Emily S. Usnick, 36, of St. Elizabeth, Mo. wrapped her new born baby in plastic, stored her in a container, placed the container in the trunk of her car, and received a 5-year prison sentence on an involuntary manslaughter charge. Had the jury been able to determine that the baby was born alive, Usnick could have faced as much as thirty years in prison.
There is a cruel irony to all of this, one that the media have shied away from addressing. Had Usnick found her way to an abortion clinic, an abortion doctor could have terminated that same’s baby’s life just before it emerged and saved Usnick a prison sentence. In some circles that doctor would have been considered a hero.
The late George Tiller of Wichita, for instance, actually boasted on his web site of “having more experience in late abortion services with fetuses over 24 weeks than anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, more than 60,000 since 1973.” Upon his murder in 2009, the media almost universally sang Tiller’s praises.
No one praised Usnick. The Boone County Medical Examiner’s office determined the baby was born fully developed and “could have been resuscitated following delivery.” Usnick testified the baby was either born dead or drowned in the toilet into which it was born. Prosecutors did not buy that story and charged her with second degree murder.
Usnick led a troubled life. She smoked cigarettes and marijuana, drank, and did meth throughout her pregnancy. At her trial she testified to never having seen a doctor and not even knowing she was pregnant until near the end. “I was struggling to get by,” she told the jury. “I knew I wasn’t capable of taking care of another person at that time.”
Usnick testified that she had hoped to deliver the baby at the hospital and give her up for adoption. She had three other children before this little girl. “Abortion wasn’t an option,” she said. Had abortion been an option, this story would never have made the news, but the baby would have been just as dead.
The Johnson County, Missouri, jury struggled with the question of whether the baby was born alive. When they asked the judge for instructions, they were told to figure that out for themselves based on the testimony in the three-day trial. After much deliberation Usnick was convicted in May of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced this week to five years in prison.
To paraphrase Josef Stalin, “One death is a tragedy. 60,000 deaths is a statistic.”