“Post-Birth Abortion”: Ethicists Argue for the Right to Kill Newborns

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:

Giotto, Massacre of the Innocents (1306)


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.


  1. Thanks Joe. I was horrified when i read this article, but didn’t know what to say about it and you did it all for me. Thanks for bringing awareness to this.

  2. Both Abortion and Infanticide were widely legal and practiced in the Pre-Christian West. Christianity changed that. Should we be surprised that the Post-Christian West is bringing these practices back? The same question applies to celebrating homosexuality. Will this force pro-choicers to realize their position is logically flawed or will they simply embrace “post-birth” abortion as some have in Europe? Time will tell, but it seems increasingly clear (to me at least) that Western Civ.s only hope is the New Evangelization.

  3. “they will be able to make aims and appreciate their own life”

    What?! As a mother of two children, one being two months old, I assure that if I tried to kill him by smothering him with a pillow, he would struggle against it even from birth and even in his sleep. Babies in the womb and newborns do make aims (they intend to eat don’t they?) and definitely appreciate their own lives. Otherwise they would just give up. Wouldn’t they?

    The JME shouldn’t have published that article based on that one statement alone because it’s completely unfounded. Not to mention the fact that they are advocating murder based on the lack of “morality” in infants.

    What a load of poop. And trust me I have a keen sense of what exactly poop is, smells, etc because I deal with it on a daily basis. It should be tossed out in the garbage or washed keep like every other dirty diaper.

  4. To play the devil’s advocate (and it is literal here) most pro-choicers would argue that the difference is that once the child is born, killing it is no longer justified because the woman’s right to control her body is no longer implicated.

  5. Are you SURE that is supposed to be serious? The writing style in the snippets you posted is not what I would consider normal in a medical journal. Very sophomoric.

    That Peter Singer and is ilk would ever be considered “eminent bioethicists” show what a horrible pass we’ve come to. That man should have been fired long ago. When it’s impossible to make a judgment on a “scholar” or his work, higher education has jumped the shark.

  6. Hate to say it, but I’m not surprised at all.

    All of the reasons that the pro-abortion side use to support this 40+ year long holocaust, can be made for killing of newborns, killing the elderly, or anyone else for that matter.

    It’s a woman’s wallet, she shouldn’t have to pay for this newborn, therefore, kill it. This young couple over here is just starting out in life, and have kids of their own to take care of, grandpa in the old folk’s home is a financial burden, and besides he would want us to enjoy our inheritance, therefore, kill it.

    It’s easier to kill an “it” than a “him” or “her”.

    The same arguments have been used by murderers throughout human history. Dehumanize the victim, which makes it much easier to kill them, then do the deed.

    I pray that God isn’t paying attention to us down here.

  7. One more additional thought on this topic of abortion: I recently re-watched the Start Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Masterpiece Society” and I have to say that it is a very pro-life, almost Catholic in its theme.

    A group of people who use genetic engineering to improve themselves, have to use technology developed for a blind person who would have been aborted in their own society.

    A couple of the quotes that illustrate that point:

    “Oh, that’s perfect.”
    “If the answer to all of this is in a VISOR created for a blind man who never would have existed in your society.”


    “It was the wish of our founders that no one have to suffer a life of disabilities.”
    “Who gave them the right to decide whether or not I might have something to contribute?”

  8. At this challenging stage of life, my 21 & 23 year old sons have no aims, hopes, goals or appreciation for their own lives. Please know that I have no intention of having them killed.

    This article is SOOO absurd and I dont think I need to elaborate on why to this audience….what seriouslt puzzles me is the fact that a serious(?) publication actually printed it? I wonder if it was a sick publicity stunt.

  9. Rob, if I remember correctly there was also an episode where Tuvok from Star Trek:Voyager once stated something along the lines of “It is illogical for a species to kill off their own children.” I don’t recall the name of the episode, it’s been so long ago.

  10. From the somebody else saying something that sounds like something Heschmeyer would say department:

    Referring to the term “after-birth abortion”, Dr Stammers added: “This is just verbal manipulation that is not philosophy. I might refer to abortion henceforth as antenatal infanticide.”

  11. I’m not sure I’m convinced this wasn’t meant as satire. I mean it is just SO blatantly absurd. You can barely get most pro choice people to admit that a fetus is more than a blob of cells…that’s how opposed they think they are to actual murder, ykwim?

  12. “(although I did have to deduct a few because it was from Star Trek Voyager)”

    Well, I’ll just have to take the loss for the team. It is Lent after all 😛

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