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After-Birth Abortions: The Intellectually Dishonest Ethical Argument For Infanticide

Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva are medical “ethicists” who argue that there should be no distinction between aborting a fetus at three weeks and killing a three week old baby. Describing such a procedure as an “after-birth abortion”, these two ethicicsts at Australian universities contend that the murder of a newborn is ethically justified under any circumstances where an abortion would otherwise be allowed.

In order to reach their conclusion, Giubilini and Minerva argue that neither a fetus nor a newborn baby are real people because they lack self-awareness and are incapable of of “planning” or “having aims”. Consequently, the baby like the fetus are only a potential persons and while pain can harm the child, death cannot. Under this twisted reasoning infanticide can be ethically justified because the parents alone suffer harm when they kill their infant.

I do not know enough about these authors to opine as to whether they truly believe that newborn babies do not have a moral right to life or if they were motivated by some other ulterior agenda in order to support their oxymoronic theory. I suspect that this is merely an intellectual argument used to justify an anti-abortion stance. Parenthetically it should be noted that Giubilini and Minerva have received death threats over this article:

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….

Although it is reasonable to predict that living with a very severe condition is against the best interest of the newborn, it is hard to find definitive arguments to the effect that life with certain pathologies is not worth living, even when those pathologies would constitute acceptable reasons for abortion. It might be maintained that ‘even allowing for the more optimistic assessments of the potential of Down’s syndrome children, this potential cannot be said to be equal to that of a normal child’. But, in fact, people with Down’s syndrome, as well as people affected by many other severe disabilities, are often reported to be happy….

Therefore, we argue that, when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible….

If a potential person, like a fetus and a newborn, does not become an actual person, like you and us, then there is neither an actual nor a future person who can be harmed, which means that there is no harm at all. So, if you ask one of us if we would have been harmed, had our parents decided to kill us when we were fetuses or newborns, our answer is ‘no’, because they would have harmed someone who does not exist (the ‘us’ whom you are asking the question), which means no one. And if no one is harmed, then no harm occurred….


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