Wednesday, March 14, 2012

After-Birth Abortion—What the?

I know its older news now, but I can’t help commenting on the view expressed earlier this month in the paper, “After-birth abortion: why should the baby life?” It was written by two supposed “academics,” Alberto Giubilini (University of Milan) and Francesca Minerva (University of Melbourne), and published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. These “ethicists” argue that killing a new-born baby is morally equivalent to abortion and should be permissible. They contend that a foetus and new-born are the same in their lack of self-awareness. New-borns are unaware potential persons without any knowledge of their own existence and without any sense of a future—so killing them painlessly is morally neutral. This is particularly so where a mother has to raise a child alone, faces financial challenges, or has to face the pain of adopting the child out—it may be better to kill the new-born than place it in an orphanage etc. The editor of the journal has defended publication because it is a “well-reasoned argument.”

Unsurprisingly, this has set off a storm of response including death threats. The editor responded to this: “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 ... Proper academic discussion and freedom are under threat." Dr Minerva has expressed surprise that she has received hundreds of death threats.

Writing as an academic myself, what sort of world are we in where so-called academics believe that they are justified by “academic freedom” and “well-reasoned argument” to justify infanticide? It suggests academia is above judgement and has the right to propagate murder, as long as one can argue it well—I suppose then that one can argue anything as long as the argument is reasoned. This shows how far academia and society has gone in some quarters—into a cul-de-sac of its own futility.

The authors’ surprise at receiving death threats shows how morally blind they are. Perhaps someone should write a paper for the journal justifying the killing of ethicists who write articles proposing infanticide?—for the greater good or to protect the new-born! It wouldn’t be difficult to argue so. Argue that such a view is a threat to the well-being and on-going existence of the society. Then argue that for the greater good, it would be appropriate for some lunatic to seek out the ethicist, and kill them, to protect society and its children. It is intriguing that on the one hand it is legitimate to argue for killing a new-born, but to then argue that it is justified to kill the one who propounds the view is uninformed. It raises the questions of the limit of academic discussion and freedom. Does it extend as far as Josef Mengele and other Nazi doctors discussing using Jews and other prisoners of war for experiments so that it can help their military to win WWII? The whole thing in my view is akin to arguing that the Holocaust was justified on the basis of just war and Nazi ideals.

To put it bluntly, the idea of killing defenceless foetuses and new-born babies is evil—it is abhorrent and a disgrace to humanity. It is always those who have been given the opportunity to live who make such arguments—can’t they see that they are walking contradictions? The foetus and new-born are God’s image bearers from conception, fully human with full personhood, albeit in the early stage of development. This is the very stage of life where human society’s duty must be to protect that child and allow the child the same opportunity to live that they have been granted. As I have written elsewhere, more people have been destroyed in the last century by abortion than any other means—aside from those extreme situations where an abortion may be justified (which makes up a tiny percentage of such situations), it is the greatest evil of present human history.

That said, in a bizarre way there is some value in their study. Their argument is premised on this—if abortion is justified because the foetus is only a potential person without self-awareness, then the killing of the new-born is also justified. By making this argument and drawing out the “logic” of the pro-choice position, they point out the real implications of the flawed philosophy of personhood that allows abortion. They show us where such ideas lead—infanticide, euthanasia, killing of the disabled etc. It could extend to genocide, as in the case of WWII and other more recent wars.

I hope by drawing out the logic, heinous though it is, it helps pro-choice proponents to realise where their “logic” goes and helps all humanity recognise that the killing of the most defenceless of all people is morally wrong.

One more point of note. This is all sounding like a rediscovery of our Greco-Roman roots and another step in the rejection of the Judeo-Christian ethic. The Greeks and Romans advocated abortion and exposure. Exposure was the practice of the newborn being left to die if rejected by the father. The Jews and early Christians on the other hand utterly rejected abortion. Are we going back to the 'good old days' of exposure as well as abortion?

While we ourselves must not resort to death-threats or hate, we who find this repulsive must continue to stand against abortion and most definitely resist the killing of new-borns! Allowing for the extreme exceptions where abortion is justified, ending this disgrace will take another Wilberforce movement stretching from the nations’ parliaments to the people. It will take a recognition that the rights of the unborn and new-born person outweigh those of the mother—on the basis of human rights, those of the least powerful and defenceless have priority over others. It will involve all Christians working together recognising that abortion and abortifacients that kill or potentially kill the foetus are of a different category to other birth control methods that stop conception—the latter is not a moral wrong, the former is. I dream of the day that a western nation reverses its stand on abortion and others follow. And as for legitimised killing of the new-born—to quote Paul on a different issue from Rom 3:6, 9: μὴ γένοιτοὧν τὸ κρίμα ἔνδικόν ἐστιν—“may it never be…their condemnation is deserved.”

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