Over the weekend, People magazine reported Brooke Richardson, an 18 year-old who just graduated from an Ohio high school, and who was a "very good girl," was charged with reckless homicide after her baby's remains were found buried in her backyard. Detectives believe the infant was not stillborn at birth.
It's possible the young woman who volunteered at cheer camp and with children with disabilities is a closet psychopath, but it's more likely Richardson has been inundated her whole life with mixed messages from our culture about the value of life. And so when she had a baby at the age of 18, was unable (or unwilling) to value the child enough to at least turn to someone for help and make a better choice.
Abortions are banned in Ohio past the 22-week mark — perhaps Richardson realized too late she didn't want to care for a newborn or was unable or unwilling to approach an abortion clinic before that point. Pro-choice advocates will no doubt pin this on Ohio's strict abortion laws, but the answer here isn't to loosen them — it's to teach young people life is valuable and there are other alternatives to murder and abortion.
While Richardson's crime certainly sounds appalling (just read the comments section on the People article), and as a mother I can't fathom burying a baby alive out of malice or sheer desperation, viewing Richardson's pregnancy from her perspective offers a different viewpoint. Richardson has grown up in a culture that devalues life at every stage, from the unborn to the aged. Whether young women like Richardson have seen marches on Washington, D.C., protesting the defunding of Planned Parenthood or read magazines like Teen Vogue telling young women what gifts to get their friends after they've had an abortion, the message is the same: Babies are a burden; babies aren't valuable.
This is not a new phenomenon. In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis described the same thing:
In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.
In other words, our culture has clobbered young women (and even men) with the false pretense that babies are blobs of nothing and that it's simply "your body, your choice," and then we are surprised when a young woman births a baby and, out of fear or senselessness, buries the infant like it is trash.
If we as a culture don't want to see a young woman throw her future away because of a wrong, despicable choice, let's not thrive on the edge of showing her murder is okay if her baby would have been a few weeks younger and still located in her womb, removed not by her hand or natural birth but a physician working at Planned Parenthood.
If we as a culture want babies to grow up and young women to go to college instead of jail, let's show women there are other options besides abortion or murder — that there are two million couples who would have considered adopting that infant.
Nicole Russell is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a journalist in Washington, D.C., who previously worked in Republican politics in Minnesota. She was the 2010 recipient of the American Spectator's Young Journalist Award.
If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.