As a reporter, I started to cover "Baby Doe" cases from a civil libertarian perspective. These infants, being born, were entitled to the full constitutional rights that every one else in this country, of whatever age, is guaranteed. Often forgotten was the constitutional fact that these infants had independent rights - independent of what parents wanted to happen to them.
As I got more into the story, I discovered something else. I had not paid much attention to the debate on abortion. I had never written in favor of abortion because I was vaguely troubled by it, but then I had never written in opposition to abortion. I had heard various pro-life advocates speak of "the slippery slope," but I hadn't paid much attention to that metaphor.
However, while interviewing physicians, parents, congressional aides, members of Congress, ACLU lawyers. and fellow reporters about the Baby Does, I was often told: "Why are you getting so excited about these defective infants? If the parents had known what they were going to get, they would have had it aborted. Why don't you - like the parents and doctors - simply consider this a late abortion?"
Well, as a civil libertarian, I couldn't do that. (More)
Nat Hentoff, Feb. 28, 1988. Philadelphia Enquirer