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Ethicists call for killing of newborns to be made legal

By on Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Professors from Milan and Oxford argue that 'foetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons' (PA photo)

Professors from Milan and Oxford argue that 'foetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons' (PA photo)

A leading British medical journal has published an article calling for the introduction of infanticide for social and medical reasons.

The article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, entitled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” states in its abstract: “After-birth abortion (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”

The article, written by Alberto Giubilini of the University of Milan and Francesca Minerva of Melbourne University, argues that “foetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons” and consequently a law which permits abortion for certain reasons should permit infanticide on the same grounds.

The article follows alleged instances of sex-selective abortions throughout Britain raising alarm concerning the application of the 1967 Abortion Act.

Lord Alton, co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, said that infanticide was the “chilling and unassailable” logical step for a society that permits killing a baby one day before birth.

He said: “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.

“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.

“It has been said that a country which kills its own children has no future. That’s true. And a country which accepts infanticide or the killing of a little girl or a little boy because of their gender, the killing of a baby because of a disability, or the killing of a child because it is inconvenient, the wrong shape, or the wrong colour, also forfeits its right to call itself civilised.”

But Julian Savulescu, the editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, has defended the publication of the paper on the British Medical Journal website. He said: “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.”

He continued: “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.

“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.”

Kenneth Boyd, associate editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, said that the publication of the paper did not reflect his personal view and that the article had gone through the process of academic peer review.

Mr Boyd said: “I think what the authors are addressing is a minority problem following birth, where there would have been grounds for a termination and many people would feel that that circumstance is unfortunate but no reason for infanticide. But our feeling was that it’s better for these views to be discussed.”

The authors, when discussing children with Down’s Syndrome, state: “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 foetus has the potential to become a person who will have an (at least) acceptable life is no reason for prohibiting abortion. Therefore… when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissable.”

The authors also support infanticide for non-medical reasons but do not state at which point in a baby’s development infanticide would no longer be permissable because “it depends on the neurological development of newborns, which is something neurologists and psychologists would be able to assess”.

  • Rvtara

    I am afraid it will become the law even here in the US.  Imagine stating that “killing” is preferred over “adoption” because it may cause the mother to feel “distress.” Infanticide was a common practice in India until the British rooted it out, during the British Rule of India, so it is ironic and worrisome that this article has been authored by people affiliated with Oxford University.

    The article reads:

    “Our
    reply is the following. We have previously discussed the argument from potentiality, showing
    that it is not strong enough to outweigh the consideration of the interests of
    actual people. Indeed,
    however weak the interests of actual people can be, they will always trump the
    alleged interest of potential people to become actual ones, because this latter
    interest amounts to zero. On this perspective, the interests of the actual
    people involved matter, and among these interests, we also need to consider the
    interests of the mother who might suffer psychological distress from giving her child up
    for adoption.”There is a huge moral, qualitative and quantitative difference in aborting a very early term pregnancy vs. a later one as well as the “killing” of a newborn.  

  • Dondi

     Exactly my thoughts. Who are these people? They don’t sound like real mothers at all.

  • James

     Yes, harvest. Its not a dumb comment. Aborted fetuses parts are used to make cosmetics, including the placenta.

  • Gan

     Parody with an implicit message of propagation of their view, is more like it.

  • Zina

     I wouldn’t call it a parasitic relationship, but a symbiotic one. 

  • Anonymous

    plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

    Teaching on a childhood practice
    course, I find that ‘views’ (including treatment) of children are discussed
    often, e.g. the practice of infanticide because of gender or ‘abnormalities’ or
    other pressures (e.g. poverty) in ancient civilisations. All involved in the
    discussion are aghast at the notion – yet many of the same participants see
    abortion for similar reasons such as poverty to be acceptable.

    The logic of the argument I
    thought was about situation – i.e. if the person is located in the womb then
    killing is fine but if outside the womb then that is the line in the sand. Of
    course there is no logic to that argument but regrettably if the logic is
    related to the sentience of the person then some would argue that if the person
    is not sentient enough then killing is fine where ever the person is situated.

    For me this indicates that the
    precepts upon which abortion is justified are just untenable but then we
    call ourselves ‘civilised’ too…
     

  • Daniel

    ‎”Nothing is so fatal to religion as indifference… All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. Edmund Burke.

    We should not be cowards, we are the hands of God on earth. We should say something about this… sometimes, I would like to ask God “If there is a lot of violence and injustice in the world, why you do nothing about it”… but I know He would ask me the same…

  • http://twitter.com/Die_Gertrude Gertrüde

    As i first read this i was really shocked but if you think about it, isn’t this the next step? I mean do not get me wrong i am against this and abortion in general, but right now you are allowed to aboort a handicaped child in a late stadium of pregnancy and if you waited a few more months the baby would be born, and then all of a sudden even pro-abortion people are shocked and in offense. This just shows that they do not get that life starts at conception.

  • http://twitter.com/Die_Gertrude Gertrüde

    As I first read the article i was shocked, but isn’t this the next logical step? I mean don’t get me wrong, i am against this and abortion in general, but right now you are allowed to abort a handicaped child even in late pregnancy so where is the problem with waiting a few more month?! There is no difference except that the child is then born but it is alive in the womans womb as well. that even pro-abortion people are so shocked about this all of a sudden just shows us that they do not get that life starts at conception. 

  • buckingham88

     Although it is true that the foetus relies entirely on the mother for nutrition and heat it is not true to say that the foetus relies on the mother for anything else.Biologically the child,in the human ,has the most intimate relationship of all mammals where the membrane between the child’s cells and those of the mother is only one cell thick.If you really believe that this is a parasitic relationship,biologically speaking,surely the host would reject the parasite?In fact the mother,through supression of the immune system and the production of hormones to maintain pregnancy does the exact opposite in order to nurture the child at any stage of developement.It is a biological wonder that it is so successful.The embryo is self directing and using the materials provided forms itself,to the point of directing the cooperating mother in its own birth.
    As Chris Hitchins pointed out,the scientific obvious,now you can see them on an ultrasound.
     There has been a lot of discussion about the law and how we must obey it.After a recent case in NSW,where an unborn child was negligently killed by a motorist ,the mother made her feelings known on national TV.At the moment legislation is being introduced in the WA parliament to include a charge of manslaughter for negligent motorists who kill the unborn.

  • Bart_0117

    There is really nothing surprising about all this. It was a logical conclusion from the abortion advocates and they may tut-tut and say “Oh, we did not mean that, we only meant the ones inside the womb.” but they are telling themselves lies or have not discovered anything beyond the end of their noses in their lives. Same goes with sex-specific abortions. I love how the advocates for abortion turn around in such dramatic fashion to condemn those exposed by DT. Who is condemning who? Really, to the eyes of Catholics, it is pot calling kettle black.

  • daclamat

    Hans Christian Anderson theology! Using one’s God-given intelligence one may conclude that Abraham’s perception of God was skewed. To please the creator he convinced himself that he had to destroy what was most loved and precious: Isaac. God showed him the error of his ways. What was most loved and precious was God’s gift. We all have our Isaac moments. Omnis terra veneratur.

  • Zoda

    This is, without doubt, the most shocking thing I have ever read. I read right to the bottom looking for something to give me hope that the ‘ethicist’ who wrote this was really warning us about the next nightmarish step in the logical progression  that began with the of allowing abortion on demand. I looked and looked for some hint that what they were really saying is that trained ethicists really have no boundaries, that they can justify anything, any crime, any terrible act.

    Then I realised that it was not there. Truly, without God we are monsters.

  • Rarra

    I really don’t think those things are comparable. Abortion and infanticide are terrible evil things, polygamy is just daft by comparison.

  • Rora

    It’s not fake – the guy really holds these views, as do others like Peter Singer. It’s legal in some countries! This guy is a legitimate psycho.

  • Anonymous

    Right, it’s amazing how people trot out the story of Abraham & Isaac as evidence of God’s cruelty, when the entire point of the whole story was to end such sacrificial offerings…

  • Anonymous

    Slow down JL… feel the sunlight on your skin… listen to your heart beat… think about it. It’s not a joke… I hope you can understand.

  • Emma07

    Well, what can you expect from a secular, aethistic morally bankrcupt society?

  • Anonymous

    “This is not a proposal for law. This is pure academic discussion.”

    “I wish I could explain to people it is not a policy and I’m not suggesting that and I’m not encouraging that.”

    So your title is misleading to say the least. I’d hope you would please amend it for the sake of clarity Mrs. Teahan.

  • Anonymous

    Not that I agree with the author of the article of course – but I think its only fair to say to clear up that this was an academic debate – and never destined for law.

    Therefore your headline is misleading and could be characterized as scaremongering.

  • Ancupola

    The culture of death is being served rather than that of life. This article highlights the work of evil in modern society.

  • http://twitter.com/kyleharry Kyle Johnson

    The editors of the medical nowhere in this article accuse anyone of being racist

  • http://ccfather.blogspot.com/ Ben Trovato

    You are right: they don’t in this article.  However, as I said, in their article justifying the publication of this article, they accuse some of the reactions as being ‘racist.’

  • Batmanmick

    I wonder if we can determine before birth which babies are going to become priests?
    I might support the idea if we could.

  • Kevinstraw

    The logic of this is that anyone whose life might be considered a burden on the state or family could be seen as a candidate for, let’s say the word, euthanasia. Perhaps we ought, like the Nazis, be combing the institutions and the streets for the mentally and physically ill. My mother in old age lost the use of her hands an legs –  how was she, in principle, different to the ambryo or the newborn which has a similar disability? The current abortion system is only the thin end of the wedge.

  • PaCO

    It’s painful and completely unacceptably to see persons under the cloak of whatever proffession contemplating an obvious attempt towards destruction of humanity. A real pity! That day shall come, when parliamentarians and indeed everyone will realise on this land that laws are made for man and not man for law……..
    Imagine the author of the purported article refering to innocent newborn babies as non-persons.I place this article at the highest rank of psychiatric sensibility.
    what a pain…

  • Moveondave

    I am pro choice, but I must say that I agree with the voices here. I would like to take it a step farther. I think that the killing of young adults for is equally wrong. It has been going on for years. The police do it at a whim and the public ignores it. Until we stop the killing of adults and young adults by police, stopping this new form of infanticide is doomed. I regret that they are going to get away with this and I hope they don’t. But, as I have seen them killing people for no reason what so ever and they walk away  without any repercussions, it stand to reason that it is just a matter of time before they begin to kill the  newborns. I may be appalled, but I am not surprised. 

  • daclamat

    The headline belies the content. In all fairness you do quote the associate editor of the Journal of medical ethics the purpose of the article is to provoke discussion, but you have managed to stir up intemperate reactions. Predictably we are given a tour of death camps, Nazi murderers, wheel on Herod!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/XKCXWH3RLLFT5Q2HKGH4AHWTAA Happosai232002

    im ok with it as long as the baby is not white. otherwise it should be considered a crime.

  • Lit201

    Who is surprised by this?  Not me!!  Any society that justifies the killing of a helpless unborn won’t stop the killing until they bring about laws that allow for the choosing of who lives and who dies.  Does anybody hear the echoes of Hitler?  Isn’t that exactly what he was about?  The Devil is so obvious these days!!

  • Lit201

    I echo this exactly.  My dearest son is 21 and has Aspergers’ Syndrome.  He is the MOST admirable young man I have ever met – kind, considerate, gentle, thoughtful and respectful of all persons, young and old alike.  He is also highly intelligent and useful, particularly with all things computer-orientated. 

    When I was pregnant on him, the midwife harangued me to have an amnio, which would have prevented me from “foisting a disabled child on society”.  Being a devout Catholic, I said to her “If I agreed to have an amniocentesis test and the results showed my child had ten heads, I would still NOT have an abortion.  I am a Catholic.  So save your money.”  She refused to have me as her patient after that.  It is one of my proudest moments!!

    The Culture of Death has made fools of mothers and fathers alike and has a knock-on detrimental affect on all life on earth.  We thought Hitler was bad!  Now it is a case of Hitlers unite against God and fools sit back and let it all happen in their name. 

  • Alsbestos

    Anybody that is religious should be aborted

  • LIfe is LIfe is LIfe.

    so you reasoning is the foetus relies on the mother so it does not get to live if the mother says so. A newborn relies on the mother for life just as much if she chooses not to care of it. It will die. And if a mother is breastfeeding then it is receiving nourishment through direct contact with the mother and by that reasoning then should that child be allowed to be murdered as well. Only bottle feed babies get to live is that what you are saying. Or go backwards and realize how rediculous that statement is and let the babies live. 

  • CrankyHuman

    Police kill at a whim?? Where? China? South Africa? Do you think they hop in their car and say, “Hey, let’s kill somebody today, but after lunch, I’m hungry.”? Your thoughts are as vacuous as someone who says “all blacks are stupid” or “all Jews are greedy”.

  • Stew

    Why was the paper written, if it wan’t intended to move along (down) this path?