“After-Birth Abortions”: in Hot Pursuit of Infanticide

By Dave Andrusko

Put the following two items together and I suspect perhaps it might give pause to even the hardest hard-core pro-abortionist.

First, you debate Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the rough equivalent of Planned Parenthood. You pull out a timeline of fetal development, but no matter how mature the unborn, you can’t actually get her to say, yes, there is a point where “late abortions” become “too-late” abortions.

 

Then, a few months later, a pair of Australia-based bioethicists conjure up something they dub “after-birth abortion” (infanticide, in English) on the grounds that the newborn no more meets their criteria for being a “person” than does the unborn.

Specifically, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva tell us, a person is “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.” So, since  the infant can no more raise her hand and plead for mercy than can the unborn (neither has made plans for college, neither knows she is about to be killed), “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus, that is, neither can be considered a ‘person’ in a morally relevant sense.”

So that leaves Slate’s William Saletan (a soft-core pro-choicer who debated Furedi last year) to nicely capture the Giubilini/Minera argument—“The case for ‘after-birth abortion’ draws a logical path from common pro-choice assumptions to infanticide”—and conclude that those who should really be worried are pro-choicers! Why? Because “It challenges us, implicitly and explicitly, to explain why, if abortion is permissible, infanticide isn’t.”

Saletan, personally, would put the brakes on at some unspecified period in pregnancy (“I also think that the value of the unborn human increases throughout its development.”) But the bottom line for most people is the “yuck” factor. It’s hard to ignore the obvious common humanity later in pregnancy, and impossible to overlook in a newborn.

But queasy stomachs are not a professional hazard for most pro-abortionists. As a pro-life theologian explained years ago, once they had safely won the right to abortion in 1973, birth no longer seemed to “be so agreeable a moral boundary.”  Soon after, “[T]hey preferred to envision it as somewhat like a state border, which an officer of one jurisdiction may disregard if he is following a fugitive in hot pursuit.”

Or in Furedi’s memorable response at the debate, “There is nothing magical about passing through the birth canal that transforms it from a fetus into a person.”

You can read Saletan’s “After-Birth Abortion: The Pro-Choice Case for Infanticide” in its entirety. So let me end with one last thought.

Giubilini/Minera have responded (as did the editor of the journal in which their paper appeared) that, hey, it’s all academic, nothing here that hasn’t been proposed before, we’re not saying to legalize infanticide, so chill out.

But ideas DO have consequences, especially ideas that tear away at a fabric already weakened by Roe v. Wade, a 90% abortion rate for children prenatally diagnosed to have fetal anomalies, and increasing support in parts of Europe for euthanizing babies who fail various tests of perfection.

And if you really want to see where the bioethics community is, watch an interview with the editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics  (http://vimeo.com/35617330). Prof Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, is absolutely captivated by Peter Singer whose fondness for infanticide is legendary. His “counter-intuitive but rationally argued “ ideas opens the door to assaults on the dignity of human life that are beyond your worst nightmares.

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