Abortion Should be Legal Through Infancy, Medical Ethicists Argue

A recently published article by a team of medical ethicists at Oxford University argues for the right of parents to abort newborn babies because they are “morally irrelevant.”  They argue this on the basis of the premise that ending the lives of newborn babies is no different than abortion. While I personally do not disagree with their premise, the thought of legalizing infanticide is a moral aberration that reeks of grave evil.

The Journal of Medical Ethics published the article, which argues that babies are not “actual persons” and therefore should not be guaranteed the “moral right to live.” The academics strongly defend the notion that parents who are disappointed with having a disabled newborn should have the right to end the life of the infant so as to relieve themselves of the burden of raising it.

Since co-authoring the article, “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?” Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva have received numerous threats. Professor Julian Savulescu, who serves as editor of the journal, and is the director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics labeled those who made abusive and threatening posts in response to the study as “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.”

In the article, Giubilini and Minerva argue, “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus  in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life of an individual.”  They further proceed to explain their view that newborns are not actual persons because, they say, “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 (at least) basic such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.” 

They use this argument to justify after-birth abortion on the basis that “it is not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense. “

The fundamental intent in writing the article was to emphasize that the killing of a newborn baby is really no different than that of aborting an unborn child.  While they argue that “after-birth abortion” should be allowed in all cases that apply to normal abortions, they strongly emphasize the benefits the procedure could have for those parents who had no prior knowledge that their child would be born with a disability.

Not only have the arguments of Giubulini and Minerva resulted in many hate messages in their email inboxes, but they have also warranted much concern 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.” 

Fortunately, there is at least one medical ethicist with a brain functioning well enough to realize that  abortion in general is one grave evil that society should have never even considered in the first place. Unfortunately, as seen in the after-birth abortion argument, abortion has claimed the lives of 50 million unborn babies in America since 1973, and may soon include the right to add newborn babies to the ever-growing list of victims.