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Depravity: California Bill to Permit Infant Death by Neglect

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A little while ago I highlighted a shocking Maryland bill that would essentially decriminalize neglecting an infant to death in the “perinatal” period — i.e., through the first 28 days after birth — by preventing investigations and prosecution of such deaths that resulted from “a failure to act.”

I was interviewed on several talk-radio programs and was asked what the sponsor was thinking. My most charitable thought was that he was unaware of the definition of “perinatal.”

That “defense” is now inoperative. A bill was just filed in the California Legislature that is even worse than the Maryland legislation.

“People Who Give Birth”

First, it would seem to create a broad claim for “people who give birth” to choose not to be a parent that is not limited to not getting pregnant, or in the context of the overall bill, abortion. Somehow, this is called “reproductive justice.” From AB 2223 (my emphasis throughout):

SECTION 1. The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(a) Reproductive justice is a framework created by Black women in 1994 to address the intersectional and multifactored issues that women of color and their families face in society.

(b) Reproductive justice is the human right to control our bodies, sexuality, gender, work, and reproduction. That right can only be achieved when all people, particularly women and girls, have the complete economic, social, and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about their bodies, families, and communities in all areas of their lives. At the core of reproductive justice is the belief in the right to bodily autonomy, the right to have children, the right to not have children, and the right to parent the children we have with dignity and respect in safe and sustainable communities.

(c) A critical part of realizing reproductive justice for people in California is clarifying that there shall be no civil and criminal penalties for people’s actual, potential, or alleged pregnancy outcomes.

Okay. Let’s be careful. Perhaps that wording just applies to preborn babies or the right not to get pregnant at all.

Nope. It also applies to perinatal outcomes, as well as “postpartum care”:

The Legislature finds and declares that every individual possesses a fundamental right of privacy with respect to personal reproductive decisions, which entails the right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care.

What Is Postpartum Care?

I looked it up and learned that postpartum care “encompasses management of the mother, newborn, and infant during the postpartal period. This period usually is considered to be the first few days after delivery, but technically it includes the six-week period after childbirth up to the mother’s postpartum check-up with her health care provider.” Good grief.

Here is the key passage:

123467. (a) Notwithstanding any other law, a person shall not be subject to civil or criminal liability or penalty, or otherwise deprived of their rights, based on their actions or omissions with respect to their pregnancy or actual, potential, or alleged pregnancy outcome, including miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion, or perinatal death.

It Means What It Says

In analyzing this, we have to assume that the bill means what it says: No “civil or criminal liability or penalty . . . based on their actions or omissions with respect to . . . perinatal outcomes.” Come to think of it, ”actions” could be interpreted to mean active killing, couldn’t it?

As in the Maryland law, if a state actor seeks to bring an action against people who give birth or those who help them “based on their actions or omissions” with regard to “perinatal death,” that person or entity can be sued:

23469. (a) A party aggrieved by conduct or regulation in violation of this article may bring a civil action against an offending state actor in a federal district court or state superior court. A state claim brought in federal district court shall be a supplemental claim to a federal claim.

Nothing in this bill would limit the license granted to the context of a baby surviving an abortion, which would be horrible enough. Rather, the freedom granted from civil and criminal liability would seem to apply generally.

One bill that would allow a born baby to be neglected to death might be an anomaly. A second that does that — and perhaps could be interpreted to allow infanticide, also — is a pattern. The culture of depravity is blazing new grounds.

Cross-posted at The Corner.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.



abortionbioethicsCaliforniachildbirthculturedepravityethicsinfanticidelegislationMarylandmedicineperinatalpostpartum carepreborn babiespregnancy