It’s hard to believe that this is real, but it apparently is. A pair of ethicists, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, are arguing that infanticide should be legal for any reason. And their paper on the subject has been accepted and published by the prominent Journal of Medical Ethics. The entire piece is available on the JME’s site. Here’s 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.
The authors explain their use of the euphemism “after-birth abortion”:
In spite of the oxymoron in the expression, we propose to call this practice ‘after-birth abortion’, rather than ‘infanticide’, to emphasise 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.
In a nutshell, the authors’ argument is that newborns aren’t really persons, because they aren’t yet “able to make aims and appreciate their own life”:
The Massacre of the Innocents (1350)
Although fetuses and newborns are not persons, they are potential persons because they can develop, thanks to their own biological mechanisms, those properties which will make them ‘persons’ in the sense of ‘subjects of a moral right to life’: that is, the point at which they will be able to make aims and appreciate their own life. […] 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.
And the authors don’t even propose a deadline for when it stops being okay to murder newborns, since we apparently each become persons at a different age:
First, we do not put forward any claim about the moment at which after-birth abortion would no longer be permissible, and we do not think that in fact more than a few days would be necessary for doctors to detect any abnormality in the child. In cases where the after-birth abortion were requested for nonmedical reasons, we do not suggest any threshold, as it depends on the neurological development of newborns, which is something neurologists and psychologists would be able to assess.
So an otherwise perfectly-healthy adult who suffers from severe mental retardation could potentially be killed by his parents or caregivers at any point, for any reason, and there would be “no harm at all.” The authors also noted that infanticide is already accepted policy in the Netherlands:
In The Netherlands, for instance, the Groningen Protocol (2002) allows to actively terminate the life of ‘infants with a hopeless prognosis who experience what parents and medical experts deem to be unbearable suffering’.
When I read this, I hoped that this was some sort of grim Swiftian satire, showing the absurdity of the pro-choice position. But it turns out, the authors appear to be deadly serious. Giubilini is also an open advocate for more widespread euthanasia, so evangelizing for more killing seems to be part of his M.O.
The editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics defended his decision to publish the piece on the basis that this was a common opinion among bioethicists and philosophers:
Léon Cogniet, Massacre of the Innocents (1824)
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.
Obviously, most pro-choicers would flinch at this idea, but it’s worth pointing out the obvious: Giubilini, Minerva, Singer, Tooley, and Harris are at least intellectually and logically consistent. They recognize that abortion is what we would call (in other context) murder, and they’re okay with it. On what grounds can a pro-choicer seriously object? On what grounds can we say that it’s a crime against humanity to murder a child seconds after birth, while morally acceptable to have done the deed a moment earlier? If two sisters conceive on the same day, and one gives birth to her baby prematurely, that baby is entitled to the right to life, while the newborn’s cousin has no right to life.
So this is where we stand in the West: the argument that we should be morally allowed to kill children for any reason is taken seriously, and considered worthy of debate. And an only slightly-less heinous version of this idea is already public policy in at least one country, The Netherlands. My hope is that with the game finally revealed for what it is: an argument between being pro-life and pro-murder, those who honestly delude themselves into thinking that abortion is somehow distinguishable from murder will reconsider.