When the great philosopher G.K. Chesterton said, “Let all the babies be born. Then let us drown those we do not like,” he wasn’t advocating infanticide but was just making a point. Unfortunately, though, we’re getting closer to a time when people would take his words literally. An example of this is a judge’s decision in Canada that a woman who strangled her newborn baby shouldn’t be incarcerated because Canadians’ failure to criminalize abortion indicates that they “sympathize” with the mother.
Lifesite News reports on the story, writing, “Katrina Effert of Wetaskiwin, Alberta gave birth secretly in her parents’ downstairs bathroom on April 13, 2005, and then later strangled the newborn and threw his body over a fence. She was 19 at the time.”
Effert was subsequently convicted of second-degree murder. But this was overturned by the Alberta Court of Appeal, which reduced the charge to infanticide, punishable by no more than five years imprisonment. Yet when Effert appeared for sentencing before Justice Joanne Veit of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in September, even this punishment was deemed excessive. Instead, the judge gave Effert a three-year suspended sentence, which means that she won’t serve even one day in prison. Writes Lifesite News:
According to Justice Veit, Canada’s lack of an abortion law indicates that “while many Canadians undoubtedly view abortion as a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy, they generally understand, accept and sympathize with the onerous demands pregnancy and childbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support.”
“Naturally, Canadians are grieved by an infant’s death, especially at the hands of the infant’s mother, but Canadians also grieve for the mother,” she added.
This isn’t the first time a Canadian woman has received a slap on the wrist under the nation’s law on “infanticide.” And why is this a lesser charge than murder? Because Canada’s criminal code defines infanticide as when a woman kills her newborn due to her mind being “disturbed” as a result of pregnancy.
Even if one accepts this standard, however, it seems there was little evidence that Effert’s mind was “disturbed” as defined under the law. It’s said that she wanted the baby dead even during gestation, as she tried to induce miscarriage through drinking and smoking. She also made preparations for the birth, tossed the baby’s corpse into her neighbor’s yard, lied to police, and tried to frame her boyfriend for the crime.
So Justice Veit’s decision seems to make no sense whatsoever; that is, unless you look beyond the facts of the case and into the philosophy of the times.
First, Justice Veit exhibits something common to leftist judges: reference to a mythical majority consensus to justify the imposition of her own values. In other words, she claims that “Canadians” “generally understand, accept and sympathize” with such mothers, but did she conduct a poll? In point of fact, Effert had been convicted of second-degree murder by two juries, which, while not a scientific sample, are certainly a better barometer of public attitude than a judge’s fancy. Justice Veit’s claim smacks of when judges rule contrary to the people’s will in rubber-stamping faux marriage and then claim they’re interpreting a constitution to “suit the times.”
Veit’s decision also reflects the modernistic mistake of elevating emotion over reason. While she should be governed by transcendent principles such as justice, she instead talks about feelings: how people “sympathize” and “grieve” for the mother. But should emotion-based consensus opinion carry the day? Would we visit medieval torture upon a criminal if that was what the public wanted? This would be entirely democratic, but the very reason modern governments craft constitutions is to ensure that we won’t be subject to the caprice of the masses, that a person’s rights will be safeguarded even when the majority wants them suspended. Pure democracy — whether directly expressed or inferred — is but glorified mob rule.
But we should expect nothing but the subordination of transcendent principles to emotion when people don’t believe in transcendent principles. And many today don’t because relativism has swept the West.
If people believe in Absolute Truth — as Christendom did until relatively recently, when it just became a “dom” — they will refer to it when making moral decisions. But when they cannot say, “Here are these principles that exist apart from man, and transcend him, and thus we must govern our lives with them,” what is left to refer to? What will be the yardstick if there is nothing above man?
To be precise, man’s emotion.
Some will now object and say that reason should be preeminent, but this reflects a misunderstanding of reason. Reason is not an answer — it is a method by which we find answers. This presupposes that there are answers to be found. But if there is no Truth, there can be no answers to moral questions, and then there is no reason for reason. And then we are left with nothing but “If it feels good, do it.” Is it any wonder this has become a mantra of the modern age?
When this is your mindset, of paramount importance will be your feelings — and those of others — that is, if you feel they should be considered. This is why politically incorrect feelings are given short shrift today; it is why moderns selectively use “offensiveness” as a guide for hate-speech codes and laws, ignoring umbrage taken by “non-victim” groups. And it is why Justice Veit — “Justice,” what a noble title for someone wholly unacquainted with the principle — felt that feeling sorry for a murderer and reference to others’ alleged feelings legitimized slap-on-the-wrist injustice.
Of course, I suppose I have to feel at least a twinge of pity for Justice Veit. If even 62 percent of American Christians polled don’t believe in moral absolutes, what can we expect from someone who suffered the mind-twisting experience of law school?