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Cold-Blooded Murder in Academic Garb

by Dr. Michael Farris
March 2, 2012

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“We claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk. Accordingly, a second terminological specification is that we call such a practice ‘after-birth abortion’ rather than ‘euthanasia’ because the best interest of the one who dies is not necessarily the primary criterion for the choice, contrary to what happens in the case of euthanasia.”

Two professors of medical ethics have published a chilling article arguing for the right of a mother to kill her newborn child under any circumstance where she could have aborted that child.

In the February 23, 2012, online version of the Journal of Medical Ethics, Professors Alberto Giubilini (Department of Philosophy, University of Milan) and Francesca Minerva (Centre for Human Bioethics, Monash University, Australia) advocate the calculated execution of unwanted newborn babies.

Reading these so-called ethicists’ full argument is a bit of a surreal experience. Their style is familiar pseudo-dispassionate rhetoric of academic discourse, but the content of their argument is nothing short of horrendous—evoking images of Dr. Josef Mengele and his band of Nazi executioners in lab coats.

Their premise is that a newborn child is no different from an unborn child in a moral sense. Both are human beings. Both are alive. But neither, they contend, is fully a “person.” If it is morally acceptable to terminate the life of the one, it is clearly acceptable to terminate the life of the other.

This is the very argument that pro-lifers have made for years, in stunning reverse. There is no difference in the humanity of the newly born and the unborn. We raise the argument to underscore the inhumanity of killing the unborn. These professors, however, concur in the argument for exactly the opposite reason. We can kill the one. Therefore, we can kill the other. It graphically demonstrates how swiftly the argument can digress into heretofore unthinkable depths once the “right to kill” has been conceded.

Of course they do not limit their argument for “post-birth abortion” to cases where the child has some serious physical defect—although they clearly champion such cases as a key reason for justifiable execution of infants. Nor do they solely rely on the argument that the child’s life would “not be worth living”—as if any human being could adequately assess such a standard.

They point out that such considerations place far too great a reliance on the interests of the child who is being killed. Let’s not think about the baby being killed—we have to think about the parents and family who are being asked to raise this child. It is their interests that should be paramount.

The newborn child is a “non-person” in the lexicon of these professors. Only those who have reached a level of development that renders them “capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.” In other words, since the child doesn’t understand their own existence and worth, they can be killed before they are capable of such self-aware thoughts.

Having labeled them as non-persons, the argument proceeds to the ultimate conclusion that it is the interest of “persons” that should prevail.

On the other hand, not only aims but also well-developed plans are concepts that certainly apply to those people (parents, siblings, society) who could be negatively or positively affected by the birth of that child. Therefore, the rights and interests of the actual people involved should represent the prevailing consideration in a decision about abortion and after-birth abortion.

“You are messing up my plans.”

“You are incapable of sophisticated thought. Therefore, I can kill you.”

“My life and not yours is ‘the prevailing consideration.’”

Perhaps the most perverse argument of all is the one employed by these professors to address the issue of adoption. Women often suffer from self-doubt and regret, they argue, when they give their baby up for adoption. And true, some women have such reactions to having aborted their child. But, with an adoption there is always the nagging feeling that the decision could be reversed—giving the woman a distressing lack of closure, wondering if her child will ever return. Some women, they conclude, would rather be rid of this lingering doubt. Death is final. Adoption is not. Better to be done with “it” once and for all.

Death camps were the “final solution of the Jewish question” to Heinrich Himmler. These modern advocates of death have the cold, calculating audacity to suggest that mothers would be better off with the right to avoid the uncertainties arising from adoption. Their security rests in the final solution of death.

At first it was just the unborn, but the assault on life never ceases. The apostles of death are no longer content to stay on the other side of the womb. They have now raised their long, cruel knives in the nursery. Does anyone have any reason to feel safe when such people control the academic field of medical ethics?

Michael P. Farris served as founding president of Patrick Henry College (2000-2006) and is now Chancellor. In addition to teaching Constitutional Law and coaching the Moot Court team, he organizes a mentorship program for PHC students called Tyndale's Ploughmen. He serves as Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. Read full bio.

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