Cruel and Unusual?

October 18, 2007

I was happy to see the news that the Supreme Court halted the execution of a Virginia death row inmate, as the Court considers whether lethal injections constitute “cruel and unusual punishment.”

At issue is not the constitutionality of the death penalty itself, but rather the specific way in which the lethal injections work, and the question of whether the person being executed might experience excruciating pain and yet not be able to express that because of the paralyzing effects of the drug.


It brings to mind the measure the “Fetal Pain Awareness Act,” a bill which gives that same consideration to unborn children being ripped apart by abortions in the fifth month of pregnancy and beyond. Credible studies have raised the possibility that these children feel pain in the process of being aborted. Like the death row inmate, however, they can’t express that pain.

So even without raising the issue of whether abortion itself is constitutional, could we not halt the execution of these children out of the same humanitarian concern of sparing fellow human beings pain?

Fr. Frank

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