There’s a reason pro-life is called pro-life.
It happened when Hentoff was reporting on the case of Baby Jane Doe. She was a Long Island infant born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, which is excess fluid in the cranium. With surgery, spina-bifida babies can grow up to be productive adults. Yet Baby Jane’s parents, on their doctors’ advice, had refused both surgery to close her spine and a shunt to drain the fluid from her brain. In resisting the federal government’s attempt to enforce treatment, the parents pleaded privacy.
As Hentoff told the Washington Times in a 1989 profile, his “curiosity was not so much the case itself but the press coverage.” Everyone in the media was echoing the same talking points about “women’s rights” and “privacy.” “Whenever I see that kind of story, where everybody agrees, I know there’s something wrong,” Hentoff told the Times. “I finally figured out they were listening to the [parents’] lawyer.” Hentoff dug into the case and the abortion industry at large, and what he found shocked him. He came across the published reports of experiments in what doctors at Yale-New Haven Hospital called “early death as a management option” for infants “considered to have little or no hope of achieving meaningful ‘humanhood.’” He talked with handicapped people who could have been killed by abortion. His liberal friends didn’t appreciate his conversion:
“They were saying, ‘What’s the big fuss about? If the parents had known she was going to come in this way, they would have had an abortion. So why don’t you consider it a late abortion and go on to something else? Here were liberals, decent people, fully convinced themselves that they were for individual rights and liberties but willing to send into eternity these infants because they were imperfect, inconvenient, costly. I saw the same attitude on the part of the same kinds of people toward abortion, and I thought it was pretty horrifying.”