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After-birth abortion

Infanticide | A new argument calls for new decisions

Issue: "The battle," March 24, 2012

Pro-lifers slammed the international Journal of Medical Ethics for publishing late last month an article favoring "after-birth abortion"-previously known as infanticide-when children or adults are a burden to their families or when government pays for their care.

The core of the argument isn't new at universities like Princeton, where ethicist Peter Singer has long approved killing 1-year-olds with physical or mental disabilities (see "Blue-state philosopher," Nov. 27, 2004). But authors Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva push the argument further by defending the killing of any humans incapable of "attributing any value to their own existence. ... Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life."

The authors used the term "after-birth abortion" rather than "infanticide" to emphasize that countries with legal abortion operate illogically when they forbid the killing of born creatures insufficiently self-conscious to fear death. Hurt is subjective, not objective: "For a harm to occur, it is necessary that someone is in the condition of experiencing that harm."

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Journal editor Julian Savulescu defended running the article: "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." He's right: Kill once and it's easier to kill again. Right now abortion is legal in many countries, while infanticide and involuntary euthanasia usually are not. But how long will that split remain?

It's ironic that Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born on the same day: Feb. 12, 1809. Darwin's "survival of the fittest" theories underpinned various 20th-century genocides that he, an English gentleman, would not have applauded. But Lincoln observed in 1858 that "a house divided against itself cannot stand. ... It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it ... in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward."

Abortion is one huge battle in an even larger struggle about the nature of man. The Journal of Medical Ethics has put forth an argument that reminds us of the larger war. People in the middle have to decide: Which side are you on?

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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