Nine days before Christmas, Lisa Montgomery of Melvern, Kan., went to the Skidmore, Mo., home of Bobbie Jo Stinnett -- who was 8-months pregnant -- and allegedly committed a crime that ought to have been unimaginable. She murdered the expectant mother to steal her unborn child.
Two days later, the liberal Washington Post began a remarkable investigative series by reporter Donna St. George. St. George spent a year researching murders in which the victim was a pregnant woman or new mother. She learned that "no reliable system is in place to track such cases." But her probing uncovered 1,367 cases nationwide over 14 years.
In 2001, the Journal of American Medicine published a study of maternal homicides in Maryland. It concluded murder was the state's No. 1 cause of death among new and expectant mothers. "In 2002," reports St. George, "Massachusetts weighed in with a study that also showed homicide as the top cause of maternal death, followed by cancer."
But the prevalence of maternal homicide is itself a type of cancer -- a cancer on the American soul.
Why would anyone murder a pregnant woman? Apparently, it is oftentimes an extreme form of abortion.
St. George noted that many cases involve husbands or boyfriends. Jack Levin, director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University, told her, "It seems to me that these guys hope against hope for a miscarriage or an abortion, but when everything else fails, they take the life of the woman to avoid having the baby."
Minneapolis criminal profiler Pat Brown told her: "If the woman doesn't want the baby, she can get an abortion. If the guy doesn't want it, he can't do a damn thing about it. He is stuck with a child for the rest of his life, he is stuck with child support for the rest of his life, and he's stuck with that woman for the rest of his life. If she goes away, the problem goes away."
If this is true, the perpetrators are simply taking the logic of Roe vs. Wade one step further. Roe instructed Americans that it is a woman's "right" to make "the problem go away" by aborting a child. Paternal perpetrators of maternal homicides make their "problem go away" by aborting the mother, too.
As the Feast of the Nativity approached, it may have been a providential hand that parted the dark cloud enveloping the death of Bobbie Joe Stinnett and let through a ray of light: The survival of Bobbie Jo's baby, Victoria Jo, focused national attention on the undeniable humanity of what abortion advocates would prefer to call the "fetus."
Pondering the tragedy, Sen. Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, sees cause for hope. "I look at this case that happened in Skidmore, Missouri, and Melvern, Kansas, and I am just aghast at it," Browback told me. "Scott and Lacy Peterson, that trial. You really are seeing a confluence of things confronting the public to deal with the issue of the humanity of the child."
In the new Congress, Brownback will reintroduce a bill he began working on this year to drive the unborn child's humanity deeper into the national heart and mind.
The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act would require a doctor who wants to perform an abortion on a mother pregnant for 20 weeks or more to inform her that Congress has determined that a child at that stage of development is likely to feel pain while being aborted. The doctor would also be required to offer her a brochure detailing the scientific evidence for this determination and ask her if she would like anesthesia administered to the baby to lessen his or her pain during the abortion.
"My hope," said Brownback, "is that a number of women getting in that circumstance will say, 'Gosh, if that child is likely to experience pain, I don't want to do this to that child." He also hopes to enlighten the national debate. Citing an observation of Abraham Lincoln, he says, "You move America by establishing a common thought, and I want the people in America to see the humanity of the child in the womb."
Brownback's bill had 22 co-sponsors this year. Rep. Chris Smith sponsored the House version, which had more than 100 co-sponsors. Brownback believes it will be one of the top pro-life bills moved in the next Congress.
On the first Christmas, a poor young mother and adoptive father, forced into a manger in Bethlehem, joyfully welcomed an unexpected Child into their family and their hearts. In a nation so blessed by God as our own, does any child deserve less?