Posted on | February 29, 2012 by Lucia Muchova |
A few days ago, J.C. von Krempach brought to attention an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics entitled: “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” arguing that the newborn baby has the same right to life as a fetus- i.e. none.
Contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the authors assert, among others, that “merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life.” Such a right is, in their view, only attributable to “actual persons”, not “potential persons” (such as a fetus or a newborn). When the transition from a “potential” to “actual person” takes place is not clear.
The authors argue that killing any newborn- healthy (“normal”) or with a disability- is permissible if the costs (social, psychological, economic) for the “actual persons” (i.e. parents, society) are too high. Killing might even be preferable to adoption because adoption might cause the parents greater pain than the baby’s death would.
As a newborn is considered merely a “potential person,” his/ her moral status is the same as that of a fetus, that is, non-existent and irrelevant. Killing “potential persons” does not do any harm because a fetus or a newborn does not have any aims that he/ she might be prevented from accomplishing.
With disabled infants, the “solution” seems even simpler: such babies can be expected to have lives “not worth living” and the “actual persons” should have the right to end their suffering without remorse. In fact, the authors argue that “death seems to be in the best interest of [such] child.”
However ghastly this sounds, the argument that infanticide is a legitimate and moral treatment of babies is not new. As Robert George rightly points out, it is merely a logical consequence of the commitment to the “right to abortion.” Peter Singer, Michael Tooley, Richard Dawkins and others have been defending the “morality” of infanticide for a while. What is more troublesome, however, is the rising acceptability of this view within the intellectual community witnessed by the article’s publication in a respectable medical journal.