches that keeps them from receiving the full protection of the law and humanity.

As this tiny baby’s story prompts Italian officials to rethink abortion laws, perhaps it will inspire others throughout the world to join us in the fight to extend justice to all babies no matter their size, shape, appearance, and, yes, even their location.

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