CHINO HILLS, Calif. -- Where Route 71 crosses over Payton Drive, at the bottom of the steeply sloping embankment, two boys, who were playing nearby, found the boxes. The boys bicycled home and said they had found boxes of "babies."
Do not be impatient with the imprecision of their language. They have not read the apposite Supreme Court opinions. So when they stumbled on the boxes stuffed with 54 fetuses, which looked a lot like babies, they jumped to conclusions. Besides, young boys are apt to believe their eyes rather than the Supreme Court.
The first count came to a lot less than 54. Forgive the counters' imprecision. Many fetuses had been dismembered -- hands, arms, legs, heads jumbled together -- by the abortionist's vigor. An accurate count required a lot of sorting out.
The fetuses had been dumped here, about 30 miles east of Los Angeles, on March 14, 1997, by a trucker who may not have known what the Los Angeles abortion clinic had hired him to dispose of. He later served 71 days in jail for the improper disposal of medical waste. Society must be strict about its important standards.
What local authorities dealt with as a problem of solid waste disposal struck a few local residents as rather more troubling than that. They started talking to each other, and one thing led to another, and to the formation of Cradles of Love, which had the modest purpose of providing a burial for the 54 babies.
The members of Cradles of Love -- just a few normal walking-around middle-class Americans -- called them babies, and still do. These people are opposed to abortion, in spite of the Supreme Court's assurance in 1973 that abortions end only "potential life." (Twenty-five years later the Supreme Court has not yet explained how a life that is merely "potential" can be ended.)
Some will say the members of Cradles of Love, who are churchgoers, have been unduly influenced by theology. Or perhaps the real culprit is biology. It teaches that after the DNA of the sperm fuse with those of the ovum it forms a new and unique DNA complex that directs the growth of the organism. It soon is called a fetus, which takes in nourishment and converts it to energy through its own distinct, unique organic functioning, and very soon looks a lot like a baby.
Anyway, theology or biology or maybe their eyes told the members of Cradles of Love that there were some babies in need of burials. So they asked the coroner to give them the fetuses. Then the American Civil Liberties Union was heard from.
It professed itself scandalized by this threat to . . . what? The ACLU frequently works itself into lathers of anxiety about threats to the separation of church and state. However, it is difficult to identify any person whose civil liberties were going to be menaced if the fetuses were (these are the ACLU's words) "released to the church groups for the express purpose of holding religious services." The ACLU said it opposed "facilitation" of services by a public official.
The ACLU's attack on the constitutionally protected right to the free exercise of religion failed to intimidate, and in October the babies were buried in a plot provided at no charge by a cemetery in nearby Riverside. Each baby was given a name by a participating church group. Each name was engraved on a brass plate that was affixed to each of the 54 small, white, wooden caskets made, at no charge, by a volunteer who took three days off from work to do it.
Fifty clergy and four people active in the right-to-life movement carried the caskets. Each baby's name is inscribed on a large headstone, also provided at no charge. Fifty-four doves, provided at no charge by the cemetery, were released at the services.
The ACLU trembled for the Constitution.
We hear much about the few "extremists" in the anti-abortion movement. But the vast majority of the movement's members are like the kindly, peaceable people here who were minding their own business until some of the results of the abortion culture tumbled down a roadside embankment and into their lives.
Which is not to say that this episode was untainted by ugly extremism. It would be nice if the media, which are nothing if not diligent in documenting and deploring anti-abortion extremism, could bring themselves to disapprove the extremism of the ACLU, which here attempted a bullying nastiness unredeemed by any connection to a civic purpose.
George F. Will is a syndicated columnist.
Pub Date: 12/03/98