Dominique Cottrez of northern France sits in prison awaiting charges for eight consecutive murders of her own newborn infants. She has confessed to suffocating them each upon their births dating back to the 1990s.
The case presents the worst infanticide in France since another woman similarly killed six. She currently serves a whopping 15 year jail sentence for her crime.
Another Frenchwoman, Veronique Courjault, was just released from her jail term early. She had killed three of her infants, burned one and stuffed the other two in the back of the freezer. Her husband found the bodies while packing fish in the freezer. Prosecutors could have sought life in prison, but only went for ten years. The court sentenced her to eight. She was released after four plus the couple she had stayed during investigation. Call it seven.
Mrs. Courjault is now at home with her husband who welcomed her to “start again” and resume raising her other two teenage sons.
All of these women successfully hid all of these pregnancies from their husbands and friends, gave birth alone, and then murdered the babies. In no case did psychosis factor in; each was aware, conscious, and willing.
Psychologists are implying a case of rare “pregnancy denial,” but the explanation doesn’t seem to fit for Cottrez’ case. No one has offered a convincing whitewashed version for what Dominique Cottrez did. No one seems willing to face the truth, except Dominique Cottrez. Her prosecutor relates,
“The mother knew she was pregnant … She didn’t want any more children and didn’t want any doctors involved,” Vaillant said, adding that her first pregnancy had been traumatic.
While other emotions certainly played a part, convenience, family planning, and personal choice were the issues.
In light of the Cottrez case, one columnist has shed light on the issue of infanticide in general. She writes,
Experts note that most women who kill a baby were raped or beaten during childhood. They point to broken communities, ghost towns and the end of extended families, leaving mothers with scanty choice of familiar support during the early weeks and months postpartum. The role of parenting and the importance of family have also lost their value.
You can sure say that last part again. The humanistic world is by definition anti-family and anti-child. Our columnist follows up,
Such factors can only make an existing problem worse, however, not cause it. The question now is how to help women before they commit the barbaric act of taking the lives of their babies. Whether the law finds a woman mentally responsible or not, she is never free from the impact of her actions.
And one may add, “Neither is the baby free from her actions.”
Several questions bother me about this whole scenario: for starters, 1) Why are these prison sentences so light; 2) Why is there not more moral outrage across the board? While I cannot pretend to exhaust the issues in this brief article, I can provide a few insights in regard to these questions (which I see as related, and will treat as one).
First, prison sentences can be so light for only a handful of reasons. Either the courts sympathize with the mothers’ “needs” for convenience, or they detect mental illness, or they don’t consider infanticide equal to the murder of an adult. The first reason is speculative and would be impossible to prove barring a judge actually saying so, though I suspect it plays a role in the broader culture of French criminal law. Mental illness had been ruled out, I gather, or the women would likely not have been jailed at all; and besides, had it been a factor it would have been in the first paragraphs of every news story.
That leaves the final reason, which to me seems to have some merit. We are told that Mrs. Cottrez will be formally charged with “voluntary murder of minors under the age of 15.” One wonders why the age of the victim makes for a distinct category. Would murdering a 16-year old be worse than murdering a 14-year old? On what grounds? It apparently warrants a separate legal charge. Note the great age divide for murder in the French legal system.
The greatest irony of all, of course, is that if these women had simply killed the very same babies, each of them, in utero, there would have been absolutely no criminal charges whatsoever. Note the greatest age divide for murder in most of the west: one second old versus unborn.
Western culture has turned to parsing hairs in order to hide its worst crimes.
One of Cottrez’ neighbors said, “It’s monstrous to have murdered eight viable babies.” Notice the purposeful inclusion of the world “viable,” meaning “born and able to live.” But what about eight unborn babies? Or even eight special-needs babies?
The American “ethicist” at Princeton University, Peter Singer, has advocated infanticide in extreme cases for years. Most controversially, he has advocated it for cases of family planning where a severely disabled baby would be the last child a family had planned and would obviously require too much care and money to expand the number of planned children. Even in such a case, where the issue of convenience factors in we must add, Singer advocates infanticide. Drawing from a strictly utilitarian ethic, he writes,
When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed. The loss of happy life for the first infant is outweighed by the gain of a happier life for the second. Therefore, if killing the haemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others, it would, according to the total view, be right to kill him.
He goes on to state that his view “treats infants as replaceable,” and that we should allow this logically for infants since we already do it cases of abortion: “There is only one difference, and that is a difference of timing—the timing of the discovery of the problem, and the subsequent killing of the disabled being.” Then he asserts that the method of abortion actually can involve, in the case of hemophilia anyway, at least twice as much unnecessary killing as infanticide. Ergo, infanticide is actually a better choice than abortion. All we have to do is get over that little artificial time barrier we call birth.
Applied to our case, Singer’s utilitarian logic prevails. The very inclusion of an age bracket allows for different values on different people in regard to murdering them. Newborn infants are simply not as conscious, have little if any memory (so some say), do not linger, and therefore overall do not suffer as much as adults; ergo their murder involves less of a crime. Ergo, less jail time.
This actually gives the game away in general, however, for when Singer ignores or erases the time barrier of birth he actually put the born and the unborn on the same ethical level—the very thing the abortionists don’t want to do. In Singer’s case, he argues it’s acceptable to kill both in certain cases, but the knife cuts both ways: on that same level playing field, what is murder for one is murder for the other, “severe disability” or not.
The Christian ethic, of course, has always opposed infanticide. It is built, biblically, on dominion through marriage and reproduction, and through passing godly worldview down through “a thousand generations.” This simplest of biblical ideas of society is also the most profound and the most central to biblical worldview. No surprise, then, that it is also the most attacked from every angle in the humanist west. The legal system, now we begin to see, rewards the killing of babies, or at least refuses to give such murderers anywhere near their just deserts. And the culture refuses to get outraged over cases of recurring infanticide.