A medical journal has called for the acceptance of ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn baby), causing outrage among pro-life campaigners and raising an array of ethical questions.
Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Alberto Giubilini from the University of Milan and Francesca Minerva from Melbourne University argue that foetuses and newborns “do not have the same moral status as actual persons".
The authors say that killing a newborn baby should be “permissible in all cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled". They add that “the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant".
The ‘After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?’ paper argues that the act wouldn’t be classed as euthanasia because the best interest of the foetus or newborn being killed is not necessarily the primary reason his or her life is being terminated.
The authors state that after-birth abortion should be made legal and it should be permitted on the same grounds as abortion. They added that it wouldn’t be the same as infanticide.
Since the controversial article was been published the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group has spoken out against the proposal.
“That the Journal of Medical Ethics should give space to such a proposition illustrates not a slippery slope, but the quagmire into which medical ethics and our wider society have been sucked, “ Lord Alton, the co-chairman from the charity, said as reported by the Catholic Herald.
“Personal choice has eclipsed the sacredness, or otherness, of life itself. It is profoundly disturbing, indeed shocking, to see the way in which opinion-formers within the medical profession have ditched the traditional belief of the healer to uphold the sanctity of human life for this impoverished and inhumane defence of child destruction.”
Responding to the backlash, the editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, Julian Savulescu, has defended the article, claiming that the arguments presented are not new and have been presented repeatedly in academic literature for years.
Writing on the British Medical Journal blog, Savulescu says: “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 foetus 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.
“It has subsequently been suggested to me that people whose lives might have been ended by ‘after-birth abortion’ were this legal, might be deeply offended by this paper.
“If that is the case I am sorry, but I am also confident that many of these people are equally capable of mounting a robust academic reply to the paper which, again subject to peer-review, the Journal of Medical Ethics will be very willing to consider for publication.”
Anthony Ozimic from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) told The Huffington Post: “The paper proves what pro-lifers have long been arguing: that the common arguments for abortion also justify infanticide. There is no difference in moral status between a child one day before birth and a child one day after birth.
“Birth is merely a change of location, not a change from non-personhood to personhood. International human rights law makes no distinction between human beings according to various theories about what constitutes personhood.
“All human beings, regardless of age, location or capacities, are regarded in international law as equal members of the human family and thus as having an equal right to life. This chilling promotion of infanticide is a measure of how abortion is creating a culture of death.”
Stuart Cowie, from the LIFE charity, told The Huffington Post: "This paper’s conclusions seem appalling, and they are. The idea that respectable academics at prestigious universities would argue for the killing of newborn babies seems monstrous.
"However, we must face the reality that this kind of shocking proposal – allowing the wholesale killing of newborns for reasons of convenience – is in many ways the logical counterpart and consequence of allowing abortion on demand. As many honest pro-abortion philosophers have written, there are very few arguments in favour of abortion that are not also arguments for infanticide. In the Netherlands, as the authors of the paper point out, infanticide is widely accepted and practised.
"What should make us deeply uncomfortable as a society is that these academics are simply looking at the reasoning that we already use to justify abortion – i.e. that some human beings at the very beginning of their lives are not fully human persons and so we can end their lives – and following the logic wherever it leads. It highlights the difficulty in assuming birth as the moral boundary instead of the actual beginning of human life, conception.
"Just as there is no logical grounds on which those who accept liberal abortion laws can object to sex-selective abortion, so those who accept abortion because they believe that an unborn child is not fully human, invariably struggle to give clear reasons why killing a newborn for the same reason is not acceptable."
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