Magic scissors

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on December 20, 2009

Nearly 20 years ago I wrote a letter to the editor of Cal Poly SLO’s student newspaper, The Mustang Daily, in response to a pro-abortion rights column wondering at the existence of “magic scissors.” Back before partial-birth abortion was a widely known and widely used term, abortion-on-demand supporters were still making the case that abortions for any reason should be legal, even after the fetus had achieved viability – a point in time which was coming ever earlier due to medical advances.

I posited the existence of “magic scissors” which were able to bestow humanity simply by cutting the umbilical cord. The idea that the baby was just a “clump of cells” right up to the moment that the magic scissors were used was illogical and odious.

Approximately two decades later, I discover that, at least in Virginia, magic scissors are the law of the land.

The caller said a woman in her early 20s was in labor. When deputies arrived, they discovered the baby had actually been born around 1:00a.m., about ten hours earlier. Investigators say the baby was already dead when deputies got there.

Investigators tell WSLS the baby’s airway was still blocked. They say the baby was under bedding and had been suffocated by her mother. Investigators say because the mother and baby were still connected by the umbilical cord and placenta, state law does not consider the baby to be a separate life. Therefore, the mother cannot be charged.

“In the state of Virginia as long as the umbilical cord is attached and the placenta is still in the mother, if the baby comes out alive the mother can do whatever she wants to with that baby to kill it.“, says Investigator Tracy Emerson. “She could shoot the baby, stab the baby. As long as it’s still attached to her in some form by umbilical cord or something it’s no crime in the state of Virginia.”

If this wasn’t odious enough, Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs has decided that this tragic case is another example of right-wing scaremongering.

Johnson, who apparently sees moderation in all things as a virtue, points to this portion of the criminal code of Virginia to prove that the county sheriff, Commonwealth Attorney’s office and the Attorney General are all wrong and that this is a crime.

18.2-71.1. Partial birth infanticide; penalty.

A. Any person who knowingly performs partial birth infanticide and thereby kills a human infant is guilty of a Class 4 felony.

B. For the purposes of this section, “partial birth infanticide” means any deliberate act that (i) is intended to kill a human infant who has been born alive, but who has not been completely extracted or expelled from its mother, and that (ii) does kill such infant, regardless of whether death occurs before or after extraction or expulsion from its mother has been completed.

The term “partial birth infanticide” shall not under any circumstances be construed to include any of the following procedures: (i) the suction curettage abortion procedure, (ii) the suction aspiration abortion procedure, (iii) the dilation and evacuation abortion procedure involving dismemberment of the fetus prior to removal from the body of the mother, or (iv) completing delivery of a living human infant and severing the umbilical cord of any infant who has been completely delivered.

C. For the purposes of this section, “human infant who has been born alive” means a product of human conception that has been completely or substantially expelled or extracted from its mother, regardless of the duration of pregnancy, which after such expulsion or extraction breathes or shows any other evidence of life such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached. [emphasis is Johnson’s]

For the record, I am not a lawyer. For the record, neither is Johnson. I suspect I may have slightly more legal training than Johnson, a jazz musician, blogger and Web programmer, because I did take a media law class in college.

Having said that, I think Johnson’s got the wrong statute.

18.2-71.1. Partial birth infanticide; penalty.

A. Any person who knowingly performs partial birth infanticide and thereby kills a human infant is guilty of a Class 4 felony.

B. For the purposes of this section, “partial birth infanticide” means any deliberate act that (i) is intended to kill a human infant who has been born alive, but who has not been completely extracted or expelled from its mother, and that (ii) does kill such infant, regardless of whether death occurs before or after extraction or expulsion from its mother has been completed. [emphasis mine]

According to the report, the baby in question was completely expelled from its mother, therefore this section does not apply. Period. End of story.

The calls for vigilante justice that have been made by commenters over at Hot Air should be deleted and the commenters banned, but that isn’t a reason to think that Hot Air is wrong about this case.

Seriously, does anyone actually believe that the sheriff, commonwealth attorney, state attorney general and various politicians would be trying to change the law (completely unnecessarily, according to Johnson) because if they could currently charge this woman?

If you want to rile up the “extremists” of the pro-life movement, you don’t need to refuse to charge this woman to get them riled up. The crime (against the conscience, apparently, in Virginia) itself is sufficient for that.

Johnson is wrong. It would be nice if he could bring himself to admit it.

UPDATE!

Usually I find blog politics to be largely a bore, but this time it appears to involve me. If you follow the links in this post, you’ll find that Hot Air referred to Johnson’s simply as “a critic” and refusing to link to him. Johnson, in an update, praised his own high-mindedness by naming Ed Morrissey (the author of the blog post in question) even though Morrissey didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t return the favor.

It turns out Johnson’s high-mindedness was short-lived. When this post originally went up, it linked to both the HotAir post via a trackback and I used my sign-on over at Little Green Footballs to do something similar over there, creating a “related post” link to Johnson’s piece.

According to Google Analytics, 36 people followed that link here before Johnson removed it.

This post calls Johnson no childish names. It simply points out that it is very likely he himself is wrong. But he apparently doesn’t trust his readers to be able to make that judgment.

UPDATE 2!

After posting Update 1, I re-posted my link over at LGF. It took Johnson approximately 2 minutes to remove it and he’s now blocked my account that I’ve had there for years.

Stay classy, Charles.

9 comments on “Magic scissors”

  1. I'm a little confused here. You say that 18.2-71.1 is not the applicable statute because the child was not partially expelled, but completely expelled. I'll accept that. But since the child was completely expelled, the applicable statue must be one concerning infanticide -- not partial birth infanticide, but just infanticide. That is still a crime, right?

  2. I stopped going to LGF sometime last year when Johnson started going on his anti-conservative craze, where every criticism by conservatives was viewed as closemindedness and dangerous to the conservative movement. I had heard complaints about Johnson cutting off those people who criticize him so I am not surprised he ended your membership. Of course any site that has limited enrollment at random times is a little weird.

    Don't waste your time or energy worrying about it.

  3. Dom, that's apparently the crux of this situation. Yes, the applicable statute would be the one for simple infanticide, but apparently there's a loophole in that statute that says if the child is still attached to the mother via the umbilical cord and/or the placenta is still intact...well you get the idea.

  4. Hoystory -- then the post needs to be extended. What, exactly, is the statute that has a hole in it? If such a statute does not exist, or if it does exist and there is no loophole, then CJ is correct, although he made the mistake of pointing to the wrong inapplicable statute.

  5. Dom - if you follow the link to HotAir, apparently the law in Virginia defines a born baby as a "fetus" if it is still attached to the mother by the umbilical cord. In that case, it's only a crime to kill the fetus of "another."

  6. Have you followed this story or the Virginia statutes at all? Wondering if this matter has had furter legislation since you first blogged.....

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I'll take a look at dude's new book, but this tweet isn't promising. Watts is a self-aggrandizing extremist whose easily debunked smears have done a lot of damage to her own cause. Also, within pro-gun-control circles everyone knows she's toxic, & Busse surely knows this. https://twitter.com/ryandbusse/status/1450623648067248128

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