Ethics paper advances “After-birth abortion”; Outrage grows
Thursday, March 1, 2012

A recent paper, "After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?", appears in the electronic version of the Journal of Medical Ethics and deserves careful scrutiny as it uses pro-abortion arguments to support infanticide.  This disturbing concept asserts that children in the womb and newborns are both "potential persons" and that the lives of both can be ended for the same reasons. Italian philosopher Alberto Giubilini and ethicist Dr. Francesca Minerva, working in Australia, claim that newborns--just like children in the womb--are not yet persons and consequently, without rights or interests. They assert that "after-birth abortion" should be permissible if the parents believe it is in their best interest.


The paper states, "We claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk." Economic factors figure widely in the paper as the authors claim, "Actual people's well-being could be threatened by the new (even if healthy) child requiring energy, money and care which the family might happen to be in short supply of. Sometimes this situation can be prevented through an abortion, but in some other cases this is not possible. In these cases, since non-persons have no moral rights to life, there are no reasons for banning after-birth abortions." Even the end of a romantic relationship--"in the case of a woman who loses her partner and therefore feels she will not be able to take care of the possible child by herself"-- is reason enough for infanticide.


The authors seek to deny the humanity of the newborn and the horror of unlimited child destruction by use of the term "after-birth abortion." The authors rationalize: "In spite of the oxymoron in the expression, we propose to call this practice 'after-birth abortion', rather than 'infanticide', to emphasise that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which 'abortions' in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child." They continue, "A serious philosophical problem arises when the same conditions that would have justified abortion become known after birth. In such cases, we need to assess facts in order to decide whether the same arguments that apply to killing a human fetus can also be consistently applied to killing a newborn human."


The anti-child and anti-life reasoning exhibited in "After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?" is deeply disturbing to all those who respect the lives of each and every uniquely created individual. The authors ignore all science and data that increasingly reveal the wonders of life in the womb and the personality of the developing child. The fact that unborn children and newborns are capable of feeling pain completely escapes their attention. The question must be asked: At what point do the authors consider newborns to be "persons" and worthy of a right to life?


Giubilini and Minerva defer that answer to neurologists and psychologists and suggest delaying recognition of rights until the point the baby becomes what they label "self-conscious".  The authors reference related work of known ethicists who deny humanity to newborns or even infants in the first months of life, including Peter Singer who believes a person is one who "has a capacity for enjoyable experiences, for interacting with others and for having preferences about continued life" and John Harris who believes a person is "any being who is capable of valuing their own life."


The editor of the Journal defended the publication of the shocking paper claiming it repeated previous arguments in favor of infanticide but added application " in consideration of maternal and family interests". The editor acknowledges: "Many people will and have disagreed with these arguments. However, 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. The authors provocatively argue that there is no moral difference between a fetus and a newborn. Their capacities are relevantly similar. If abortion is permissible, infanticide should be permissible. The authors proceed logically from premises which many people accept to a conclusion that many of those people would reject."


We hope that many of those who read the paper will see that not only is infanticide unbridled destruction of children but so is abortion. 


PNCI recommends the essay by pro-life ethicist Wesley Smith who succinctly and passionately addresses "After-Birth Abortion" in Latest infanticide push about more than killing babies. His excellent response includes the following:


"The ancient Romans used to expose unwanted babies on hillsides. Thankfully, we have come a long way since those bad old days. We would never countenance letting a baby die of exposure or get eaten by animals. No, today's infanticide promoters insist that babies be killed painlessly. After all, we aren't barbarians!"


"Infanticide? Today? Alas, yes. In fact, although technically illegal, baby killing already is being carried out in the Netherlands as a logical extension of that country's euthanasia license. A bureaucratic check list has even been published - including in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine - known as the Groningen Protocol, by which Dutch neonatologists determine which sick and disabled babies qualify to be euthanized. Indeed, according to two articles published in The Lancet, about 8% of all babies who die each year in the Netherlands (80-90) are killed by their own doctors.


"It is tempting to dwell on these shocking views and thereby miss the bigger picture. "After-Birth Abortion" is merely the latest example of a bioethical argument wielded as the sharp point of the spear in an all-out philosophical war waged among the intelligentsia against Judeo/Christian morality based in human exceptionalism and adherence to universal human rights."


Read Wesley Smith's complete article on his bioethics blog Secondhand Smoke at First Things.