Infanticide - The Argument In Favor
    By Hank Campbell | March 1st 2012 04:38 PM | 15 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    If you are not a social authoritarian in love with big government and worry about the personal ramifications for freedom if health care is federalized, here is a chilling idea from the home of socialized medicine - Great Britain. Well, sort of Great Britain, now one of them is in Australia. 

    Their article shows the slippery slope of choice - basically, if abortions are okay, so is infanticide and if one is not okay, neither is the other.  Which means, of course, anything is okay if the 'elites' determine fitness.  Eugenics is making a big resurgence in the progressive mindset.

    Proponents of abortion carefully choose a more clinical term 'fetus' when talking about unborn babies.  That makes sense.  No one wants to come across as hurting babies, unless you are a group of medical ethicists (yes, you read that right) at Oxford.  Then they get to ask why babies get some super special free pass from being euthanized.

    Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva write in BMJ's Journal of Medical Ethics "Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health." It is not a health issue?  We are told all of the million abortions that occur per year in America are necessary or women will die in back alleys.  But in California we are also told that women will die unless Barbara Boxer gets elected to the Senate every six years so it's hard to keep track of what is medically valid.  Regardless, 40 years later the crime rate is down and the "Freakonomics" guys showed us abortion had a lot more to do with it than hiring cops so no one is undoing Roe vs. Wade any time soon.

    Our friendly ethicists then make the ethical argument that since we allow abortion on demand for any reason - and we must, including the gender of the baby, or else women will die -  there is no special exemption for just being born, logically.  If there is no special circumstance for being a newborn, it must be ethical to hit the baby with an ice pick and vacuum out its brains, just like you can do before it is born.   They write "‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled."

    Sounds creepy, right?  Well, if social science is valid and a woman claims a child with anything she doesn't like puts her mental health at risk, ethical logic says it should be okay to kill the baby. And if the baby is ugly, like with Treacher-Collins syndrome (TCS), it should also be okay to kill it. If that sounds more like sophistry than logic, well, it is.

    I got no dog in the abortion fight, obviously.  It's clear that if a subset of people want to euthanize their progeny we shouldn't prevent it but since this article was in the Journal of Medical Ethics it kind of sticks out as something we need to discuss.  BMJ is one of the world's top companies for peer-reviewed work.

    We also have to applaud them a little for publishing it.  Science, like much of liberal and progressive culture, has gotten perhaps a little too politically correct.  It has been difficult to discuss valid issues - and perhaps dismiss them on the evidence - because a culture war breaks out when a special interest feels like they are being slighted.  Newborns can't talk which means  they can't mobilize Twitter protests either. Maybe that is part of why these Oxford ethicists are okay with whacking them.

    The journal’s editor, Professor Julian Savulescu, who is also director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and worked with the two writers, wrote in a blog posting,“The goal of the Journal of Medical Ethics is not to present the Truth or promote some one moral view. It is to present well reasoned argument based on widely accepted premises.”

    In that light, he said he would also publish a well-reasoned argument on getting rid of abortions altogether because society does not allow infanticide.  In most instances, I would bet such an article would never be considered 'well-reasoned' by academics who don't want to be the target of a witch hunt, but I believe Savulescu here.  He is sticking his head on the chopping block allowing this to go out so I think he means what he says.

    More: Killing babies no different from abortion, experts say by Stephen Adams, The Telegraph
    H/T: RealClearScience


    We kill intelligent, self-aware mammals after raising them in terrible conditions, allow cruel experiments on them; why not kill children up to three or four years old? We could tape ugly kids to the bulls we kill for fun; extra applause for the matador if he decapitates them first before harming the bull.
    The Stand-Up Physicist
    I thought you would use a chain saw. I forgot, this isn't quantum mechanics.
    Sometimes, reading you, I just wonder if you're trolling...

    Greetings from Spain.

    Gerhard Adam
    If there is no special circumstance for being a newborn, it must be ethical to hit the baby with an ice pick and vacuum out its brains, just like you can do before it is born.
    Sorry, but I'm not seeing the purported "logic" here.  Regardless of how one feels about abortion specifically, it is clear that part of the argument has always hinged on whether or not there was the possibility of "independent life" versus the biologically dependency of being in utero.

    After all, such arguments do not "follow" simply because "A" is acceptable that "B" must be also.  This has always been the absurd arguments presented in such discussions.  Reasoning that abortion is OK therefore infanticide follows makes no sense, because then one is engaging in setting age as a delimiting element.  If infanticide is OK, then why not murder of anyone we don't like.

    Similarly the reverse occurs.  If abortion is murder simply because it is a potential human, then aren't we engaging in mass murder every time millions of sperm die in their attempt to fertilize an egg.  Should every miscarriage be investigated as a potential negligent homicide? 

    While I'm sure that people will have views on all sides, the simple fact of the matter is that neither ethics nor philosophy are bound to pursue every argument to its absurd ends.  It is perfectly legitimate to articulate a position for a very specific instance or set of limits and then argue that whatever argument we are advancing is constrained by those limits.  It does NOT follow that everything we might do in one circumstance must translate globally into all circumstances.

    Bear in mind that we are justified in imposing specific limits to the abortion argument that wouldn't apply to humans overall. It is the only instance in life where there is an absolute biological dependency wherein two lives are intertwined into one metabolic process. Therefore it is legitimate to ask which life should hold a priority status when it comes to "life" issues. It is a situation that occurs at no other time in an indvidual's existence.

    Just as we don't argue that capital punishment may be legitimately applied to some crimes, and therefore we are forced to argue that ethically it should then be applicable to ALL crimes.  Must we then conclude that to accept capital pnishment means we are just as ethically justified in executing traffic violations as we are murderers?

    That's neither philosophy nor ethics.  It's just silliness.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Right. Ethics in this case is simply tired old moral relativism by pesky postmodernists. There can be a reasonable standard.  Civilized countries - not the US - don't allow abortions in the third trimester because even at 6 months there is a 96% of survival.  Yes, that is not 'independent' but no newborn is independent, nor is any animal.

    It's interesting that they leave open the ethical possibility of gender-selective infanticide, since we are told abortion is awesome unless it actually involves a choice (doing it because you want a boy or girl is bad).  What did original proponents think the word 'choice' would mean to future generations?
    Gerhard Adam
     Yes, that is not 'independent' but no newborn is independent, nor is any animal.
    Well, perhaps "independent" is a poor choice of words, and should be represented more by biological autonomy.  

    Not sure what you mean by "gender-selective infanticide" because my argumetn remains in that I think it's silly to presume that abortion equals infanticide.  However, the point about choice being valid even if it seems trivial, is certainly one that is of ethical concern.  While we might envision more meaningful reasons for abortion, it can be as trivial as the fetus being the "wrong" gender.

    I think that most people are uncomfortable with the idea of abortion, even if they support it [which is why they invariably argue for choice].  In other words, it's difficult to eliminate choices for an individual, especially if you aren't one that may ever have to make such a choice. 

    So, we often adopt a position of choice, evene though we might argue that we would never do it ourselves, we don't want to deny the option to someone that might be facing a difficult decision.  I don't think that indicates a positive or negative position on abortion, as much as it suggests a more pragmatic approach saying that such decisions aren't always black and white.

    Mundus vult decipi
    The problem I see is that there are many that I don't think consider it a difficult choice, how else would you explain women who have more than 3 or 4(and I personally know one, so it's not theoretical)?

    I get that there are women who shouldn't be Mothers, and I also get that society has a much larger investment in a woman of child bearing age, than a clump of cells. So, I don't want women going to butchers, but at some point long before birth that clump of cells is a baby.

    I wouldn't mind if once you go for say your third, you get court ordered long term implanted birth control, and that to get it removed you have to appear before a judge stating you're ready to delivery you baby. Unlimited abortions shouldn't be a right at the expense of an unlimited number of babies.

    This also get into why I'm uneasy over hESC's, There's plenty of embryonic tissue to study, but what i don't want to see is therapies based on harvesting new cells, I don't want to see women being paid to abort to get cells. Now, if a new line can be cloned and a continuing source of cells isn't needed, that's another thing. Paul Knoepfler might be able to address this, I've not had a chance to ask him. But from what I've read, in part (IMO) because of the ban on funding, there's been a lot of successful work done creating stem cells from adult tissue, which is perfectly fine by me. I think researchers could go a long way to making a lot of people feel better about hESC research, if they knew it wasn't the beginning of a medical industry based on harvesting embryonic cells from abortions.
    Never is a long time.
    Gerhard Adam
    Well, it's not a difficult choice.  It's difficult deciding the parameters of such a choice.  If I assume that any collection of human cells that number less than 100 cells [just to pick an arbitrary number] then there is no reason to presume guilt nor do we assume that the "seriousness" changes simply because of the number of "abortions" involved.  Neither should there be any consideration regarding this as a means of "harvesting" embryos or stem cells.

    In other words, our position would be that any number of cells less than 100 is OK, anything greater is not.  As I said, in my example, this is quite arbitrary as a dividing line and we could just as readily pick any number of others with different qualifications.

    My point is that in such a situation, then there can be no sliding value judgment based on any other criteria.  If less than 100 cells is OK, then ALL choices [regardless of how irresponsible we may view them] represent a legitimate "guilt-free" choice.  There is nothing more serious about it.

    This becomes an important point, because we can't arbitrarily declare that all fertilized eggs are human beings, because we still have the issue of life priority since the fetus is not autonomous but depends on the resources of the mother's body.  Therefore, her "life" must take precedence over that of the fetus.  This is simply beyond questioning, since a "potential" life should never have a higher priority than an existing one.

    We must also recognize that this is a decision that we are intentionally engaging in as human beings because of technology.  In other words, "nature" is not beyond aborting such fetus', nor is it beyond "infanticide" depending on the biological conditions of the organism.  An infant is just as legitimate a source of food as an adult when it comes to biology.

    However, besides the issue of abortion in the sense of avoidable pregnancy, we also have to consider the necessity of aborting non-viable fetus' in the case of fertility treatments.  When multiple fertilized eggs are introduced, then one could certainly argue that it isn't proper to risk depleting necessary resources to all the combined embryos simply because we suddenly have decided that pregnancy is "sacred".  We already blew that notion out of the water when we implanted the fertilized eggs.  Now we have to step up and take moral responsibility for our choices and, like it or not, humans were not "built" to deliver litters.

    Basically we cannot put the genie back into the bottle.  Human medical intervention has necessitated our making the decisions regarding whether to abort or maintain a fetus.  So, we can't suddenly want "nature" to take over.  This is why I'm arguing that we have a narrow window of definition in which this unique state exists, and then we need to define the boundary conditions against which we will either allow abortion or not.  Once we are either side of that boundary, assessing additional value judgments is pointless.
    Mundus vult decipi
    You could be an Oxford ethicist!  :)

    It's easy just to say "it's complicated" so I respect their stance, even if I don't agree - not many in science and medicine out there take a stand. If you've been to a skeptics meeting only to have them ridicule religion and Bigfoot while James Randi got excoriated for asking awkward questions on global warming because the science is settled, you know what I mean. 

    Obviously the downside to broadening the scope of when to terminate life is that it can be on the low end, and then suddenly on the other end, then suddenly for all kinds of reasons, depending on who creates the standards.  So these folks are good for starting a conversation but they can never be on a policy committee.
    Regarding the purported logic of their suggestion, On Logic and Lunacy by G.K.Chesterton does seem to have some bearing.  Here is an entertaining extract:
    Some journalist the other day shook the foundation of the universe and the British Empire by raising the question of whether a girl ought to smoke a cigar. But what I noted about his, and about the hundred eager correspondents who pursued this great theme, was that they wrote again and again some such sentence as this: ‘If you like a girl to smoke a cigarette, why can’t you be logical and like her to smoke a cigar?’ Now I do not care an ounce of shag whether she smokes a cigarette or a cigar or a corn-cob pipe or a hubble-bubble, or whether she smokes three cigars at once, or whether she is an Anti-Tobacco crank. But it is none the less true that when a man writes that sentence telling us to ‘be logical’, he shows that he has never even heard of the nature of logic. He might just as well write: ‘You like the look of a horse; why won’t you be logical and like the look of a hippopotamus?’ The only answer is, ‘Well, I don’t; and it is not illogical, because it does not in any way invade the realm of logic.
    The subject is, alas, much too serious to regale you all with any of my own flippancies.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    The subject is, alas, much too serious to regale you all with any of my own flippancies.
    I think this topic, and the article it is about, needs such flippancies more than the world needs a cure for cancer.
    Elsewhere, I offered the suggestion that Giubilini and Minerva might be confronted by a Time Lord, who would offer them the choice of retracting their statement or of never having existed.  Someone replied:
    I find the idea of a time travelling public censor swanning through the fourth dimension deleting the utterers of ideas he disapproved of even more frightening than the possibility that we really are permitting mass manslaughter, to be honest. 
    Which of course makes sense.  However, as a thought experiment, it might be salutary for those ethicists.
    It's beyond my ability to understand why so many object to the paper in question or its conclusions. The authors start with the widely accepted premise that a newborn baby is not a person and therefore has no "moral right to life." Given that, and the completely logical arguments that follow, I can't see how anyone would have any qualms about "after-birth abortion." Not if that's what the mother wants, not even if the newborn is completely healthy. 

    The life or death decision is the mother's and the mother's alone, for any reason or for no reason. Whatever she decides, she deserves a guilt-free choice. It's not as if she wants to harm her newborn baby by inflicting pain: what she wants for it is a swift, painless death. It has nothing to do with the father: the father has no say. None. Giubilini and Minerva made that clear in their paper. The word father didn't appear once. Not one single time. What fathers have to say or what they want is completely beside the point. Their opinions are just like their newborn offspring -- of no value whatsoever. 

     The authors start with the widely accepted premise that a newborn baby is not a person and therefore has no "moral right to life." Given that, and the completely logical arguments that follow, I can't see how anyone would have any qualms about "after-birth abortion." Not if that's what the mother wants, not even if the newborn is completely healthy. 
    The obvious answer is that most people are not moral relativists.  Clearly you are, but contending it is logical to have no cultural standard on when it is right to kill is silly.  Moral relativism may be fine for you, if you are in a first world country and living in a nice area, because it is an academic exercise - you never actually see the results of moral relativism in lawless societies and someone does not just 'abort' you.

    Your contention that a newborn is not a person and that it is a 'widely accepted premise' shows us you are out of touch with the real world. Are you a humanities professor?  What circle do you run in where that is a widely accepted premise?
    Gerhard Adam
    The authors start with the widely accepted premise that a newborn baby is not a person and therefore has no "moral right to life." Given that, and the completely logical arguments that follow.
    There's so many things wrong with this statement, it's hard to know where to begin.  First of all this is NOT a widely accept premise and warrants a significant amount of definition before it would even qualify.  Arguing that a "newborn baby is not a person" is unjustifiable by any standard regarding what constitutes "personhood".  A newborn baby is clearly a separately existing organism and despite whatever dependencies might exist on others, it is clearly a "person" by any reasonable definition.

    However, what's a more serious problem is that you would conflate "personhood" with a "moral right to life".  What does that even mean?  While there is arguably no "right to life", when you attach morality to it, you are attaching a social value and immediately lose any philosophical basis for the argument.  In other words, if a culture determines that such infanticide is acceptable then it is, and if society does not, then it is not.  You cannot use it as a means of justification, because it is society that establishes the morality on which your justification is based.

    Therefore if the majority of people feel that it is wrong, then it is wrong.  No further argument is possible [using such a "moral" standard].  This forces one to conclude that no logical arguments are possible because the premise is improperly formulated.

    Let's get back to some basics though.  You cannot simply use a "right to life" [moral or otherwise] as a premise without explaining where such a right is derived and what it means.  By conflating it with personhood, you're implying that no other organism has such a "right" and yet you fundamentally fail in explaining why it should only apply to humans.  So, even if you want to argue that humans convey such a right, you will be hard-pressed to explain how such a "right" is enforceable, especially when it may be subject to the actions of other organisms which you refuse to grant such a right.

    In short, it's an immature and childish argument that doesn't warrant any serious consideration let alone to be assigned the property of being considered "logical".
    Mundus vult decipi