A Kidnapped Fetus?

Darlene Haynes was only 23 years old when another woman brutally slashed her open and removed her eight-month-old baby girl from her womb. Her decomposing body was found July 27 wrapped in a blanket and dumped in a closet inside her apartment in Worcester, Massachusetts. The body was so mutilated that when they found it, the police said they couldn't immediately determine its gender.


The suspected murderer, 35-year-old Julie Corey, lived in the same apartment building and was found soon after the crime in Plymouth, New Hampshire, claiming the baby was her own.


This heart-rending story is also notorious for how the “pro-choice” media sputter and struggle to deny the humanity of a baby, even as the child is slashed away and stolen by a psychopath. I would highly doubt Corey said to bewildered onlookers, “Look at my new fetus.” And yet journalists insult this motherless baby as merely a “fetus,” this their dismissive blob-of-tissue word suggesting an unborn baby is subhuman until birth, no matter how many months along in the pregnancy, and no matter how physically able to survive outside the womb. The word “fetus” isn't even synonymous with human, since dictionaries define it as describing any “developing mammal or other viviparous vertebrate.”


A blog called Verum Serum collected some headlines from media sites on the Internet as the story broke on July 30. The early headlines used “fetus,” even though the baby had already been born in a violent way. Fox News started with “Pregnant Massachusetts Woman Killed, Fetus Taken.” ABC News reported “Mom-to-Be Darlene Haynes Killed, Cops Search for Her Fetus.” CNN's story was “Woman killed, fetus cut from body.”


The same thing occurred in newspapers. The Boston Globe's headline was “Authorities in Worcester seek killer in case of fetus cut from womb.” The Boston Herald echoed: “Officials search hospitals for victim's fetus.”


It's one thing to insist that a “fetus” is an unborn baby. But once the “fetus” has been removed – and survives – what is the excuse for journalists to search for a “fetus” on the lam? This baby that first saw the light of day in such a foul and violent fashion deserved better than to be described merely a “fetus,” with all the compassion you would offer a stolen lab rat.


On television, “fetus” and “baby” were almost interchangeable. On NBC's Today, news reader Ann Curry relayed that “Darlene Haynes was found dead on Monday in her apartment, her fetus taken from her womb. The baby was found alive last night.” Co-host Matt Lauer offered the same contrast: “Her fetus has been taken from her womb. Last night as neighbors and friends mourned outside her home, police reported the missing baby had been found alive, 130 miles away in New Hampshire.”


On ABC's Nightline, reporter Stephanie Sy used both terms as she described the sickening (if rare) criminal trend: “In 2000, the body of an Ohio woman was found in a shallow grave with her fetus removed. In 2004, a Kansas woman's baby was carved out of her womb with a kitchen knife and just last month, a pregnant woman was killed by a woman she met on Craigslist. The baby died shortly after being ripped from the mother.”


Media outlets must have received an avalanche of responses on their terminology, and in the wake of the mother's violent end, and that she didn't make the “choice” of terminating her pregnancy, the word “baby” became common. It also helped that the baby girl (named “Alita” by the suspected murderess) survived the assault.


In the second go-round, Fox News carried the headline “Woman Suspected of Cutting Baby From Massachusetts Mom's Womb Held on $2M Bail.” CNN's story came with the title: “Baby cut from slain mom's womb found alive.” The Boston Herald reported “Suspect in brutal murder, baby snatch held $2M bail.” NBC's Ann Curry announced that the suspect was “arrested in connection with the murder of a pregnant woman whose baby was taken from her womb.”


Online, ABC News updated the story with “Baby Cut From Slain Mom's Womb Found Alive.” They ruined the trend with this later headline: “Slain Pregnant Woman Lived in Same Building With Accused Fetus-Stealer.”


In a media world that's sensitive enough to fire radio hosts for saying “nappy” next to “hos,” where White House reporters scream for Fox hosts to be fired for suggesting the president is a racist, when will the time come that journalists are sensitive enough to stop denying the humanity of an unborn eight-month-old child? Or at the very least, could they stop demeaning the harsh reality of a child cruelly ripped from a murdered mother's womb?