If there is no difference between a fetus in the womb and a new born baby, it should follow that neither should be killed. But, granting the scientific evidence demonstrating the continuity of life, some “ethicists” and pro-abortion fanatics are coming to a different conclusions: Since we can abort fetuses, we should also be able to “abort” new-born infants. So says an article in one of the most influential journals in medical ethics:
Two ethicists working with Australian universities argue in the latest online edition of the Journal of Medical Ethics that if abortion of a fetus is allowable, so to should be the termination of a newborn.
(Update: ‘Journal of Medical Ethics’ stands by publication of ‘after-birth abortions’ article. [Follow the links to read the editors’ defense of these ideas.])
Alberto Giubilini with Monash University in Melbourne and Francesca Minerva at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne write that in “circumstances occur[ing] after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.”
The two are quick to note that they prefer the term “after-birth abortion“ as opposed to ”infanticide.” Why? Because it “[emphasizes] 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.” The authors also do not agree with the term euthanasia for this practice as the best interest of the person who would be killed is not necessarily the primary reason his or her life is being terminated. In other words, it may be in the parents’ best interest to terminate the life, not the newborns.
The circumstances, the authors state, where after-birth abortion should be considered acceptable include instances where the newborn would be putting the well-being of the family at risk, even if it had the potential for an “acceptable” life. The authors cite Downs Syndrome as an example, stating that while the quality of life of individuals with Downs is often reported as happy, “such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.”
This means a newborn whose family (or society) that could be socially, economically or psychologically burdened or damaged by the newborn should have the ability to seek out an after-birth abortion. They state that after-birth abortions are not preferable over early-term abortions of fetuses but should circumstances change with the family or the fetus in the womb, then they advocate that this option should be made available.
The authors go on to state that the moral status of a newborn is equivalent to a fetus in that it cannot be considered a person in the “morally relevant sense.” On this point, the authors write:
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.
Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life. Indeed, many humans are not considered subjects of a right to life: spare embryos where research on embryo stem cells is permitted, fetuses where abortion is permitted, criminals where capital punishment is legal.
Giubilini and Minerva believe that being able to understand the value of a different situation, which often depends on mental development, determines personhood. For example, being able to tell the difference between an undesirable situation and a desirable one. They note that fetuses and newborns are “potential persons.” The authors do acknowledge that a mother, who they cite as an example of a true person, can attribute “subjective” moral rights to the fetus or newborn, but they state this is only a projected moral status.
The authors counter the argument that these “potential persons” have the right to reach that potential by stating it is “over-ridden by the interests of actual people (parents, family, society) to pursue their own well-being because, as we have just argued, merely potential people cannot be harmed by not being brought into existence.”
The journal article is available here.
Monsters walk among us.
The weaknesses of the arguments are flabbergasting. They don’t think infants can tell the difference between an undesirable situation and a desirable one? They don’t think infants know when they are being deprived of something? Have these ethicists ever tried taking a bottle away from a baby? And this is their definition of personhood?
This should also weaken the public’s confidence in the hospital “ethics panels” that we are supposed to trust when Obamacare kicks in. Presumably the expert ethicists on those panels will be readers of the Journal of Medical Ethics .
Will this be the next pro-life battle, trying to stop the murder of infants?