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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

At the Bottom of the Slope

    Both Powerline and James Taranto's Best of the Web drew attention today to a UK Telegraph article about a recent peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Medical Ethics advocating infanticide.  I don't mean some nuanced version of late-term abortion.   I mean real, flat-out infanticide, although they choose the euphemism "after-birth abortion."  The authors even explain why they choose that over "infanticide."  The full text of the article is here.  The writing is clinical and horrifying.  (Adding to the surreal atmosphere is the writers' insistence on using the feminine pronouns in place of the generic he/him of traditional grammar when referring to the unborn.)  Here are some excerpts:
Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’. We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her. This means that many non-human animals and mentally retarded human individuals are persons, but that all the individuals who are not in the condition of attributing any value to their own existence are not persons. Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life. 
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. So, if you ask one of us if we would have been harmed, had our parents decided to kill us when we were fetuses or newborns, our answer is ‘no’, because they would have harmed someone who does not exist (the ‘us’ whom you are asking the question), which means no one.  
A possible objection to our argument is that after-birth abortion should be practised just on potential people who could never have a life worth living.  Accordingly, healthy and potentially happy people should be given up for adoption if the family cannot raise them up.... 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.... after-birth abortion should be considered a permissible option for women who would be damaged by giving up their newborns for adoption.
[W]e do not put forward any claim about the moment at which after-birth abortion would no longer be permissible, and we do not think that in fact more than a few days would be necessary for doctors to detect any abnormality in the child. In cases where the after-birth abortion were requested for non-medical reasons, we do not suggest any threshold, as it depends on the neurological development of newborns, which is something neurologists and psychologists would be able to assess.
The chilling realization that comes after reading the entire article is that none of the authors' reasoning conflicts with current pro-abortion rhetoric.  On the contrary, the outcome is the logical progression of such rhetoric.  Indeed, the authors note that the Netherlands already permit infanticide in some cases, just not to the extent that this article advocates.  And make no mistake, this is not just a theoretical exercise - as the abstract at the beginning of the article says, "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."
    The trump card of Roe v. Wade and subsequent cases has always been the "health of the mother."  This article unflinchingly and explicitly includes in the definition of "health of the mother" the phycological pain that may be experienced by a woman after giving up her child for adoption and justifies killing the child instead to spare her that pain.  Any hyperbole I could muster is inadequate to describe such a thought.
    So who will be the first courageous reporter to approach Planned Parenthood, Nancy Pelosi, Patty Murray, or any other champion of "women's health" to ask for a reaction to this article?  Is there any moral will left in the pro-abortion camp to finally draw a line at this travesty?  Or will they stand shoulder to shoulder with these two amoral ethicists at the bottom of the slippery slope?

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