The rights of the unborn and newly-born continue to erode as evidenced by two disturbing recent cases. The sanctity of life appears to be something that's becoming more and more just an old-fashioned notion. That's a terrible tragedy, and one which, if not checked, will leave a legacy of destruction.

Earlier this month Amy Grossberg and her former sweetheart, Brian Peterson, were sentenced to 2 1/2 and two years, respectively, for the death of their newborn son. The defense claims the two believed the infant was stillborn when they went to a motel room on Nov. 12, 1996, in Newark, N.J., and delivered the child after a hidden pregnancy. The newborn's body was later found in a plastic bag in the motel's trash bin.An autopsy, however, revealed the infant died of multiple skull fractures caused by blunt trauma and shaking, and was alive at birth. The baby boy, of course, had no say in the matter. Mom and dad, instead of helping him by at least seeking medical help, killed him. Many view the sentences of Grossberg and Peterson as slaps on the wrist. Will what happened to them be any deterrent to those who later face the same situation?

About a week before their sentencing a doctor in Phoenix was performing a very questionable abortion. What Dr. John Biskind said he thought was a 23-week-old fetus was in reality a full-term 37-week-old baby. After beginning the procedure for a partial birth abortion, which fractured the infant's skull and left two deep lacerations on her face, Biskind delivered a 6-pound 2-ounce baby girl.

It wasn't the first time he exercised questionable judgment. In 1990 the medical board scolded him for trying to abort a full-formed baby he said he thought was just 10 weeks old. Records also show Biskind has performed two abortions on Arizona women who bled to death. He was censured for one death. The other is being investigated.

The picture the above events portray is very troubling. The courts, unfortunately, instead of acting as a stabilizing force have only added to the problem with questionable rulings. The Supreme Court in October of 1997 upheld the rights of minors to obtain abortions without notifying their parents. The mother who sought the abortion from Biskind two weeks ago was 17. She may or may not have notified her parents. She wasn't legally obligated to do so.

Minors need parental consent for a multitude of things such as getting a driver's license and taking certain medications at school. And yet, legally, it is OK for them to get an abortion without notifying their parents. That faulty logic puts families in a potentially adversarial relationship and needlessly puts the unborn at greater risk.

The sanctity of life needs to be re-emphasized - in the home, at school and at church - so that even contemplating ending the life of the unborn or newly born is something that's viewed as extremely serious with severe consequences and not like any other trip to the doctor's office.

Until the proper messages about life are sent and received there will be too many more instances like those in Newark and Phoenix.