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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”.

  • ms Catholic state

    Anybody suggesting such a thing should be arrested for inciting murder forthwith!  This is evil beyond belief.  So much for our tolerant moral secular society. 

  • Anne

    a new line of business for Marie Stopes, bet there marketing department is already drawing up new brochures.

  • Ben Trovato

    It is noteworthy that in their defence of publishing this article, and in reaction to some of the more outraged comments that it has provoked, the editors point accusingly at some reactions as ‘racist’. So they have some absolute values after all.  Racist = bad, should not be published.  But killing babies = subject worthy of academic debate.  Their stance of moral neutrality is thereby shown to be bogus.

    Finally, Satan always demands human sacrifice.

  • Anonymous

    Had fun reading the article – almost theatrical! In fact, I find it hard to believe that the authors were not making jest of abortionists. Their argument is simple: if you allow abortion, go on and do the same to newborn babies. On the other hand, if you do not want newborn babies to be killed, stop abortion! 

    The statement “… foetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons” carries with it the perennial question of when a foetus becomes a person. Is personhood defined by nature (the fact that one is conceived through the sexual activity of husband and wife) or the society?

    If the argument continues, there we go again, Humanae Vitae back to life, and Paul VI more than a prophet! And soon, governments will start making laws to tell me or you that we are not “persons”. What a world!

  • Peter

    It is obvious that big business is involved here.  They want to kill newborn babies so that they can harvest their bodies for research and spare parts.

    The logical extension of this mentality will be the enforced culling not only of babies, but of children such as street children, orphans, children with aids and children with handicaps, particularly in the third world where they are more vulnerable. 

    Western aid will be offered to countries that round up their “excess” children and send them to “hospitals” where they will be harvested for spare parts which will then go back to the secular West to help its population live forever.

    The Muslim world may be a threat to Western values, but in defence of the child in particular and against the godless secular culture of death which is enveloping the world,  it is a valuable and formidable ally. 

  • AidanCoyle

    I wonder…. Bemkapeace may be onto something there.  There has been at least one instance in the past that I know of where a spoof article has appeared in an academic journal with parodic intent. This reads as another example of that – and of course the journal wouldn’t mind the publicity… If it is a parody, it serves a valuable purpose of querying the categories and notions of entitlement that are routinely drawn upon in discussing the issue. 

  • Malcolm Bracken

     Didn’t God demand Human Sacrifice? Abraham though it a reasonable enough demand to comply, as did… um… Jesus.

  • Stephen

    Abraham did not sacrifice Jacob and Jesus is God.Nice try though.Go easy on the Hitchens and Dawkins books next time maybe.

  • Andrew

    This is appalling. But who benefits from this article? The pro-life lobby. I smell a rat.

  • ConcernedAtheist

    This has to be the dumbest commen I’ve ever read! ‘Harvest for spare parts’?! A secular society is far better than a religious one ever could be and your blatant bigotry is evidence for that. Alas, I digress, this is wrong and shouldn’t happen, but to claim it as some kind of conspiracy is downright pathetic.

  • Conor McGrane

    Absolutely shocking. People with these “opinions” have no place in the Medical profession. I’m disappointed that evil nonsense like this was even considered for publication.

  • Anonymous

    Abraham did not sacrifice Isaac, Jacob had not been born by that point, being that he was Isaac’s son. God asked Abraham to do it though to test his loyalty. He had also however told Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation through Isaac, so although God asked him to do it, Abraham knew ultimately God would provide a way for Isaac either to be brought back or not to die, but he did as he was asked.

  • Gregory the Eremite

     I’m not so sure. Many academics consider the whole field of bioethics to be something of a train-wreck. You can get a good feel for this from the philosopher David Oderberg in this paper:

  • ms Catholic state

    Thank God, Cultures of Death always die.  Western ahem Civilisation is next up for self annihilation.

  • Guy Turner

    Are you worried that there would e a fall in the population of young boys for you to abuse?

  • Anonymous

    One can only hope this cited article was in the vein of Jonathan Swift’s “modest proposal.”  Whatever your stance on abortion, whatever your stance on denial of extraordinary measures to prolong the life of a newborn too sickly to survive otherwise and not likely to survive long in any event, a pillow over the face takes the issue to a whole ‘nother level.  It is truly horrendous to contemplate if serious.

  • Ben Trovato

    God ultimately demands self-sacrifice; Satan, the sacrifice of others.

  • Rose Hurst

    This sounds like Holocust.

  • James H

    Dead right – we left the slippery slope a long time ago.

    Since when is Peter Singer an ethicist??

    OTOH, I must agree with the statement: “More than ever, proper academic discussion and freedom are under threat
    from fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.” Only, I feel at pains to point out that the fanatics are the ones who wrote, published and defended this filth.

    Every now and then, I feel a pang for the Europe that must disappear under Sharia law sometime in the next few decades… then something like this comes along, and I feel it must be for the best.

  • Cat

    Im lost for words,what on earth is this world coming to.? I am the Mother of an amazing 18 years old son,he is clever,witty ,charming,able,handsome,kind,patient,polite,stylish,tolerant,imaginative,artistic,has a thirst for learning ,helpful,…has completed mainstream school…and successfully erred a 3 year place at specialist college..
    He also has Downs Syndrome.

    He is neither an unbearable burden on his family or society as a whole…….on the contrary he is and always has been a beautiful human being….fully supported by his family not the state !

    …however this society in which he has to live is Bigoted,unkind,discriminatory,rude,intolerant,unattractive,judgemental,unfair,dull,boring,unhelpful,bed mannered…

    I know who I would be recommending for “after birth abortion….and it would not be babies who have Downs Syndrom…prehaps we could start with the AUTHORS who have the audacity to write this outrageous paper in the first place…


  • Guest

    The original article is here, it seems that the above is not a spoof:

  • Mr Grumpy

    An opportune moment to recall the words of a “Catholic theologian” published in the Tablet:-

    “Given that in Christian theology the understanding of personhood is fundamentally relational because it bears the image of the Triune God, it is hard to see how an embryo can be deemed a person before even the mother enters into a rudimentary relationship with it.”


    It would seem entirely consistent to argue that, if the mother considered that no such relationship had yet developed, she was entitled to treat her newborn baby as an unperson and have it killed. I await Professor Beattie’s reaction with interest.

  • maryp

    Not suprising from this abhorrent man Savelscu, a disciple of Peter Singer. The only surprise is that his opinions are treated with such respect and reverence in so many circles – even a Catholic school allowed him to speak at their prize giving. When Catholics collude willingly with evil on this scale, is it any wonder that the world is in the state it is in.

  • Anonymous

    Immoral as this is it’s hardly surprinsing that such comments would come soon. Seeing as the practise of infanticide was banned throughout Europe by Constantine the Great, one can hardly be surprised that it seems to be regaining ground in modern society; it’s yet another example of why we shouldn’t let humans decide who are people and who aren’t.

  • Slicer

    The logical progression of the feminist influence on medical ethics and their advocacy of abortion and dehumanisation of the foetus as just a “bundle of meaningless cells”. Now feminists are trying to dehumanise new born babies.

  • Jack Hughes

    Thus cometh the rough beast of which Yeats spoke of slouching torwards Bethlehem to be born. Western Civilization has now come full circle, in a few years we’ll be leaving newborns to die by the roadside in immitation of Ancient Sparta

    If you follow the logic of these guys to its ‘logical’ conclusion, then it is quite alright for me to murder my 55 yr old mother because I stand to inherit a substantial sum of money upon her death; and lets face it, she’s led a long and fulfilled life and should she live for another 20-30 years then the chances of her needing to go into a nursing home dramatically increase, thus reducing my the sum of my inherritence.

    I would love to see the authors of the article try and claim that such an action would be immoral.

    PS Disclamer – I am NOT, REPEAT NOT planning to kill my mother, I was using such a hyperthetical scenerio to illistrate how absurd these bozo’s ideas are.

  • Ben Trovato

    As long as you do it while she’s asleep, it should be fine – by their reasoning.

    … And a dragon stood by, waiting to devour the Child as soon as it was born…

  • Johntrimming

    There is a question of human rights here. I find the morals of the authors’ argument obscene but am more outraged that the editors allow its publication. Academic freedom of speech would not allow publication of an article suggesting killing based on colour of skin or religion (“social” reasons) or involuntary euthanasia. How is this article different? How can it even be legal to publish views which define the newborn person (a person under every legal and moral definition) as so subhuman that they don’t even have the right to life?

  • Mynatees

    Er, considering none of the ethicists are feminists, what has feminism got to do with it? A foetus is not the same as a newborn, since a foetus relies entirely on the mother (so has a parasitical relationship with her) whereas a newborn does not. Women should decide what to do with their own bodies (which includes foetuses) but it does not include newborns. Logic.

  • Mynatees

    It’s ‘their’. And why would a reproductive health organisation have anything to do with something post-reproduction?

  • Christopher

    “The arguments presented, in fact, are largely not new”

    In fact Adolf Hitler put them into effect very successfully. 

  • Isaac Hayes

    Not quite so tolerant then James?

     You ought to read Mill on tolerance. Modern Liberalism is merely a part of the same continuum of intolerance  as the uncompromising  ultra conservatism it seeks to counter. To dismiss opposing views as fanatical or other views as filth  shows an entrenched position. Confront and deal with the arguments in a reasonable manner…if you can?

  • Lily_gunkie

    This disgusts me. 

  • Anonymous

    Its killing. Its what they do. They have little to do with “health”.

  • PissedReader

    I have lost all faith in humanity

  • Sszorin

    Here we go, as once predicted,…”the slippery slope” argument, that was ridiculed during the debates on the legalization of abortion years ago, proved to be right in prediction. And wait for the polygamy down the road, if two men can “marry”, then why not one man and three women ? 

  • cinderellagirl

     We already use aborted fetuses for medical use… you cannot forsee that the same would happen, perhaps more often, with the more matured parts of newborns?

  • Anonymous

    Hitler is alive and well

  • Parasum

    Great idea – so, why not “terminate” those who’ve suggested this. It would be after their births – so what’s the hitch ?

    “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.””

    ## Here’s a suggestion – why not introduce legislation to liquidate those who who are a burden on society: like, say, people who suggest legalising infanticide, and complain when their nonsense is greeted with the indignation & revulsion it deserves ?

    Those who use the rights and liberties that have been introduced for the common good of society with a view to promoting the common good, cannot complain when their attempts to destroy society by introducing a legalised form of murder are rebuked. They are abusing their rights to harm others, and are no better, or rather, are much worse, than child-abusers & those who molest minors. At least abusers kill child only sometimes – but these people want murder to be made a legally permitted and protected practice. To call this monstrous is an understatement. For one Baby P, we are, it seems, to have thousands – but legally. Adults now in in prison for child abuse such as that which he suffered are owed an apology & their freedom, as they will have done nothing to compare with this. What sort of nation punishes someone for brutalising a child or two, but smiles upon the legalisation of outright infanticide & murder ?

    There is no moral difference between this suggestiion, and proposing that genocide should be legal – except that it would be possible to make a better case for genocide than for this. Would that be defended in the name of academic freedom ? Of course not: so why is this kind of homicide to be thought morally tolerable ?

    The editor of the JME has a very strange notion of right and wrong, and of ethical judgements. His position is incoherent. 

  • Parasum

    No, *not* parasitical. A tumour is parasitical. A conceptus is genetically *intended* to become a human baby, and to leave the womb. And a conceptus, even though not a person, is intended to be a person. A tumour is a mass of cells that is parasitic on a person, and is not intended to be a person; any more than a verruca is.

    The conceptus is dependent on the mother – some dependency is parasitic, but not all. Besides, the positions are eventually reversed: parents become dependent on their children for support.

    There is a certain logic to the proposal – but it leads to infanticide, because young children are dependent on their parents: IOW, they can be seen as parasites. So they should be killed. So should the elderly, the incapable, the handicapped, the unemployable, the uneducated, those of the wrong sex, those with the wrong beliefs, those of the wrong race, the wrong sexual orientation, the wrong education,the wrong ecological views – but in that case, the gas-ovens need to be set up ASAP, because that will mean the extermination of an awful lot of people.

    Nazism & Communism were very logical – if Jews & kulaks & landlords are so bad for the State, programs of mass extermination to dispose of them are the obvious solution: but that has not been enough to recommend these exercises in mass-murder to anyone else. Yet the Final Solution was carried out with laudable technological efficiency. But that is not something for which Herr Hitler received much credit – for reaasons which are too obvious to need mentioning. But if practicality & efficiency and lack of unquantifiable irrelevances like compassion help make science “technologically sweet” for the State, then the Final Solution has a lot to be said for it.
    To confuse parasitism & dependency, as well as what is feasible with what is desirable; and to ignore unquantifiable things such as morals and compassion, is a recipe for disaster. Some things cannot be quantified. Which is why the Final Solution is a crime, despite being so “technologically sweet”. Leave out the morality, allow only logic, technology, the State, & big business to matter – and it ceases to be worthy of blame. Just like this proposal.

    What is being suggested is not only immoral – it is also transgressive: it crosses a boundary that compassion would not allow to be crossed. It’s a perfect example of breaking a moral taboo. And the more we break, the fewer bonds there are to join men together in a society. Logic & techniques can be very helpful – but they are useless for providing reasons to act in a moral manner. To do that, the virtues are essential: virtues like compassion, patience, wisdom, pity for the weak & helpless, self-restraint. And we do not live in a society that appreciates the virtues.

  • Anonymous

    What is all the fuss about? It is a logical
    question to be asked. As the majority of people gradually accept the truth of
    Professor Dawkins et al, that life has no other meaning than what man himself
    makes of it, and that there is nothing beyond life, then surely in our human
    overpopulated finite world we have to deal with such matters logically. With
    any other animal, or plaque we choose to cull to protect the diversity of
    species and resources.  Why shouldn’t we
    do the same with the human species?  If
    they have no economic value or are going to be a cost, then it makes sense to
    kill off those that will be a burden on a family or a society. Also it would be
    more humane for that individual. After all it makes sense to cull out the weak
    and non productive animals in commercial circumstances.  We could reduce the already immense social
    costs that excess, especially useless human beings impose on the taxpayer.
    Further with our aging societies around the world and the extension of lives
    beyond their useful economic life, except where they have created sufficient
    wealth not to be a burden. In nature, the weak and infirm are usually killed,
    and man is part of nature. Unlike in nature, man with his evolved intelligence has
    developed the means of killing humanely.

  • Guest

    It’s “organization.” 

  • Anne

    don’t u know that abortion survivors weren’t taught grammar!

  • Benedict Carter

    We are formally back in pagan times. Those of you – the militant atheists, the “progressives” – who call this the “post-Christian age” should tell the truth, which is that with abortion and infanticide, we have merely regressed to paganity.

    This is what the Catholic Church fought against, for 2,000 years. We created Christian Europe and civilised the Peoples – now, with your lack of faith, it has all been undone. Those who applaud that are agents, conscious or not, of Satan. 

    The battle lines for our very souls are more clearly drawn in this very evil age than for many centuries.- – - – -

    CATHOLICS! You are the leaven of the world! START GETTING SERIOUS about your Faith again! I know the clergy are mostly useless, the modern Church totally corrupted by myriad heresies: so get yourselves to the Old Mass and learn again what it is to be a real Catholic. Then monsters such as these who want to kill your children will one day be defeated.

  • guest

    Not that grammar is actually the point of this discussion wall, but ‘organisation’ is how the word is generally used in Britain – which is where the English language derived. 

  • Jason Clifford

     Abraham said to his servants “stay here while the boy and I go over there to make our sacrifice and wait for us to return”. He knew that both he and Isaac would return as he had learned who God is.

    The sacrifice of Jesus was a freely given gift of self.

    If you cannot see the difference between such a freely given sacrifice and taking the life of another then you really are very blind!

  • Jason Clifford

    It’s not really new to them at all. They have been engaged in the abortion business in China for some time where children are killed both in the womb and after birth. As others have said this is a logical progression for those who advocate the killing of others, whether those others are in the womb, disabled, elderly or otherwise “inconvenient”.

    We need to continue praying for conversion.

  • Jason Clifford

     The mother is in a direct relationship with her unborn baby that is far more than rudimentary from the moment it is conceived. That the relationship is different in nature to all other relationships does not mean it is not real.

  • Brandon Korman

    Wow that is the most rediculouse thing I have ever heard… If u in my opinion are irresponsible or are just unlucky and have a child at a young age u should b responsible for raising that kid not only cause he/she didn’t have a choice to be there or not but that is your own flesh and blood and to me if u can destroy something like that that didn’t even have a chance to become successful in life or even get to see its mother is unfortunate… It makes u realize and wonder how all these ppl that have had These abortions can even sleep at night knowing they KILLED there own child… To me u should b sitting right there in jail nxt to to other guy that committed murder… To me it shouldn’t matter if it’s the day b4 or the day after birth murder is murder n no one has the right to decide weather u should be or die… I’m only 18 n I have grown up knowing if u hav a girl pregnant u better bust ur ass to make sure u can support that child and that mother!!!! FUCK ABORTION!!!! IT’S MURDER!!!

  • Denis

    Beyond belief. Truth is strange. Absolutely discusting.