After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?


One of the problems with our western society is that every time we make a decision about something, subsequent generations keep pushing the envelope. It used to be only prostitutes who wore makeup to mark themselves as prostitutes. Now we have a society where singers dress like hookers and so do 20-year-old girls. Quite seriously, I don’t know how to tell the difference between a hooker and a fashionable young thing these days.

If someone had told the prostitutes back then that it was likely their use of makeup would eventually be embraced by women all over the world, and eventually young women would also wear much more revealing clothing than prostitutes, they would not have believed it.

Subjects such as abortion, when debated before being made into law, involved  the slippery slope argument. If we allow it in the early weeks they argued, it will get pushed out eventually to months. Eventually babies at full term will be aborted. Supporters of abortion at the time pooh-poohed the slippery slope argument. That will never happen they said; this is about women’s rights and to stop backstreet abortions that often kill women. It will never lead to abortions at full term; that’s crazy talk.

Today I read an article that showed that both the pro-abortionists and the pro-lifers were wrong. The slippery slope is more slippery than either of them could ever have imagined in their wildest dreams.

picture of baby

This baby is only a potential person according Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva.

The article, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says newborn babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life”. The academics also argue that parents should be able to have their baby killed if it turns out to be disabled when it is born.

The journal’s editor, Prof Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, said the article’s authors had received death threats since publishing the article. He said those who made abusive and threatening posts about the study were “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society”.

The article, entitled “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?”, was written by two of Prof Savulescu’s former associates, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva.

They argued: “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”

Rather than being “actual persons”, newborns were “potential persons”. They explained: “Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’.

“We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.”

As such they argued it was “not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense”.

The authors therefore concluded that “what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled”.

They also argued that parents should be able to have the baby killed if it turned out to be disabled without their knowing before birth, for example citing that “only the 64 per cent of Down’s syndrome cases” in Europe are diagnosed by prenatal testing.

Once such children were born there was “no choice for the parents but to keep the child”, they wrote.

“To bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.”

However, they did not argue that some baby killings were more justifiable than others – their fundamental point was that, morally, there was no difference to abortion as already practised.

They have a valid point there. Once we said it was okay to kill an innocent human being, the only thing stopping us from killing whoever we wanted to was arbitrary man-made rules. When abortion first became legal if a woman was one day pregnant more than the arbitrary rule allowed for abortion she couldn’t have one.

They preferred to use the phrase “after-birth abortion” rather than “infanticide” to “emphasise that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus”.

…Defending the decision to publish in a British Medical Journal blog, Prof Savulescu, said that arguments in favour of killing newborns were “largely not new”.

What Minerva and Giubilini did was apply these arguments “in consideration of maternal and family interests”.

While accepting that many people would disagree with their arguments, he wrote: “The goal of the Journal of Medical Ethics is not to present the Truth or promote some one moral view. It is to present well reasoned argument based on widely accepted premises.”

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, he added: “This “debate” has been an example of “witch ethics” – a group of people know who the witch is and seek to burn her. It is one of the most dangerous human tendencies we have. It leads to lynching and genocide. Rather than argue and engage, there is a drive is to silence and, in the extreme, kill, based on their own moral certainty. That is not the sort of society we should live in.”

This from a guy who is morally comfortable with infanticide. He thinks the sort of society we should live in is one where we kill newborn babies. The only person here with dangerous human tendencies that makes me disgusted to live in this society is him.

He said the journal would consider publishing an article positing that, if there was no moral difference between abortion and killing newborns, then abortion too should be illegal.

Dr Trevor Stammers, director of medical ethics at St Mary’s University College, said: “If a mother does smother her child with a blanket, we say ‘it’s doesn’t matter, she can get another one,’ is that what we want to happen?

“What these young colleagues are spelling out is what we would be the inevitable end point of a road that ethical philosophers in the States and Australia have all been treading for a long time and there is certainly nothing new.”

Referring to the term “after-birth abortion”, Dr Stammers added: “This is just verbal manipulation that is not philosophy. I might refer to abortion henceforth as antenatal infanticide.”

In another few decades will we be looking at after-birth abortion of five-year-olds? I know it sounds extreme and unlikely but in the 1960s they never could have imagined that we would be talking about killing newborn babies and talking about them as “potential persons”.

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