Shelburne column: When is it legal to kill a baby?

  • In US
  • 2023-02-05 12:01:03Z
  • By Amarillo Globe-News

In June 2022, police in Nunn, Colorado, arrested a Texan, 17-year-old Leiyla Cepeda, for murder. Hospital workers said her newborn had suffered multiple fatal stab wounds, probably from the scissors the reluctant mother had used to cut the umbilical cord. Cepeda's family said they had not known she was pregnant and did not know she had delivered the dead baby that was found in a basement bedroom.

That same week, halfway across the U.S., in Jamesburg, New Jersey, 19-year-old Jessica Farag was arrested for killing her brand new baby. She also was charged with murder.


It took Minnesota authorities almost two decades to identify Jennifer Lynn Matter and charge her with second-degree murder of her just-born son and daughter, who were found in 2003 and 2007 floating in the Mississippi River with their umbilical cords still attached. The Washington Post reported that Matter faced forty years in prison on each charge.

In the shadow of these news reports, does it take a wizard to discern that something is incredibly confused in our legal system? Half a century ago our then-liberal U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that our nation's Constitution makes it legal for mothers to kill babies in their wombs. If the mothers in the stories I've just cited had visited the right abortion clinics, the babies they killed would have been far more mutilated but just as dead, and pro-abortionists across the land would have praised these women for standing up for their rights. Instead, these reluctant mothers got charged with murder.

No doubt, most of us who watch TV news saw the explosion of outrage all across America last year when some culprit leaked the paperwork linked to our highest court's potential ruling that reversed Roe v. Wade and restored protection for the unborn. We've also seen reports of the outburst of dangerously violent protests by some who want to keep on killing babies. Churches have been burned. Pro-life offices have been attacked.

So - which is legal? Which deed is our legal right? To protect infants with umbilical cords, or to discard the ones we don't want? Right now we seem to be swimming both directions on this legal stream. And whatever SCOTUS rules likely will not change this.

Those who have abandoned the biblical protections for all who are created in God's image are not likely to hush their strident claims that baby killing is their feminine right.

Gene Shelburne is pastor emeritus of the Anna Street Church of Christ, 2310 Anna Street, Amarillo, Texas. Contact him at, or get his books and magazines at His column has run on the Faith page for more than three decades.

This article originally appeared on Amarillo Globe-News: Shelburne column: When is it legal to kill a baby?


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