Future public-relations students someday will study what may become known as "The Mavra Stark Mistake." Not since Goliath smirked at David has a battle's likely outcome been so miscalculated.
Stark, if that apt name doesn't quite ring a bell, is the president of the National Organization for Women's Morris County, N.J., chapter who is protesting the double-murder charge in the Laci Peterson case.
Her protest was prompted by California prosecutors' decision to charge Scott Peterson with murdering both his wife, Laci, and their unborn baby, Conner -a move that the rabidly pro-choice contingent fears could potentially impact women's "right" to late-term abortions.
In a statement that wowed the "Doh" crowd, Stark said: "If this is murder, well, then any time a late-term fetus is aborted, they could call it murder."
Why, yes, they could. And some already do.
You don't even have to visit the farthest reaches of the anti-abortion fringe to find people who are appalled at the idea of aborting a healthy eight-month fetus. Third-trimester abortions are relatively rare -only 1 percent of all abortions are performed after the 21st week -for the simple reason that most people wouldn't consider it.
Since I'd rather hitch a ride on a bunker buster than debate fetal viability, suffice it to say that as technological advances make it possible to sustain life outside the womb, the thresholds for fetal viability and public tolerance for abortion will continue being pushed back toward conception.
What's interesting about Stark's starkly self-defeating blurt isn't just the display of insensitivity, but the hint of a movement's death rattle, so to speak. These are desperate times for radical pro-choicers who refuse to see what most moderate Americans have settled on, at least for now: There is a difference between a zygote and a third-trimester baby.
Such that Stark, progressively tone-deaf, said the following: "There's something about this that bothers me a little bit. Was it born, or was it unborn? If it was unborn, then I can't see charging (Peterson) with a double-murder."
It. "Its" name was to be Conner. "It" was a boy scheduled to arrive Feb. 10. He, which is how most expectant mothers refer to their unborn sons, was fully formed and still had his umbilical cord attached when found floating a mile or so from where his mother's body was discovered.
Few could have failed to feel sorrow upon hearing the news. This was one of those stories that the American Street had followed closely, hoping the perky pregnant wife with deep dimples and her baby son would be found alive.
So that the question, was it born or unborn, seems grossly inappropriate.
We'll probably know the answer, whether we want to or not, in time. But in the context of the pro-choice movement's need to cultivate public support for abortion rights, the question is both irrelevant and obscene.
Put it this way: If you want to advance a cause by wrestling a good legal point, it's a good idea to avoid involving the infant son of an all-American murder victim.
It's called inattention to the weather, like telling a raunchy joke at a toddler's party or peddling pornography in the intensive care unit. You don't raise issues of "born-ness" and abortion rights at the funeral of a nationally beloved baby, nor do you call him "it." Not if you want people to see you as anything but inhuman.
You might decide instead that this is a no-win battle that will only help the opposition. Indeed, what a gift to the other side. No doubt pro-lifers have already rented tents and a caterer for the party they'll be throwing after a proper period of mourning. For Conner Peterson is, in fact, an argument against late-term abortions.
He is not, however, the first unborn baby to be regarded as a human being deserving of state protection. More than two dozen states have fetal homicide laws. A quick Google search produced two recent stories of convictions -one murder and one manslaughter -in cases where an eight-month fetus died as a result of its mother's murder.
By Stark's casting a rude light on a sad time, she has positioned NOW at the defense table of an accused killer, while reminding Americans of the ineluctable truth that late-term abortions and dead babies are one and the same.