“There is nothing magical about passing through the birth canal that transforms it from a fetus into a person”





By Dave Andrusko

Alberto Giubilini

NRL News Today has covered the absolutely reprehensible case made for infanticide (dressed up as “after-birth abortion”) at great length. And we will again today. But why?

Why, that is, beyond that the obvious fact that the case made by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva is massively wrong-headed and cold-blooded? For two reasons.

These sorts of “what-if” essays (the coin of the realm for many bioethicists) are like the smoke you see spewing out of volcanoes. They signal that something awful is building up.

Put another way, this was not an orphan essay in “The Journal of Medical Ethics.” The thinking embedded in this piece has a long and ugly lineage.

“After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?” is the second or third (or more) generation case made that if you allow abortion on demand, what is the morally relevant difference between snuffing out an unborn kid at 7/8/9 months and offing him/her a few days or months [or longer!] after birth, ESPECIALLY if the child has been unwise enough decision to be born imperfect.

In other words, the momentum for a hyper-aggressive campaign against babies born with disabilities is picking up additional steam. Think about this additional context.

We’ve also written a great deal about how scientists are  perfecting a maternal blood test that will permit technologists to map the entire genome of the developing unborn baby. The “promise” is they will be able to test their unborn babies for more than 3,500 genetic disorders.

Imagine the slippery slope on this one. The parents have done everything possible to have a “perfect baby,” but somehow a “flawed” baby slipped through. Surely you wouldn’t expect them to be “burdened” with a child they would NEVER had allowed to be born, if only they knew.

That is the other genuinely diabolic component to Giubilini/Minerva argument, the overwhelming emphasis on parental “burden.” It has the same logic as abortion: what is a burden for a parent after the child is born is virtually completely up to them. Could be a lot, could be for all intents and purposes nothing, it’s the parent’s call. And besides, there is always the “you can always have another one,” as if children are like a new model car that you send to the scrapheap if they come from the factory with the equivalent of a dent in the grill.

In that context let me quote from  a piece written by a man named Chadwick Harvey. He concludes his essay by quoting from  Dr. Trevor Stammers, who serves as the Director of  Medical Ethics at St. Mary’s University College.

Stammers expresses strong concern about the possible implications, 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 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.” 

In reference to the term after-birth abortion, Stammers states, ‘This is just verbal manipulation that is not philosophy. I might refer to abortion henceforth as antenatal infanticide.’

But nobody put it better (albeit unknowingly) than Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the rough equivalent of Planned Parenthood, in responding to the furor: “There is nothing magical about passing through the birth canal that transforms it from a fetus into a person.”

She just doesn’t realize that is exactly why we should neither abort our children or kill them after they are born.

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