by David Sisler

Amy Grossberg was in labor, not in a hospital delivery suite, but in a Delaware motel room. Attended by Brian Peterson, her boyfriend, and the father of her soon-to-be-born son, she gave birth to a baby boy. Instead of being greeted with joy and love, the baby was hit on the head, stuffed in a plastic bag and tossed into a trash bin. Based on these alleged events, the parents of the dead infant were charged with murder.

A seventeen-year-old, pregnant girl was vacationing with her boyfriend's family in Mays Landing, NJ. Authorities allege that the girl climbed into the bathtub, gave birth to a daughter, cut the umbilical cord herself, then wrapped the child in a towel and placed her in a gym bag. She drove home, hid the baby in her garage, where police found the infant's body three days later.

A fifteen-year-old girl threw her newborn baby out of a fourth floor window of her Brooklyn apartment.

A sixteen-year-old girl gave birth to a 6 pound, 10 ounce baby boy in a bus terminal toilet and left the child, alive, in the toilet.

At 7:45 p.m., on the night of June 6, 1997, Melissa Drexler arrived at her high school prom with her longtime boyfriend. She immediately went to the women's restroom with a female friend. The friend returned a few minutes later, thinking Drexler was sick in a stall. Sometime in between her friend's two visits, Melissa gave birth to a 6 pound, 6 ounce baby boy, placed him in a trash bag and dropped him into the garbage receptacle in the restroom. Based on these alleged events, eighteen-year-old Melissa, was charged with murder.

Autopsy reports on Christopher Drexler revealed that his heart was beating when he was in the birth canal. Traces of air found in his intestines suggest that Christopher waged a brief but fruitless struggle to survive. Monmouth County, NJ, prosecutor John Kaye said Christopher was strangled and suffocated manually. He theorizes that a sanitary napkin disposal bin may have been used to cut the child's umbilical cord.

Melissa told school officials she was having a heavier-than-usual menstrual period. Officials accepted the explanation and a maintenance worker took out the trash. The bag was suspiciously heavy, and when she looked inside, the dead child was discovered. Except for that, the baby's birth, and death, may have gone undetected.

Jason Melnyk, president of Melissa's senior class, said, "It's upsetting. It's terrible. No matter where something like this happens, it's terrible, but when it happens at a prom like this it makes it even worse."

Daniel Araujo, a student at a neighboring school said, "I just had my prom this weekend, too. To have something like this happen put a real damper on it."

What is more important: a senior prom or a baby dying inside of a garbage bag?

Margaret Carlson, writing for Time magazine said that when Melissa returned to the dance, she asked the disk jockey to play her favorite Metallica song, "The Unforgiven." Some of Melissa's friends deny that there is any truth to that story, but the song's words are compelling in describing Christopher's death: "Never be, never see, won't see what might have been." A line from another Metallica song, "Enter Sandman," is even more poignant: "Say your prayers little one. Don't forget, my son to include everyone. Tuck you in, warm within."

The Atlanta Constitution editorialized that Christopher's death was partly my fault, and partly yours. "Our culture shares responsibility for the predicament in which this eighteen-year- old child-mother finds herself." We are culpable in Christopher's death, the Constitution says, because "American culture celebrates blatant sexuality... but refuses to provide adolescents with easy access to contraception." I wonder, would the Constitution criticize those who advocate abstinence as right-wing religious conservatives trying to foist their narrow views on the country?

Lori Anne Carter, in a letter to the editor, published in Time, asked, "Why would anyone but Melissa Drexler be to blame for disposing of her baby? She's the one who put it in the trash can at her prom... You cannot blame her parents for not putting her on the Pill, her teachers for not handling her condoms to use when she wanted to have sex, or a political party for wanting to preserve life."

It would have been good if Ms. Carter had stopped there. Instead she continued, "Drexler knew she was expecting and had time to have a legal abortion. This horrible disregard for life should leave everyone looking no further than the killer's eyes."

Does that mean that "a legal abortion" is not a "horrible disregard for life"?

Impulsive sex, separated from commitment and responsibility will continue to claim lives, and not only those who are dropped into garbage cans. Protecting life, even the life of your own child, is no longer a dependable human instinct. The message that life is sacred has been lost in a whirlpool called "individual choice."


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 8/9/97

Copyright 1997 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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