A Snuff Opinion

by Susan E. Wills, Esq.

June 4, 2004

I've never seen a snuff film. Don't plan to see any. I'm told they contain lurid depravity culminating in the actual (not staged) death of a human being. Fans of snuff would enjoy reading the 117-page opinion of District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton (N.D., California) in Planned Parenthood v. John Ashcroft, in which she declares the Congressional ban on partial-birth abortion unconstitutional.

Every imaginable method of butchering, mutilating, and otherwise snuffing out the life of a living human baby – both before and mostly during delivery – is presented in cold-blooded, clinical, remorseless detail.

Outside the practice of mid- and late-term abortion, the closest example of such wanton brutality was the documented feeding of Saddam's enemies live – sometimes feet-first, sometimes head-first – into a plastic-shredding machine. But even that ghastly torture, at which the civilized world recoils, was quicker than the torture to which babies are subjected by "abortion experts" like those on whose testimony Judge Hamilton relied.

Judge Hamilton's predisposition to rely, almost as an article of faith, on the words of Planned Parenthood's lawyers and employee-abortionists is the key to the decision.

The opinions of eight abortionists with "vast experience" (e.g., Dr. Creinin has slain over 5,000 and Dr. Sheehan about 30,000 children) are accepted unquestioningly. At least five of these experts are employed by Planned Parenthood, but that potential bias is not noted. In contrast, the Court attacks the credibility of four expert witnesses who support the ban on partial-birth abortion (all highly-qualified ob-gyns) for two reasons: they are "pro-life," and they have little or no experience dismembering babies (and none delivering babies to within inches of birth before sucking out their brains).

A fifth medical witness supporting the ban, an expert in fetal neurobiology and fetal pain, explained that a child subjected to partial-birth abortion would experience excruciating pain. But Judge Hamilton found his testimony and the babies' pain "irrelevant" to her decision.

What you won't find in the opinion is any discussion of the morality of brutalizing and killing innocent, sentient children who are at or near the age when they can live outside the womb.

Also missing is any recognition of the key differences between the federal ban and the Nebraska statute which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in Stenberg v. Carhart in 2000. Congress addressed the Court's objection of "vagueness" by tightening the definition of partial-birth abortion:

"an abortion in which the physician deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living, unborn child until either the entire baby's head is outside the body of the mother, or any part of the baby's trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother and only the head remains inside the womb, for the purpose of performing an overt act (usually the puncturing of the back of the child's skull and removing the baby's brains) that the person knows will kill the partially delivered infant, performs this act, and then completes delivery of the dead infant."

Judge Hamilton finds this narrow definition "too broad" and likely to encompass the most common mid-trimester abortion by dismemberment. But later, in complete contradiction, she denies that the government has a valid interest in banning this one procedure because, after all, it will not save a child from destruction by other abortion procedures.

When Saddam faces trial, we can only hope that his tribunal will, like Nuremberg's, take into account the natural moral law, and the opinions of experts other than those with experience in feeding people into shredders.

Susan Wills is assistant director for education, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.