Fri | Dec 8, 2023

Who is listening to the unborn child?

Published:Saturday | July 2, 2022 | 12:06 AM


The US Supreme Court’s reversal of the Roe v Wade ruling that has stood for nearly 50 years has effectively ruled that women do not have a constitutional right to abortion.

On the home front, the director of public prosecutions (DPP) has served notice that the death penalty will be sought for Rushane Barnett, the accused killer of a mother and her four children. Both incidents have ignited national reactions. The former has led to nationwide protests in the US and the DPP’s declaration has sparked lively debates, especially within the legal fraternity.

One question brought to the fore is this: can one be against abortion and support the death penalty? I argue that, philosophically, there are no real inconsistencies with holding a positive view of the death penalty and that abortion should, as much as possible, be prevented. One important factor to consider is that both positions differ on the irrefutable fact that the child terminated in the womb can be imputed with innocence. Indeed, this position holds true in all cases of abortion.

Consider in moments of pure evil that some women become impregnated by monsters posing as men, such as rape or incest. Even then, in such heinous acts, the child who has been conceived is innocent. I am aware that such a statement could be seen as insensitive, but the veracity of the claim of innocence stands. For many anti-abortionists, this fact remains a significant underpinning on which they conclude that abortion is immoral. The adjudication of the court over a legal matter, one as serious as murder, significantly sets capital punishment apart by some distance from abortion. One sees the innocence of the accused being tried in the courts, the other, namely abortion, altogether ignores the ‘victim’s’ innocence. As the debate rages locally and abroad with different views being presented, a central tenet of the legal profession is that one is innocent until proven guilty. That remains to be seen in the case of Rushane Barnett, but will no doubt be discussed and argued in the courts.

No question of innocence arises, however, when it concerns the life of the unborn children.


Graduate student

The University of the West Indies