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Jewish World Review / July 15, 1998 / 21 Tamuz, 5758

Mona Charen

Mona Charen

Feelings, not
morality, rule

IT WAS BRIAN PETERSON who placed his newborn son in a plastic bag and then heaved him into a Dumpster 12 feet away. There was an audible crack as the body, perhaps the baby's head, hit the metal trash bin. Peterson
Brian Peterson
then turned on his heel on that freezing November morning in 1996 and returned to the hotel room where Amy Grossberg was waiting. It was she who had ordered Peterson to "get rid of it" after giving birth to a curly-haired baby boy.

It might have worked, this first foray into infanticide for the doting couple, had it not been for their ignorance of the basics of childbirth. Neither of them knew enough to deliver the afterbirth -- the part you really are supposed to "get rid of" -- and so when Amy went back to college, she began to hemorrhage and was rushed to a hospital. That's when the question was asked: "Where's the baby?"

Last week, as Grossberg and Peterson were sentenced, we delved deeper into the moral junkyard that characterized these two products of an affluent New Jersey suburb. Grossberg had written to her boyfriend of her regret that the pregnancy had interfered with their sex life. "I wish I could have my nice body back," she whined. "As soon as everything gets better, I'll be my sweet, normal self. We'll be able to uh-uuh lots. I really miss it." About the pregnancy, she wrote, "All I want is for it to go away." (She declined an abortion for fear that her mother would discover it.)

These youngsters are not monsters. They are quite normal. Grossberg was probably trained at school to have lots of self-esteem. She was also instructed -- not just at school but by the Supreme Court, a pro-choice president and most of elite opinion -- that abortion is a morally acceptable solution to an unwanted pregnancy. In Delaware, she could have reported for a partial-birth abortion at almost any time up until the birth. In fact, just days before Peterson and Grossberg were sentenced, an Arizona abortionist started to perform that procedure on a fetus he had been told was 23 or 24 weeks old. Only after the procedure began did he realize that the baby was actually a 6 pound, 2 ounce baby girl at full term. He delivered the child alive -- but with a fractured skull and two large lacerations on her face -- the results of the aborted abortion.

So there is really no surprise that Amy Grossberg -- her "sweet, normal self" -- can have believed that an unwanted baby just seconds after birth is just as disposable as an unwanted fetus at midterm. Melissa Drexler, who gave birth in a toilet at her prom, the mother who left her newborn in a bathroom at Disneyworld, and the others who have left babies to die in the cold or drown in toilets in cities around the nation are acting on the same insight -- there is no intrinsic value or sacredness to life. What gives life value is the desire of the mother.

What else are these young women to conclude? We permit a pregnant woman to sue if her fetus is harmed by environmental or other hazards -- because she wants the baby. If not, she can kill it.

The judge revealed his own peculiar moral standards by ruling that 24 months for Peterson and 30 months for Grossberg was sufficient punishment for treating a newborn infant like an empty shoe box. He also sentenced the couple to perform 300 hours of community service -- including working in clinics for pregnant teenagers and "counseling teenagers on parenthood."

That's what we need -- child killers lecturing on what it means to be a parent!

Even the prosecutors seem to have been confused about the gravity of the case. Praising Peterson for his cooperation with authorities, one prosecutor said, "He was chivalrous, but stupid." So the code of chivalry now includes killing the defenseless -- even one's own baby?

Yes, feelings seem to have trumped absolute values quite thoroughly. The feelings of the mother, not the child made in the image and likeness of God, determine the baby's value. In Janesville, Wis., a 37-year-old man was sentenced to 12 years in prison -- for killing cats.

They were wanted cats.


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©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.