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Cruel and Unusual Punishment

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April 2019

They have their origins somewhere. Maybe they’re a product of bad ears. Maybe they come from overactive imaginations. Whatever their source, they take on a life of their own. They’re folklore, stories passed by word of mouth that seem too fanciful to be true yet have a certain ring of truth to them. Today, we call them urban legends.

They’re some pretty good ones floating around. A traveler bitten on a cheek by a spider supposedly hatched hundreds of spiders from a facial boil. There’s another about a man in Las Vegas who after a wild night woke up in an ice-filled bathtub, minus one kidney. Then there’s the scuba diver who allegedly was scooped into a huge water bucket and unceremoniously dumped by helicopter onto a raging forest fire.

And there’s this one: if a convicted felon survives an attempted execution, he is automatically given a pardon. Generally speaking, it doesn’t happen. The reason is that when a convicted felon is sentenced to death, re-doing a failed execution is merely carrying out a judge’s sentence—“until dead.”

Still, some have been able to dodge eternity, at least temporarily. In 1872, “The Man Franks” hung by an ill-fitted noose for three minutes. He freed himself because the rope around his hands was too loose. Not wanting to watch again, officials were content with banishing him. More recently, in 1997 an Iranian woman sentenced to death for adultery was buried to the waist and stoned. Though first thought dead, she survived and was given an amnesty.

In 1984, Romell Broom was convicted of kidnapping and killing a 14-year old Ohio girl. Sentenced to death, officials tried but failed for two hours to administer a lethal injection. He petitioned for a reprieve on the ground that a second execution attempt would violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. His challenge was unsuccessful; a second execution has been set for 2020.

Capital punishment has been a controversial subject. For many, even a first execution constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. A number of states have ended the practice of altogether. In California, the governor has announced that he will not enforce the death penalty. “The intentional killing of another person is wrong … I do not believe that a civilized society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people.” In New York, where the death penalty has been abolished, governor Andrew Cuomo called it an “ugly stain in our history” and “on our consciences.” He even cited Pope Francis’ opposition to it.

It’s really too bad the unborn can’t qualify as convicted deviant murderers. They’d have a better chance of saving themselves from legal abortion. Under current New York law, an unborn baby may be legally killed at any time and for any reason during the baby’s journey to see the light. For the unborn, there will be no hearing, no judge, no jury. There will be no guardians for the children to plead their cases and beg for mercy. There will be no appeal. For the unborn, capital punishment is alive and well. What’s true in New York will likely soon be true in other states where Democrats now hold power.

But the cruelest punishment of all? If babies survive the horrendous abortion procedures, medical personnel do not need to save their lives. New York repealed the law requiring lifesaving medical efforts for babies actually born alive despite the abortion. In many cases, they are just left to die. Just imagine the sight of a premature baby, her heart beating furiously, every bit of energy being used just to breathe. And imagine the sight of medical personnel, trained to save life yet doing nothing. Nurse Jill Stanek became a tireless pro-life advocate after spending 45 minutes watching an aborted Down syndrome baby die. The baby had been left in a soiled-linen room. Stanek couldn’t bear the thought of the baby dying alone.

The now-infamous governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, said that abortion survivors would be kept comfortable until mother and family decide on the next step. He’s kidding himself—and us. In Kermit Gosnell’s house of horrors, babies’ necks were routinely snipped. Disgraced abortionist Douglas Karpen would sometimes twist the heads off babies’ necks. A Planned Parenthood abortionist said that she would break the neck of a baby born alive.

In an effort to stop to the savagery, lawmakers in Congress have introduced the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. An abortion survivor is deemed a legal person for all purposes under the law and is entitled to the same care and treatment as anyone coming to a hospital or clinic. Medical personnel must administer the same degree of care to an abortion survivor given to any other baby at the same age. If born outside a hospital, an abortion survivor must be immediately transferred to a hospital. It’s humane care, nothing less than a human should receive. So why didn’t this bill quickly pass in both chambers? Democrat leaders don’t want it to pass. Senate Democrats have blocked it twice; House Democrats have blocked it 24 times. Sure does sound like a death sentence. It’s nothing short of infanticide.

And such a waste of humanity. Abortion survivors have stories. They are part of the rich tapestry of life with which we are all blessed. They’re the living witnesses to the best that humans can be, for every day they cherish what they have been given. But betraying all sense of decency, our leaders treat them as garbage, unworthy of life. After all, gotta keep Planned Parenthood happy; it’s got the money. Judas money. Blood money.

When did our leaders become so cruel? And for letting it all happen, when did we?


Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.

© Paul V. Esposito 2019. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us at and on Facebook.

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