Judge: Infanticide Is Kind Of Like A Fourth Trimester Abortion

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Last May, an Alberta Court of Appeals overturned an Edmonton jury’s verdict in the case of the brutal murder of a newborn child. Twice a jury had found Katrina Effert guilty of murder for the death of her son, who she strangled with her underwear and threw over the fence into her neighbor’s yard. In 2006, a jury found her guilty of second-degree murder. It was overturned by the court of appeal. They held the trial again. Another jury found her guilty of the same crime in 2009.

This time the court of appeal said that the jury hadn’t given enough weight to two clinical experts who testified that Effert’s mind was disturbed when she killed her son. The prosecution disagrees, saying that the experts didn’t even have experience with infanticide. The court also didn’t like that pictures of the strangled newborn son had been shown to the jury.

In any case, while reasonable people can disagree about the original verdicts or how they were overturned, that’s not what I find interesting about this case. Check out what Judge Joanne Veit said in explaining why the woman would receive a “suspended sentence” instead of the life sentence she was facing before the court overturned the jury ruling:

[W]hile 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.

Except that this case had nothing to do with abortion. It was about the homicide of a child who had somehow succeeded in making it to birth without being aborted. How far do we take this? Is it a matter of hours? Days? Speaking of “onerous demands”, things can get rough after a few months of no sleep. Or what about the infamous terrible twos?

Should the judge extend the principles underlying legalized abortion in order to mitigate the killing of a legal person. And just how long and under what circumstances do those mitigating factors apply?

One can sympathize with the onerous demands of pregnancy and childbirth without understanding precisely what the judge is trying to say here.