Why Stop at Birth? The Chilling Logic of Abortion Rights

Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva believe in the moral defensibility of infanticide. Of course they don’t call it that. The prefer “to call this practice ‘after-birth abortion’, rather than ‘infanticide,’ to emphasize that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus … rather than to that of a child.”

These two philosophers, writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, present a chilling argument that:

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.

While most people will find this appalling, it is simply the logical conclusion of progressive personhood (“the value of the unborn human increases throughout its development.”) taken to its logical conclusion.

As I have noted before, this creates a subjective criteria for determining personhood. At what point does a “potential person” become an “actual person,” and who gets to decide?
from flickr, by Marcel030NL
Hence, Giubilini and Minerva can attest,

if the moral status of the newborn is the same as that of the infant and if neither has any moral value by virtue of being a potential person, then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn.

But who determines who is a “potential person” and an “actual person?” If these authors have their way, personhood is not achieved until some time after birth.

[I]n order for a harm to occur, it is necessary that someone is in the condition of experiencing that harm. 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. … In these cases, since non-persons have no moral rights to life, there are no reasons for banning after-birth abortions. … 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.

Who are these “non-persons?” Those with disease, birth defects or any child who would place undue stress or burden (emotional, financial etc.) on the mother.

Abortions at an early stage are the best option, for both psychological and physical reasons. However, if a disease has not been detected during the pregnancy, if something went wrong during the delivery, or if economical, social or psychological circumstances change such that taking care of the offspring becomes an unbearable burden on someone, then people should be given the chance of not being forced to do something they cannot afford.

Though I have known this is the ultimate logic of the pro-choice arguments, this is still one of the most disturbing journal articles I have ever read. Murder by any other name — infanticide, after-birth abortion, neonaticide — is still murder. Even pro-choice advocates recognize the disturbing “morality” argued for here.


The early church had to stand and speak against the practice of infanticide in the Roman Empire. As we gradually regress to a pagan society, Christians are being called to do so once again.

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