A human rights victory emerged this weekend in an unlikely location as firefighters in China rushed to free a newborn baby wedged in a sewer pipe beneath a squat toilet in a residential building. It appears that the infant – just 6 pounds, 2.8 ounces and with his placenta still attached – was dumped down the toilet by his mother.
Yet, while abandoned in that four-inch pipe, that newborn infant did something that is the instinct of every human being: he cried for life. And his cry was heard.
What’s especially notable in this story, though, is not how a mother could so casually discard and attempt to kill her newborn baby; not how that helpless infant used the only resource he had – his breath – to fight for life; not even how strangers have flooded the hospital with gifts and even adoption offers for the baby.
No, what’s notable is that rescuers recognized that this baby’s life was a life worth saving. His mother may have intended to discard and kill him, but those who freed him recognized that the mother’s desire for her child does not determine that child’s value.
Ironically, here in the United States – where our human rights record is supposedly second to none – those who argue for “choice” posit every day that wantedness determines value. Few would openly admit it, of course, but the degree to which our culture lacks outrage at open arguments that even born-alive infants may be killed at the pleasure of their mothers is the degree to which we have accepted the belief that wantedness determines value – specifically, that our desires determine someone else’s value.
Tragically, such egocentricity unavoidably begets loathing for anything that does not serve our self-interests. Indeed, lobbyists for post-birth abortions no longer even pretend to base their arguments on science.
But there is that nagging issue of a newborn baby crying for life in a four-inch sewage drain in China. If wantedness determines value, then firefighters wasted their time. But if value stems from elsewhere, then attempts to tether it to self-centered desires are not simply fruitless; they are fatal.