A common argument advanced by advocates of abortion to morally justify the procedure is that a fetus in the womb isn’t actually a “person.” Pre-born infants are incapable of surviving outside the womb on their own, the argument goes, and lack both developed cognitive ability and self-awareness.
That argument is something of a slippery slope that could conceivably be applied to the very elderly and the newly born, but that didn’t stop two medical “ethics” experts from putting out the idea in 2012 with a medical journal submission regarding “after-birth abortion,” according to a Slate article from the time.
The author of that Slate piece, William Saletan, did not agree with the argument put forward by the ethicists — in fact he called it “crazier” than anything religious conservatives have come up with. (And to a liberal, that’s pretty crazy.)
But the obvious immorality of the idea of murdering a newly born child was not the point of the Slate piece. As Saletan’s writing makes clear, “the case for ‘after-birth abortion’ draws a logical path from common pro-choice assumptions to infanticide. It challenges us, implicitly and explicitly, to explain why, if abortion is permissible, infanticide isn’t.”
Yes, it does exactly that. Or to put it another way, if infanticide is recognized as the murder it is, how can any civilized society condone abortion?
The proposal of “after-birth abortions” was put forward by ethical philosophers Alberto Giulibilini and Francesca Minerva in the Journal of Medical Ethics with their main argument being that neither a fetus nor newborn baby held the same moral status as an “actual person,” and therefore their potential personhood was morally irrelevant.
Assuming that is the case, then it follows that “after-birth abortions,” or infanticide, should be permissible in all cases where a normal abortion would be allowed.
To untwist this logic, let’s back up to the beginning, as the ethicists alleged that, “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,” and as such, “It is not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense.”
Ironically, they admit in their paper that both a fetus and newborn baby are human beings, but only deemed them to be “potential persons” instead of “actual persons” who are described as “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.”
Since neither an unborn or newborn baby has the cognitive ability to ascribe value to or even comprehend “life,” they are not harmed by the loss of that which they don’t understand or know — or so the argument goes.
Furthermore, extending a common argument from abortion advocates, the ethicists surmised that the burdens imposed upon the mother and any other “actual persons” by the birth and future life of the baby outweigh whatever possible value that child or “potential person” may hold or eventually attain.
One example of this might be the discovery of a serious defect or disease after birth that would have led to the parents choosing to abort during the pregnancy if they had become aware of the condition earlier, such as with Down’s syndrome.
“The alleged right of individuals (such as fetuses and newborns) to develop their potentiality … 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,” they wrote. “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.”
The medical ethicists concluded that “If criteria such as the costs (social, psychological, economic) for the potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the fetus is healthy, if the moral status of the newborn is the same as that of the infant and if neither has any moral value by virtue of being a potential person, then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn.”
It is worth pointing out that the ethicists declined to propose any sort of limit or threshold past which the murder of newborn babies would no longer be permissible, nor did they suggest that infanticide by viewed as an acceptable substitution for the normal abortion procedure prior to birth.
“However,” they wrote to end their piece, “if a disease has not been detected during the pregnancy, if something went wrong during the delivery, or if economical, social or psychological circumstances change such that taking care of the offspring becomes an unbearable burden on someone, then people should be given the chance of not being forced to do something they cannot afford.”
So there you have it folks, right in a prestigious medical journal, a proposal for the allowance of murdering newly born infants, simply because they are not yet fully developed and may prove to be a burden on some people.
The problem here is a logic not even liberals at Slate could stomach: By equating a newly born infant with an infant still in the uterus, these “ethicists” were justifying what a human being steeped in the mores of traditional Western civilization would recognize as murder.
At the same time, they were forcing abortion advocates to confront the “procedure” as exactly what it is.
That could hardly have been the intent of these “ethicists” of course, but funny things happen when you set out to justify the mass murder of the most innocent of human beings.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get off this disgusting slippery ethical slope that seeks to deny personhood to living, breathing human beings and take a long shower.
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