Sunday, September 10, 2006

Baby snuffers

Olvlzl, writing for Echidne of the Snakes, discusses the secret history of "baby snuffers" in pre-Roe America.

The first week of April, 1983, in the small city of Somersworth, New Hampshire, a couple started to do some house cleaning. One thing they needed to get rid of was an old steamer trunk a woman had asked them to store for her. She had long since moved and they couldn't return it. Opening the trunk they were shocked to find five mummified skeletons of babies wrapped in newspapers. They called the police.
The woman who owned the trunk was in her 60s in 1983. The papers say she was called a "pillar of the community" when she lived in the area. People who remembered her said that at the time the babies had been killed she often appeared to be pregnant but she never had children. The authorities found her but she wouldn't say anything about the trunk. I don' t know of any legal pressure put on her to talk. The fact that there were five corpses of infants wrapped in newspapers from different years certainly suggests serial infanticide, not a misdemeanor in anyone's book.

Olvlzl points out that in 1983 New Hampshire was solidly in control of the Republican Party, with an officially anti-abortion policy. It is curious that a political party which celebrates the so-called "culture of life", which considers aborting single-cell embryos to be murder, is so unconcerned about the actual murder of actual babies which have been born and taken an unassisted breath. But then, I'm hardly the first person who has noticed that while the American Taliban will fight heaven and earth to save a single-celled embryo, once the baby is born, it is all on its own.

In virtually every culture on Earth, infanticide is a common practice for getting rid of unwanted babies. The only exceptions that I know of are modern Western cultures with easy access to reliable contraceptives, allowing people, particularly mothers, avoid pregnancy in the first place. Christian Fundamentalists in the USA, like their spiritual brethren in the Taliban, are working hard to deny contraceptives even to married adult women: even if they can't (yet) outlaw it, they can make it virtually impossible for women to get access to either. We've been there before: "baby snuffer" was common enough to develop it's own term in pre-Roe America. As abortion and contraceptive becomes more restricted in America, I have no doubt that baby snuffers will come back into business, and (except for rare frenzies of false moral indignation) will be ignored by the hypocrites and control-freaks in the Culture Of Life.

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