In April 2005, Katrina Effert, age nineteen, secretly gave birth to a baby boy in the downstairs bathroom. She then strangled the child, wrapped him in towels, and dropped him over the backyard fence behind a neighbor’s shed.
After repeatedly lying to police and trying to pin the crime on a man she hooked up with nine months earlier, Effert finally confessed to killing the child, whom she named Rodney.
In 2006 and again in 2009 juries convicted her of second-degree murder with a minimum of ten years in prison. Earlier this month the same judge who presided over Effert’s trial in 2009 changed the conviction to infanticide and sentenced her to a three-year suspended sentence with probation.
In England since 1922 and in Canada since 1948, infanticide has been separated from murder. Women who killed their newborns were often domestic servants who hid their pregnancies and destroyed the evidence for fear of being fired.
Juries were unwilling to convict those women of murder since it carried the death penalty. Therefore, a new crime with a lesser penalty was created using the dubious assumption that only a mentally disturbed and, thus, morally irresponsible woman would kill her own child. Mental illness, remember, is the way that secular societies replace that judgmental word, “sin.”
According to an article in Canada’s National Post, when Justice Joanne Veit gave instructions to the jury in 2009, she told them that if they determined that Efferts was “disturbed” — a word that has no clear legal or psychological definition — they had to find her guilty of infanticide. The jury nonetheless returned a verdict of murder.
Now whether or not Veit should have overturned the jury’s decision can be debated. What can’t be debated was the judge’s chilling rationale. Veit linked her leniency and Effert’s crime to abortion.
Canada, you see, has no restrictions on abortion. If Effert had had an abortion the day before she delivered, all would be well — legally, at least. Instead she gave birth.
As reported in the Calgary Herald, Veit wrote that the lack of a Canadian abortion law shows that “many Canadians… generally understand, accept and sympathize with” hard-pressed mothers, “especially mothers without support.” So, such sympathy makes infanticide permissible?
Commentator Mark Steyn correctly states that the judge is, in essence, justifying “fourth-trimester abortion.” He goes on: “So a superior court judge in a relatively civilized jurisdiction is happy to extend the principles underlying legalized abortion in order to mitigate the killing of a legal person — that’s to say, someone who has managed to make it to the post-fetal stage.”
As Dr. Al Mohler puts it, “The willingness to kill within the womb leads logically to a willingness to kill outside the womb.” Of course it does — and don’t let abortion supporters deny it. Princeton Professor Peter Singer has made that argument for years as a justification for killing infants.
At least this case in Canada exposes where the evil logic of abortion leads. It is totally morally unsustainable.
But it’s clear that despite the fact that more and more Americans at least are turning pro-life, the battle is far from over. We, that is, the Church, have a lot of work to do to uphold the dignity — and the sacredness — of every human life, from conception to natural death.