Saturday, September 22, 2007

Perusing court documents from the Michael Vick dog-fighting case and reading descriptions of the various methods employed by Vick and his friends to slaughter under-performing dogs is enough to make one nauseous.

In one particularly vicious instance a sharp cutting knife with a powerful suction tube was used to dismember the body of a small defenseless victim, literally tearing it limb from limb and sucking the body parts into a collection container. Gruesome. Barbaric. Indefensible.

Oh, wait. I was reading the wrong documents. That’s not a description of what happened to one of Vick’s dogs, but an account of what happens to a human baby during the country’s most common surgical procedure: a suction aspiration abortion.

The torture of innocent living creatures has been much in the news lately. Revelations of Michael Vick’s dog-fighting operation may not have shocked Whoopi Goldberg, who seemed to defend Vick’s actions as a product of Southern culture on TV’s “The View.” But the star quarterback’s misdeeds have properly provoked outrage among politicians and the public and a strong response from our legal system.

But such fierce reactions also illuminate a disturbing double standard in America’s treatment of its most innocent creatures. Upon hearing about the grisly manner in which some of Vick’s dogs met their demise (including electrocution, drowning and hanging), Sen. Robert Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, delivered an impassioned speech on the Senate floor,condemning the acts as “barbaric,”concluding: “I am confident that the hottest places in hell are reserved for the souls of sick and brutal people who hold God’s creatures in such brutal and cruel contempt.”

Strong words. Would, however, that more members of Mr. Byrd’s party felt that way about all God’s creatures.

Democrats have always been leaders in supporting legislation that protects animals. In fact, 83 of the 104 members of the last Congress who received a perfect score from the Humane Society in its annual scorecard were Democrats, whose average score was 70 percent, while Republicans averaged 38 percent.

Unfortunately, when given the opportunity to help alleviate the pain and suffering of unborn children, Democrats fail miserably. Consider last December’s debate over the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, legislation that would have required abortion facilities to inform women considering abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy that it will likely cause her unborn child intense pain, and to offer her the chance to anesthetize her child before the abortion. This bill, which even the National Abortion Rights Action League did not oppose, failed to become law because the vast majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives opposed it.

How is it so many politicians who recognize the need to protect animals refuse to acknowledge the same need for our most vulnerable human beings? It seems some politicians have become so anesthetized to assaults on human life that they now hold animals in higher regard than they do their fellow human beings.

Unfortunately such thinking is not confined to the political class — it has percolated through to the public. A March Fox News poll found 46 percent of respondents said they thought pet poisoning is as serious or even more so than poisoning a person.

This double standard is seen most conspicuously in our legal system. Vick has pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges for organizing the dogfights, a felony for which he could receive as much as five years in prison. But it may get much worse. The state of Virginia has indicated it will pursue charges, including animal cruelty charges for the killing of eight dogs — felonies each punishable by up to five years in prison, 40 years in all.

Let’s put this into perspective. The eight dogs Vick is accused of executing is approximately equal to the number of babies who die from legal abortion every 5 minutes in America, and most by means just as brutal as those Vick is accused of using to destroy his dogs.

Nobody is calling for the courts to go easy on those who abuse animals. And surely nobody wants to jail women who have abortions. Some of us just wish our legal system treated unborn children as humanely as it does animals.

Gary Bauer, president of American Values, is a former presidential candidate and a proud father and pet owner.

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