The Journal of Medical Ethics recently published a paper by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, two ethicists who argue that infanticide, or what they call "after-birth abortion," should be permissible, even if the baby is perfectly healthy.
Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus' health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, 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.
Of course arguments like these are nothing new.
Eugenics is hardly a relic of the past
Eugenics, "the racist pseudoscience determined to wipe away all human beings deemed 'unfit'," has been with us for a very long time.
The idea was created in the United States, and cultivated in California, decades before Hitler came to power. California eugenicists played an important, although little known, role in the American eugenics movement's campaign for ethnic cleansing.
Elements of the philosophy were enshrined as national policy by forced sterilization and segregation laws, as well as marriage restrictions … Ultimately, eugenics practitioners coercively sterilized some 60,000 Americans, barred the marriage of thousands, forcibly segregated thousands in "colonies," and persecuted untold numbers in ways we are just learning.
Eugenics was born as a scientific curiosity in the Victorian age. In 1863, Sir Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, theorized that if talented people only married other talented people, the result would be measurably better offspring. At the turn of the last century, Galton's ideas were imported into the United States just as Gregor Mendel's principles of heredity were rediscovered. American eugenic advocates believed with religious fervor that the same Mendelian concepts determining the color and size of peas, corn and cattle also governed the social and intellectual character of man.
Elitists, utopians and so-called "progressives" fused their smoldering race fears and class bias with their desire to make a better world. They reinvented Galton's eugenics into a repressive and racist ideology. The intent: populate the earth with vastly more of their own socio-economic and biological kind--and less or none of everyone else.
Only after eugenics became entrenched in the United States was the campaign transplanted into Germany, in no small measure through the efforts of California eugenicists, who published booklets idealizing sterilization and circulated them to German official and scientists.
In 1972, professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado Michael Tooley, argued that a human being "possess[es] a serious right to life only if it possesses the concept of a self as a continuing subject of experiences and other mental states, and believes that it is itself such a continuing entity." Determining infants don't meet these qualifications, Tooley declares there should be "some period of time, such as a week after birth, as the interval during which infanticide will be permitted."
Many other ethicists have argued the same or similar.
In 1993, ethicist Peter Singer shocked many Americans by suggesting that no newborn should be considered a person until 30 days after birth and that the attending physician should kill some disabled babies on the spot … In 1979 he wrote, "Human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons"; therefore, "the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee."
Instead of upgrading the fetus to the status of a person, however, Peter Singer downgrades the newborn to the status of nonperson because newborns, like fetuses, are incapable "of seeing themselves as distinct entities, existing over time" … In fact, some acts of infanticide are less problematic than killing a happy cat … Singer's logic can be summed up this way: Until a baby is capable of self-awareness, there is no controlling reason not to kill it to serve the preferences of the parents.
As for the doctrine of the "sanctity of human life," it is nothing but "speciesism," an irrational prejudice rooted in outdated religious traditions (e.g., Christianity). Insofar as some human beings are incapable of reasoning, remembering, and self-awareness, they cannot be considered persons. Put simply, dogs, cats, and dolphins are persons, while fetuses, newborns, and some victims of Alzheimer's disease are not.
[Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at the august Massachusetts Institute of Technology] argues as follows: Killing a newborn infant should not be penalized as harshly as killing an older child. "To a biologist, birth is as arbitrary a milestone as any other," Pinker says. Pinker says babies aren't real people because they don't have "an ability to reflect upon (themselves) as a continuous locus of consciousness, to form and savor plans for the future, to dread death and to express the choice not to die. And there's the rub: Our immature neonates don't possess these traits any more than mice do."
According to Pinker, "Several moral philosophers have concluded that neonates (infants) are not persons, and thus neonaticide (killing an infant) should not be classified as murder."
Pinker favors a system where "A new mother will first coolly assess the infant and her situation" and then decide whether to keep the baby or kill it.
Like those before them, Giubilini and Minerva argue that "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'." Got that? Is not a person. But as Matthew Archbold says,
The second we allow ourselves to become the arbiters of who is human and who isn't, this is the calamitous yet inevitable end. Once you say all human life is not sacred, the rest is just drawing random lines in the sand.
Before we consider the ramifications of declaring a newborn baby a "non-person," consider the following words from Judge Andrew Napolitano.
Roe vs. Wade itself does not define the right to an abortion, but it does unambiguously declare that the baby in the womb is not a person, and that the right to privacy protects the mother's decision to kill the baby.
Did you catch that? The Supreme Court declared that the baby in the womb is not a person. When it made that declaration, it rejected dozens of decisions of other courts, in America and in Great Britain, holding that the baby in the womb is a person. This is reminiscent of the Supreme Court's infamous Dred Scott decision in 1857 in which it ruled that blacks were not persons.
If the baby in the womb is a person, then all abortion is unlawful. That's because of the constitutional protection for all persons. The Constitution unambiguously prohibits the government from impairing or permitting others to impair the life, liberty and property of persons without due process.
How scary is this? The Supreme Court declares a class of humanity not to be persons, and then permits people to destroy the members of the class. That's what happened to blacks during slavery; that was the philosophical argument underlying the Holocaust; that's what is happening to babies in the womb today; and that might become the basis for the government killing persons it hates or fears in the future. It will declare them to be non-persons.
How scary is this? It's happening to people today.
After hearing passionate arguments from the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court acquiesced to the president's fervent request and, in a one-line ruling, let stand a lower court decision that declared torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention, while introducing a shocking new precedent for all future courts to follow: anyone who is arbitrarily declared a "suspected enemy combatant" by the president or his designated minions is no longer a "person" … They will have no inherent rights, no human rights, no legal standing whatsoever …
This extraordinary ruling occasioned none of those deep-delving "process stories" that glut the pages of the New York Times, where the minutiae of policy-making or political gaming is examined in highly-spun, microscopic detail doled out by self-interested insiders. Obviously, giving government the power to render whole classes of people "unpersons" was not an interesting subject for our media arbiters.
But William Fisher noticed, and gave this report at Antiwar.com:
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal Monday to review a lower court's dismissal of a case brought by four British former Guantanamo prisoners against former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the detainees' lawyers charged Tuesday that the country's highest court evidently believes that "torture and religious humiliation are permissible tools for a government to use."
… Channeling their predecessors in the George W. Bush administration, Obama Justice Department lawyers argued in this case that there is no constitutional right not to be tortured or otherwise abused in a U.S. prison abroad.
The Obama administration had asked the court not to hear the case. By agreeing, the court let stand an earlier opinion by the D.C. Circuit Court, which found that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – a statute that applies by its terms to all "persons" – did not apply to detainees at Guantanamo, effectively ruling that the detainees are not persons at all for purposes of U.S. law.
The Constitution is clear: no person can be held without due process; no person can be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. And the U.S. law on torture of any kind is crystal clear: it is forbidden, categorically, even in time of "national emergency." And the instigation of torture is, under U.S. law, a capital crime. No person can be tortured, at any time, for any reason, and there are no immunities whatsoever for torture offered anywhere in the law.
[L]et's be absolutely clear: Barack Obama has taken the freely chosen, public, formal stand -- in court -- that there is nothing wrong with any of these activities. Nothing to answer for, nothing meriting punishment or even civil penalties.
And still further: Barack Obama has now declared, openly, of his own free will, that he does not consider these captives to be "persons." They are, literally, sub-humans. And what makes them sub-humans? The fact that someone in the U.S. government has declared them to be "suspected enemy combatants." (And note: even the mere suspicion of being an "enemy combatant" can strip you of your personhood.)
One co-counsel on the case, Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights, zeroed in on the noxious quintessence of the position taken by the Court, and by our first African-American president: its chilling resemblance to the notorious Dred Scott ruling of 1857, which upheld the principle of slavery. As Fisher notes:
"Another set of claims are dismissed because Guantanamo detainees are not 'persons' within the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – an argument that was too close to Dred Scott v. Sanford for one of the judges on the court of appeals to swallow," he added.
The Dred Scott case was a decision by the United States Supreme Court in 1857. It ruled that people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves, or their descendants — whether or not they were slaves — were not protected by the Constitution and could never be citizens of the United States.
And now, once again, 144 years after the Civil War, we have established as the law of the land and the policy of the United States government that whole classes of people can be declared "non-persons" and have their liberty stripped away …
What's that you say? I can't happen here?
Any standard US history text will at least mention, in passing, the suppression of American antiwar dissent in World War I. The great conservative sociologist, the late Robert Nisbet, wrote in 1988 that:
"The blunt fact is that when [under Woodrow Wilson] America was introduced to the War State in 1917, it was introduced also to what would later be known as the total, or totalitarian, state."
A bit harsh, what? American historians really hate coming to grips with what happened in America, starting in April 1917. They so fail because a fair reading would entail some responsibility for St. Woodrow, who oversaw the whole sorry show.
All free communication came to an end. People were arrested and indicted for casual remarks made in private conversation. It was not the New Left of the 1960s that actually invented the claim that the personal is the political – it was the United States government.
A great wave of repression came down on "the freest people in the world," as Americans liked to call themselves. Government gumshoes, federal, state, and local, delighted in following up idle charges of "disloyalty," "treason," "pro-Germanism," and "slacking." Legislatures outlawed the teaching of the German language and the public performance of music by such dangerous Teutons as Beethoven. Wilson and the administration – in charge of the enlarged federal apparatus of repression – encouraged, aided, and abetted local efforts, including those of self-appointed, hyperthyroid "patriotic" snoops and bullies. Tarring and feathering came back in style for those accused of the "crimes" mentioned above. Here and there, a local Barney Fife, or an Army officer who hadn’t quite made it over to Northern France, would shoot a "traitor" for saying the wrong thing in a public place. The hero would then be tried for it, acquitted, and finally, lionized in the moronic press.
Not fully satisfied with their good works so far, many hotheads and morons in positions of public authority demanded redoubled efforts to ferret out "traitors" and "slackers." They called for military courts to try domestic dissenters. Firing squads, they said, should be kept busy, full time. I am leaving out the names of these authentically American Robespierres to spare the feelings of their descendants, who might perhaps agree that these fellows were vicious idiots.
When not satisfied with forcing supposed "traitors" to kiss the flag or sing the praises of the Archangel Woodrow, mobs of patriotic fellows would occasionally hang someone. Meanwhile, Congress, deliberating again, strengthened the Espionage Act to criminalize whatever microscopic bit of free discussion might accidentally still remain. Congress even considered outlawing all discussion of the origins of the war or how America entered, which would have effectively ended all work by historians. Fortunately, however, many of the historians were otherwise employed – in producing propaganda for the cause. For a good discussion of these matters, see H. C. Peterson and Gilbert C. Fite, Opponents of War, 1917-1918 (University of Wisconsin Press, 1957).
Yes, it already has.
What about ObamaCare?
Now consider just one practical example of how personhood theory could soon deleteriously impact the well-being of you and your family. Obamacare has centralized control of health care into the federal bureaucracy, including by establishing a plethora of cost/benefit boards that will start operating within the next several years. Who do you think will be tapped to fill many of these powerful government positions that could ultimately decide what medical procedures will and won't be covered by insurance — perhaps even which patients will and won't receive them? Bingo! "Experts" trained in bioethics.
Now consider what could happen if many or most of these board members adhere to the noxious view that "human non-persons" do not have a right to life: To say the least, the potential for "death panels" comes vividly into focus.
Now that we've reduced the sanctity of life to merely drawing lines in the sand, those with the biggest guns, will ultimately decide who lives or dies.
The Ultimate Government Solution.
Related to "After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?":
- Eugenics: Progressivism's Ultimate Social Engineering
- Socialism, Fascism, Racism, Eugenics and Militarism
- Killing Baby "Non Persons"–Just Grist for Bioethics Mill
- Orwellian Newspeak and Postnatal or After-Birth "abortion"
- Do Catholics Have Too Many Babies?
- Planned Parenthood
- Sex-selective Abortions and the Anti-choice People Who Oppose Them
- Measuring the Immeasurable
- War Against The Weak
- Obama's bad moves on infanticide come back to haunt him
- New Bill Known As Enemy Expatriation Act Would Allow Government To Strip Citizenship Without Conviction