Ariel Castro and Abortion as Murder

by Laura Giunta

Ariel Castro could face the death penalty for forcing unwanted abortions on the women he kidnapped. This shows a double standard in the law, where an unborn child only has rights when we find it convenient.     

Ariel CastroWhile pro-abortionist activists contend that an unborn fetus is not a human life, the actual law has become increasingly inconsistent in this regard.  Although abortion is legal across the United States, those who commit an “unwanted” abortion have been charged and even convicted of murder of the unborn child.  The double standard pokes holes in the argument that an unborn fetus is not a human life, and therefore not deserving of the basic natural rights inherent on being human.  Rather, as the law prosecutes those who terminate pregnancies without the mother’s consent with murder, it becomes more obvious that the fetus is indeed a human life that should be valued.

The most recent case that has brought this issue into the forefront is the heinous crimes of Ariel Castro against three women in Cleveland, Ohio.  These three women were held captive for years, and were brutalized and raped by their captor.  One of the victims, Michelle Knight, was “impregnated five times [by Castro] during her captivity, then starved and beaten, forcing the termination of the fetuses.”  Now, along with rape and kidnapping charges, Ohio prosecutors may charge Castro with aggravated murder for the multiple forced miscarriages Knight suffered, which is punishable by the death penalty in Ohio.

Ohio law states:

2903.01 Aggravated murder.

(A) No person shall purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the death of another or the unlawful termination of another’s pregnancy.

(B) No person shall purposely cause the death of another or the unlawful termination of another’s pregnancy while committing or attempting to commit, or while fleeing immediately after committing or attempting to commit, kidnapping, rape, aggravated arson, arson, aggravated robbery, robbery, aggravated burglary, burglary, trespass in a habitation when a person is present or likely to be present, terrorism, or escape.”

The fact that abortion is legal in Ohio, but Castro’s forced termination of his victim’s pregnancies is considered aggravated murder is contradictory.  For Castro’s crime to be considered murder, the fetus would have to be considered a human life and equal to that of any other adult victim of aggravated murder.  But, if the law recognizes the fetus as a human life, how can abortion remain legally condoned without seeming morally incomprehensible?

The inconsistency is even more baffling when you consider that Ohio law also indicates that the penalty for committing such a crime can be the death penalty:

2929.02 Murder penalties.

(A) Whoever is convicted of or pleads guilty to aggravated murder in violation of section 2903.01 of the Revised Code shall suffer death or be imprisoned for life

If the crime of terminating a pregnancy forcibly, such as in the case of Castro against Michelle Knight, is punishable by death, then the law has indicated the life of the unborn child terminated has just as much value as the life of its executor.  The fetus then cannot be simply a blob of cells, but a human being who deserves the same rights and protections under the law as any other person who has suffered death at the hands of a heinous criminal.  After all, a person cannot be charged with murder or sentenced to death for killing a blob of cells or even an animal, at least not in the United States.  Charges of murder and the death penalty are only reserved to those who take a human life.

Despite the monstrous nature of these crimes, proponents of abortion would not like to treat them as being as abhorrent as they truly are.  Why?  Because it undercuts their arguments for abortion by strongly suggesting that the unborn child is a human life protected under the law as any other person would be.  Ten years ago, another case in California made headlines:  the murder of Laci Peterson at the hands of her husband, Scott Peterson.  In that case, Scott Peterson was convicted of two murders, that of his wife and that of their unborn child, who Laci was pregnant with at the time of her murder.  He was sentenced to death for his crimes.  But, when the charges were first brought against Peterson, a president of a local chapter for the National Organization for Women, a strong supporter of abortion, spoke out: “There’s something about this that bother me a little…. If it was unborn, then I can’t see them charging him with murder…. It sets a kind of precedent.”

Indeed, a precedent was set after the Laci Peterson case, particularly when Congress passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004, which made it a “federal offense to kill or injure a child in utero during the commission of another federally prosecutable violent crime.”  That federal law, like the eventual verdict in the Laci Peterson case, was heavily opposed by pro-abortion advocates who felt that the act treated the unborn child as a human being deserving of rights under the law, which then “lay the groundwork for abolishing abortion rights.”  Pro-abortionists were more concerned about protecting the right for women to choose abortion, rather than protecting the lives of pregnant women and their unborn children.

With the Castro case only just hitting the news, the question again will come to the forefront of the abortion debate: is a fetus a human life protected under the law and, if so, what does that imply about abortion?  The value of life becomes determined solely by the woman carrying the fetus.  If the woman wants the child, the fetus is a human life and the termination of the pregnancy is aggravated murder.  But, if she does not want the child, the fetus is no longer considered a human life and the woman can simply terminate the pregnancy without consequence.  Not only does the woman then have full control over the determination of when her unborn baby is a human life and when it is not (which can arbitrarily change from one month to the next without any logic or reason), her decision wholly determines whether or not the termination of her pregnancy is a crime, and one that can be punished by death.  What’s worse, the life of the fetus becomes subjective, based only on the woman’s wants, rather than on if the fetus is, in fact, a human life.

If prosecutors in Ohio choose to charge Castro with aggravated murder in order to seek the death penalty in his case, particularly because he is accused of several other heinous felonies, those five fetuses will be treated as human lives and victims of a brutal crime, unlike the thousands of unborn babies aborted each day.  With laws that recognize the forcible termination of a pregnancy as murder, it becomes apparent then that legal abortions condone the taking of a human life in favor of the woman’s choice.  However, a fetus cannot simply stop being a human life simply because the woman wishes it to be.  We must treat all unborn children as human lives, worthy of being valued and protected under the law, for the outcome is the same for the fetus whether a pregnancy is forcibly terminated or a woman chooses to have an abortion.

We can treat the fetus as a human life, abolishing abortion while charging those who forcibly terminate pregnancies with murder.  Or we can blatantly disregard the life of the fetus, allowing for legal abortions to continue while also allowing men like Castro and Peterson to brutally kill the unborn children of their female victims without it ever being considered a crime.

A fetus is either a human life under the law or it isn’t, but America can’t have it both ways.  America must treat a fetus as a life in all cases, and not allow the determination of life to be based solely on the arbitrary desires of the woman, who only declares it not a life in order to wrongly justify abortion.


Laura Giunta has a Master’s degree from St. John’s University. She is a children’s librarian residing in New York State


  1. Are you aware that most of this same argument applies to the difference between rape and sex or theft and gifting?

    • Laura Giunta says:

      How exactly? The law is stating that the fetus is a human life by stating it is murder to forcibly terminate the pregnancy. If it a human life, and someone who terminates such a life can be charged with murder and even sentenced to death (again, according to the law), then how is it that a woman can choose to abort the same fetus, essentially ending the same human life? In the two cases you mentioned with rape/sex and theft/gifting, there is consent of two parties (two human lives), whereas in the case of abortion vs. aggravated murder charges for those who forcibly terminate pregnancies, there is a third human life involved which is only valued in the latter and not in the former.

      Moreover, in the case of abortion vs. forcible termination of pregnancy, the woman is subjectively giving value to the fetus rather than the law determining what the value is. This would be like, to take your theft/gifting example, a woman saying that a car is worth only $5 when she gives it away, but worth $500,000 when it is stolen from her – neither of which is actually accurate, logical, scientific, or true. The same is the case with abortion vs. forcing a woman to miscarry – in the first case, the woman gets to subjectively determine that the fetus is not a human life, whereas in the second she can decide the fetus is a human life and the person who terminated should be sentenced to death, even if the abortion and forced miscarriage occur at the same time in pregnancy. If the law is stating that the fetus is a human life and that anyone who terminates its life through a forced miscarriage is a murderer and can receive the death penalty, we must evaluate why, with abortion, unnaturally terminating a pregnancy is not similarly terminating a human life.

      • “There is a third human life”

        This is really the core of any argument against abortion which fundamentally relies on an assumption/opinion. Often this is a religious opinion as differing faiths have different moments of “ensoulment”. Most often attempts to show this to be true are painfully vacuous arguments which would true only because they state themselves to be true and would be false if they stated themselves to be false. (Consider the statement: “This statement is true.”)

        Make no mistake about the idea value. Despite what economists will tell you, comparable levels of value are not a natural features of things, almost as if economics wasn’t a natural science at all and more on the level of things like Traffic Science. (Sorry traffic scientists, you do a lot of good work… maybe I should have said astrology?) The only people who care about the exact value of a piece of property are the IRS, because the government always wants to take their cut, and the police for determining the severity of the crime. Here, we are simply stating that a woman either assigns no value or lots of value to her embryo/feotus (well, I suppose there might be 1 or 2 cases of women saying, “Well… I wanted an abortion anyway…” but let us assume that is so rare as to be non-existent). In the “no value” case, there was no harm to her and so no reason to punish anyone. In the “lots of value” case, there was lots of harm to the woman. Comparable, perhaps, to the loss of a child. Thus, justice/revenge must be found/taken in comparable measure to the harm done to the woman.

        • Laura Giunta says:

          “This is really the core of any argument against abortion which fundamentally relies on an assumption/opinion. Often this is a religious opinion as differing faiths have different moments of ‘ensoulment.'”

          When I say “third person,” I mean not based on my own opinion, but the actual law in Ohio, at least in regard to the crime of aggravated murder. By stating in the law that it is “murder” to forcibly terminate a pregnancy, the law is indicating that the fetus is a life that can be murdered. Moreover, it is indicating that the fetus is a life that will be protected as any other human life, and that the taking of that life can be punished by death. Whether or not one personally agrees or disagrees that the fetus is a third person is irrelevant to what Ohio law is stating, which is that it is indeed a third person who will be treated just like any other victim of murder. The problem is, of course, that by allowing abortion, Ohio law is either contradicting itself when it claims that the fetus is a human life in the case of unwanted abortions, or it is simply condoning the aggravated murder of human lives only when the woman chooses it.

          As to your second point, I would first say that the law should not be based on something so subjective, particularly when the punishment can then range from none all the way to the death penalty for committing the same crime: terminating the life of the fetus. I also think the problem is that the law is rather concrete in what the value of the unborn child is when a pregnancy is forcibly terminated: the law clearly classifies the fetus as a human life, to the point that those who terminate said life may be put to death for it. This, unfortunately, contradicts abortion laws, which allow the same termination simply because the mother consents to it, even though the law has already established previously that the fetus is a human life the same inherent rights as other citizens.

          The law basically contradicts itself. Although I would disagree, you could argue then that unwanted abortions should not be considered aggravated murder and perhaps make it a lesser crime directed specifically toward the woman rather than the child being harmed (since, to have abortion laws work, one would have to treat the fetus as having no rights, meaning that even claiming assault or battery against the fetus would be indicating that the fetus has the right to be protected under the law). In that way, at least the contradiction between the legalization of abortion and the aggravated murder charges for those who commit unwanted abortions would be resolved. Of course, as a pro-life advocate, I would argue instead that, by allowing for those who terminate a pregnancy to be charged with aggravated murder and even sentenced to death, the law already admits that the fetus is a human life and that we should treat the fetus as such in all cases, thus abolishing abortion.

          However, I don’t think it logically makes sense to allow forcible termination of pregnancy to be aggravated murder and abortion to be legal. The law – and society – needs to choose whether or not they want to treat the fetus as a human life in all cases or none at all. I believe the fetus should be treated as a human life in all cases, not just in some.

          • This is all provided that you want to completely discount mental, emotional and physical harm to the woman from the forced abortion as the reason to make forced abortion illegal. This is also consistent with the idea of making late term abortions illegal but leaving contraceptives which could be “abortifacients” legal because the harm to the woman is significantly higher (consider the difference between alcohol and harder drugs).

            That is to say, there are plenty of reasons to punish forced abortion that are unrelated to the fetus being a distinct human.

        • Laura Giunta says:

          Well, that’s why I mentioned you could have a law related directly to the woman, not the fetus, in order to make the law no longer contradictory (again, this is not the option I would choose, but at least the double standard would be eliminated). You could, for example, charge the person who committed the forced abortion with some sort of assault or battery charge toward the woman, or maybe something about destruction of property (since, in this case, the fetus would no longer be viewed as a human life). But by calling it aggravated murder, the crime being committed is against the fetus, not the woman, which is then essentially stating that the fetus is a human life that has been murdered.

          I think, if you are a pro-choice advocate, you could argue then that the Ohio law should be changed to no longer make it aggravated, but some sort of lesser crime against the woman specifically and not against the fetus. In that way, the law is no longer undermining the morality of abortion nor claiming that the fetus is a human life being terminated. However, as a pro-life advocate, I would rather the fetus be treated as a human life at all times, as the Ohio law about aggravated murder currently indicates the fetus is a human life.

          The contradiction needs to be eliminated, though, either by changing the law to a lesser crime against specifically the woman when forcible termination of pregnancy is concerned or, which I would prefer, by abolishing abortion except when it is a necessity, such as when the life of the mother is in danger, so that the fetus is treated as a human life in all cases.

          • There’s no contradiction. Children are property, and the law basically respects that. Aborting your fetus when you don’t want it aborted is unlawfully destroying your property. Having an abortion is merely disposing of something you don’t want. The law reflects this.

          • Laura Giunta says:

            This reply is meant for The Gorp:

            The contradiction lies in the fact that the law calls forced abortion “aggravated murder,” which then indicates a life is being taken, the life of the fetus. Moreover, the law states that one can be sentenced to death for terminating the fetus by force. Typically, one is not sentenced to death or charged with aggravated murder for unlawfully destroying property. If the law reflected more of the harm to property or even specifically to the woman, such as causing her bodily harm, the law wouldn’t be contradicting itself by legalizing abortion. As it stands now, the law is explicitly treating the fetus as a human life in the case of forcibly terminating a pregnancy, but not in the case of abortion.

            However, I do find it disturbing the notion that “children are property.” Children are not their parents property in any circumstances, but individuals protected by natural rights. Parents can not “dispose” of their born children that they do not want: your argument sounds very much like the article on from the Journal of Medical Ethics published last year arguing in favor for after-birth abortion (The Bell Towers has a good article on the topic here: The thought that children in general are a commodity rather than human lives with value is very troubling to me, and I feel that the idea that “children are property” unfortunately stems from the fact that the fetus is treated as property through abortion rather than protected as a human life.

          • It is funny to see that paper attacked so often as it relies entirely on the logic of pro-lifers (that is, nothing special happens at birth) and then says in a following paper, “if we think that abortion
            is morally permissible … then, … we should also think … ‘after-birth abortion’ is equally morally permissible…” [snipped for brevity]

            That is, the author is saying that being pro-choice (in certain circumstances) and being okay with infanticide are morally equivalent.


          • Laura Giunta says:

            To Kenneth:

            Actually, I always had a theory that the paper was written by a pro-lifer under the guise of being a pro-choice advocate just because, as you said, it basically states that abortion and infanticide are morally the same, and that aborting a fetus because it is not fully developed and dependent on his/her mother for survival is no different than killing a young child who is similarly not fully developed and is still dependent on his/her mother (or another adult human) for survival. Of course, that’s just a theory, so I can’t actually prove that it was really written by a pro-life person pretending to be a pro-choice person who wanted to cause a storm of controversy by making this comparison in a science journal, but it seems to really further the pro-life arguments more than the pro-choice ones.

            As for the outrage, I suppose the notion that it’s okay to kill preschool-age children is going to upset some people, lol. For pro-lifers, I think the anger comes from the fact that they honestly believe that the fetus is a human life and many really don’t see it as any different from infanticide. They believe that an unborn child is a human being with the right to live just as a toddler would, and the idea that, if you follow the reasoning behind abortion to its logical, unfortunate conclusion, a toddler could be “aborted,” is probably angering, disturbing, and frightening to them (particularly because it is being written as medically ethical in a scientific journal about medical ethics). I’m certain, though, that there are plenty pro-choicers who express similar anger over this argument as they do not want to be associated with the advocacy for infanticide in any way and do not like the idea that abortion and infanticide are being considered ethically equivalent in a scientific journal about medical ethics. So there’s probably outrage all around.

            As for myself, while I can theorize all I want that the paper is really written by some clever pro-lifer trying to make a controversial point, I recognize that the paper, at face value, is still in a legitimate journal for medical ethics and is arguing that infanticide is medically ethical as per the reasoning behind abortion, and so of course I find its main argument objectionable (“objectionable” being a gross understatement). The fact that such a paper exists does help in arguing against abortion, though, lol.

          • Children have been property for as long as, well, ever. Long before abortion was really A Thing, people could basically do whatever they wanted to to their own kids. Also, people en loco parentis could beat the tar out of kids for various and sundry reasons, and nobody used to complain.

            Okay fine, children are living things. But so is your liver, and you’re free to trash that as much as you want, because it’s also your property. If it helps, think of children as pets. Living, emotional, capable of some kind of thought, whatever. They still very much belong to someone else, and therefore are property. Why cling to this petty distinction when things are much easier (and more fun) when we just come out and say that people can be just as much property as any trinket.

            All you’re really doing is emphasizing that children are merely a different kind of property that gets a different kind of treatment. Other than that, the distinction is moot.

  2. Abdul Jr says:

    Why isn’t the media talking about his faith?
    Simply because he’s not a muslim -_-

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *