Paganism in the 21st century: Ethicists argue in favor of ‘after-birth abortions’ as newborns ‘are not persons’

Follow up this post with Paganism in the 21st century, the sequel.

You do know that in ancient Rome and Greece, pagans all, they often “disposed” of unwanted and/or deformed newborns by leaving them outside the city walls to die of exposure? Welcome to the 21st century version:

The Abstract from the Journal of Medical Ethics:
Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.

And here’s more:

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.

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 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.” …

And what about adoption? Giubilini and Minerva write that, as for the mother putting the child up for adoption, her emotional state should be considered as a trumping right. For instance, if she were to “suffer psychological distress” from giving up her child to someone else — they state that natural mothers can dream their child will return to them — then after-birth abortion should be considered an allowable alternative.

The authors do not tackle the issue of what age an infant would be considered a person….

First Things, a publication of the The Institute on Religion and Public Life, notes that while this article doesn’t mean the law could — or would — allow after-birth abortions in future medical procedures, arguments such as “the right to dehydrate the persistently unconscious” began in much the same way in bioethics journals.

Read it all. Note the appropriation of language: “after-birth abortion” instead of “infanticide.” It takes you a minute to figure out that “after-birth abortion” means killing a child.

Of course, these “ethicists” do have a point. Why is the arbitrary moment in time of the birth the only difference between a “legal” abortion and an “illegal” murder? Good question. Too bad we’ve already ceded so much of the ground in the abortion debate that it becomes harder and harder to argue that the few minutes between inside and outside the womb mean anything in terms of the mother’s ability to “terminate” (see how easy it is to play the semantics game? I mean “kill”) her child.

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6 responses to “Paganism in the 21st century: Ethicists argue in favor of ‘after-birth abortions’ as newborns ‘are not persons’

  1. Evil is evil no matter how it is couched, would the left go after these people for hate speech. Murder is murder and the medical profession should condemn these despicable persons, they should be sacked from their universities.

    I cannot believe how low society has stooped, where even murder can be justified.

  2. Unfortunately, John, the Journal’s response to the criticism is almost worse than the article. From the Julian Savulescu, Editor, Journal of Medical Ethics:
    “As Editor of the Journal, I would like to defend its publication. The arguments presented, in fact, are largely not new and have been presented repeatedly in the academic literature and public fora by the most eminent philosophers and bioethicists in the world, including Peter Singer, Michael Tooley and John Harris in defence of infanticide, which the authors call after-birth abortion.

    The novel contribution of this paper is not an argument in favour of infanticide – the paper repeats the arguments made famous by Tooley and Singer – but rather their application in consideration of maternal and family interests. The paper also draws attention to the fact that infanticide is practised in the Netherlands.

    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….

    The Journal does not specifically support substantive moral views, ideologies, theories, dogmas or moral outlooks, over others. It supports sound rational argument. Moreover, it supports freedom of ethical expression. The Journal welcomes reasoned coherent responses to After-Birth Abortion. Or indeed on any topic relevant to medical ethics.

    What is disturbing is not the arguments in this paper nor its publication in an ethics journal. It is the hostile, abusive, threatening responses that it has elicited. More than ever, proper academic discussion and freedom are under threat from fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society….”

  3. So, from the above, we see that the editor of the journal does not think that infanticide is “disturbing” but the “hostile, abusive, threatening responses” to the idea of “after-birth abortion” is “disturbing.” I don’t know how someone starts thinking like this.

  4. Pingback: Paganism in the 21st century, the sequel: Academia doubles down | intersection

  5. It is fairly clear that Dr. Alberto Giubilini and Dr. Francesca Minerva make very little distinction between a newborn who is autonomous from the mother and the fetus it was, just tissue of the mother. In America, the “circumstances… that they would have justified abortion” include not wanting a baby. As the authors do not restrict post-birth abortions to newborns that are medically unlikely to survive, they remove the right to life from the potentially healthy child and give full ownership, not just custody, to the mother. If life is autonomous of the mother, healthy or not, it instantly falls under the classification “human life” and since the newborn is dependent on support to be healthy, the newborn is instantly a patient of the doctors present. Warmth, sympathy, and understanding towards the mother’s emotional state does not justify any act to play at God. There are many effective methods of psychological treatment to heal the emotional state of the mother in question. It is given to the doctor the opportunity to save both lives, so the doctor should do so with thanks even if it is not the preferred will of the mother. If the mother was a rape victim, she may feel better if someone would just kill the man who raped her. If this is considered too harsh a punishment in the eyes of many, how is it ethical to kill the child who has yet to do anything wrong?

  6. , pro-life should naocmpess far more than a concern solely about abortion, but about all aspects of life and children. You said it far better than I am saying it, but I love your insights and totally agree!

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