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Is killing newborns really 'no different' than abortion?
A paper in an ethics journal argues that neither fetuses nor newborns are "actual persons" yet, so the same rules should apply to both
 
Two Australian ethicists argue that "after-birth abortion" is "no different to abortion" during pregnancy, since both fetuses and newborns are unaware of their own existence.
Two Australian ethicists argue that "after-birth abortion" is "no different to abortion" during pregnancy, since both fetuses and newborns are unaware of their own existence.
David Leahy/Juice Images/Corbis

Two ethicists from Australia's Melbourne University have inspired a fierce backlash by suggesting that killing newborn babies "should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is." The professors, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, argue in an article published in the British Journal of Medical Ethics that neither fetuses nor newborns have "the same moral status as actual persons" because they're not yet aware of their own existence — so "after-birth abortion" is "no different to abortion" during pregnancy. The authors have reportedly received a torrent of angry responses — even death threats — from appalled readers. Is there any legitimate reason to make such a shocking and provocative proposal?

This isn't so crazy: Biologically, at least, Giubilini and Minerva are "on firm ground," says Nelson Jones at New Statesman. Human babies are born prematurely by mammalian standards, so a newborn baby is "in many ways still a fetus" who is "wholly dependent" on adults to care for him for months, if not years. The ethicists simply raise "the valid question of when any abortion law should draw the line," since our opinions on when a person becomes a person are somewhat arbitrary.
"Justifying infanticide"

Huh? This argument is "repellent": "Academics are and should be free to entertain monstrous ideas," says Andrew Brown at Britian's The Guardian. "But that does not trump the freedom of the rest of us to be repelled by their monstrosity." Serious philosophers have argued that there's "no huge moral difference" between a baby in the birth canal and one who has just "emerged into the world." But it's absurd and disgusting to leap from there to saying it's OK to kill newborns. Is this article "self parody"?
"Infanticide is repellent. Feeling that way doesn't make you Glenn Beck"

But the ethicists do fuel a strong argument against abortion: "The vast majority of the civilized — and, frankly, uncivilized — world" no doubt sees this argument as "beyond repugnant," says Jonah Goldberg at National Review. Nevertheless, these so-called ethicists "are providing a valuable service insofar as they are making plain the logic supporting abortion." Abortion opponents always said legalizing abortion put us on a "slippery slope" toward infanticide. They were right.
"The pro-life, pro-infanticide consensus"

 

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