Just a few weeks ago, The Journal of Medical Ethics published an article titled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?”
In it, the authors Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva argue that the same arguments that justify abortion of the fetus on demand likewise apply to the newly born. Here is the abstract:
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.
None of my regular readers will be surprised that anyone could make such an argument. Neither will anyone who has been paying attention to trends in secular humanism. Indeed, there isn’t much new in this article. Peter Singer has suggested killing a child up to the age of two would not be immoral and has gone even further and advocated that the whole human race sterilize itself, making this the last generation. Singer’s view is really just following Giubilini and Minerva’s arguments to their logical conclusion… and it is here important to note that Giubilini and Minerva are themselves just taking atheistic arguments to their logical conclusions. But it isn’t new, so if you are shocked by their argument then you need to wake up. You need to pull your head out of the sand, or whatever dark place it is currently lodged.
In defense of publishing the article, the JME folks actually rely on the fact that it isn’t new material:
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.
Later, the JME editor makes the following point:
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. (emphasis mine)
This is important, because it is not speaking to the reaction of those like myself who reject the premises, but to those who accept the premises but do not draw the- logical- conclusion. I do note the irony of all the conversations I have with liberal secular atheistic humanists that their arguments amount to precisely such conclusions, with them arguing vehemently that it does not. I ask them, are you smarter than trained bioethicists who are published in peer reviewed journals? Your good heart prevents you from adopting despicable conclusions, but if you were consistent, you would. Unless you wish to remain a hopeless mishmash of ridiculous and contradictory ill-thought out beliefs and intentions, you either need to be as brave as Giubilini and Minerva, or Peter Singer, Cass Sunstein, Jacob Appel, etc, or else you need to chuck your premises and start over. May I suggest Christianity?
But none of these mentioned have really shown the full measure of bravery. Peter Singer, as I already mentioned, called on every citizen of the world to sterilize itself… voluntarily… because if we were really honest with ourselves, we’d concede that no human life has enough joy to outweigh the sufferings we experience; we ought to sterilize ourselves for the good of the absent future unborn–those who are spared suffering by our collective decision to deny them existence. Again, for their own good. But if he had been truly brave, Singer would have chucked the notion of ‘voluntary’ and advocated for the mandatory sterilization, or summary execution, of every human alive right now.
Similarly, Jacob Appel has argued that if the fetus is just cells that have bubbled up like cancer inside a mother’s belly, to be ejected for whatever reason she so chooses, she also ought to be able to hawk the aborted baby parts… excuse me, aborted fetal parts… and make some cash. The JME editor asserts that the novel argument this article makes is the connection to economics, but really Appel (among many others) have in fact already made that argument. But though Appel elsewhere argues that doctors should be able and willing to ‘terminate’ children born with birth defects, without even concern for the parents’ will (again on ‘suffering of the child’ grounds), he is not willing to argue that humans everywhere should be put down and farmed for their organs. We are all just a pile of cells, you know. Likewise, Appel does not suggest that if doctors or state deem that a particular human is suffering too much, or a burden on society’s resources, the state should step in and kill them.
These are all conclusions that logically derive from premises which many people accept.
Each of these cases will have some strained reason why it should not apply to every human and the authors of this study are no exception. They admit: “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.'” I find this statement interesting because I have had numerous arguments over the years with liberals fighting me tooth and claw that the ‘fetus’ is definitely NOT a human being OR a potential person, and here we have those assertions simply granted. The authors say, “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 means a loss to her.”
On this view, logically, the moment that we sedate Giubilini and Minerva, they cease to be ‘persons.’ No longer ‘capable of attributing basic value’ to their existence, because they lack consciousness, we ought to be able to morally do with them whatever we please. I suppose that every night when we fall to sleep, on this view, we cease to be persons, because we cease to be conscious. Here is a defense for the murderous robber who shoots the residents to death in their sleep: they weren’t persons, anyway; I can’t even be accused of stealing what belonged to them, because they were not a them at all.”
This may seem absurd, but that is because you have a sliver of goodness in your heart, not because it is irrational. It is quite rational. If you were willing to bravely accept the conclusions of the premises that are ‘widely accepted,’ even by you, then you would conclude just the same. In response to such an argument, one can imagine Giubilini or Minerva quickly inserting some new nuance to their definition of ‘person,’ and it is there that I believe we stumble across the fundamental premise that much of the rest follows from. Remember what they said:
“We take ‘person’ to mean an individual” … Never mind all the rest that follows after that. The driving premise is on the ‘we.’ The fact that Giubilini and Minerva believe that they can craft their notions of ‘person’ out of their own heads is the core problem. It is not even worthwhile arguing about the validity of their particular definition; the mere fact that they believe they are permitted to do so is the problem. You may not like their postulation, but if you believe that there is no God, you consequently must believe that we humans are the sole arbiters on what is ‘human,’ what is ‘potential,’ and what is ‘person.’ That makes their opinion just as valid as yours. It makes Hitler’s just as valid as yours, too. But there we go again, being brave and consistent again.
The very minute you accept the premise that humans decide who is worthy of human life, and when, you open the door for all the logical consequences that follow. The only way to avoid those consequences is to reject the premise. All the rest is just soft-headed, soft-hearted, attempts to escape the aspects of the worldview that you find disgusting. But that’s the thing: other humans may not find it disgusting.
If you were brave and consistent, you’d accept that asking ‘why should the baby live’ is just one station on the way to the final question, “why should anyone live?”
I know why it is not taken to this extent, and it has nothing to do with a refusal to see that it is the logical conclusion. It is cowardice, not imago dei, that prevents these people from taking the argument to its rational end. We note that Singer, Sunstein, Appel, Minerva, Giubilini, etc, always manage to structure their arguments so that the ones to be eliminated happen to be those who cannot defend themselves. Let me put it this way.
I gave the example of the murderer justifying his murders based on the fact that his victims were sleeping, and therefore not persons. Giubilini and Minerva might say, “Yes, but obviously, if we woke them up we could ask them if they could ‘attribute to their existence (at least some) basic value.” True; just as if we waited for a couple of years, all the ones that they agree are really humans would certainly do likewise. So, that argument cannot hold. The murderer may use this argument to justify his actions after he was caught, but, even if he believes it to be true, is not going to rely on it when busting into homes. Why? Because the time frame between sleeping and coming awake can be very short. He is very likely to find that the homeowner wakes up, and what may happen then?
The reason why these people do not extend their arguments to apply to all people is because they know that as soon as people find out, or as soon as it is discovered they are acting on it, something very dire could happen.
Giubilini and Minerva observe that children born with Down Syndrome and other severe disabilities are “often reported to be happy.” But they continue,
“Nonetheless, to bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care. On these grounds, the fact that a fetus has the potential to become a person who will have an (at least) acceptable life is no reason for prohibiting abortion. 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.” (italics theirs, bold, mine)
Now, my daughter has spina bifida, and the state of Wisconsin picks up most of her medical bills. I think that would qualify as the ‘state economically providing for her care.’ Now, on the view of Appel and others who believe that the state and doctors should move in and euthanize children in such situations (Appel even specifically uses spina bifida children to make his case), there may come a point when they frankly concede that the burden has become ‘unbearable’ to the state, even if not to the family. Now, they do not believe this, but that is not because of logic or reason. They do not ‘believe’ it because they know that if they show up at my doorstep to try to remove my daughter from my care in order to ‘euthanize’ her, they will be met with extreme prejudice. This is the only reason.
Historically, we observe that when States have adopted the views of these people, but the States do not fear their own people, they have no problem taking this logic to its full and final end. That is the history of the 20th century.
The editors of the JME bemoan the hostile reaction that their publication of this article received. They say:
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.
Well, actually, this sort of response is quite normal from people who sense that on the arguments put forward, every person- whether they can ‘attribute to themselves basic value’ or not- is in the cross-hairs. My problem with the ‘hostile, abusive, threatening responses’ is that this implies to me that these people were surprised at what is being talked about, quite seriously, in our ‘ethics’ journals. They really shouldn’t be surprised. Nor is the right response to threaten. The right response is… open your eyes and understand what is going on around you, call for and demand the defunding of every organization that advocates for such things, vote out of office every liberal–ASAP, while you still can and it still matters- even if this means one or two of your pet social programs may get cut; raise your children to be wise and discerning, and unbending when it comes to the protection of life. People on the other side of this issue must be opposed and resisted at every turn. Period. And if ever there comes a day when you are deprived of your ability to effectively defend yourself and your family–watch out.
As a final note, recall this from the JME editor when he said that “proper academic discussion and freedom” was “under threat from fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.”
Here you see the editor himself characterizing these viewpoints as the ‘values of a liberal society.’ Did you know that ‘the values of a liberal society’ are perfectly compatible with the frank and academic discussion of the snuffing out of the newly born? How about that, eh?
Far from merely a different point of view that good people can honestly differ on, liberalism is drenched in death from beginning to end, especially where it is devoid of any belief in God, or some other ‘definer’ of humanity that stands over humans themselves. Did you see how they wish to openly discuss the killing of newly born children and the classification of such as ‘after-birth abortion’ on the basis that doing so was in line with ‘proper academic discussion and freedom’?
This is precisely how their ideas are discussed, but I disagree that these ideas should be ‘refuted’ in an academic sense. All of the horrific proposals of the Nazis and communists were first put forward in academy journals where ‘proper academic discussion and freedom’ was allowed. Therein, it was seriously discussed what to do with the dysgenic, the morons, the feeble-minded, the negro problem, the Jewish problem, and so on and so forth. Can you imagine today, looking back on recent history, that someone would suggest that in response to a serious discussion over how best to eliminate Jews from the gene pool, the proper thing to do would be to do, as the editors of JME suggest, and submit your counter-argument to them to consider publishing, providing you make “such a case coherently, originally and with application to issues of public or medical concern”?
What monstrous absurdity that would be. Providing an ‘answer’ in that sense would be tantamount to accepting the premise, which is that the elimination of Jews is a proper thing for freedom-minded, liberal people, to discuss dispassionately. If their next article concerns the proper methods of skinning people alive, does it really make sense that our counter article will, with perfect sterility, suggest that, while everyone has their own opinion, your opinion is that skinning people alive might be necessary if there was a sufficient public need, but there is demonstrably no such need? That’s what they think is the appropriate reaction?
They are insane. And that’s putting it as nicely as I can.
They are openly talking about the killing of newborn children for all the same reasons why people have abortions; that is, not just because the child might have a disability, but also because it may be an economic burden, such as “a woman who loses her partner after she finds out that she is pregnant and therefore feels she will not be able to take care of the possible child by herself.” This, they euphemistically wish to call an ‘after-birth abortion,’ but there is no logical reason such thinking could not apply to each and every one of us who, one never knows, may become “an unbearable burden … on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.”
Think about that the next time you ponder the wisdom of universal health care.