Massacre of the Innocent Non-Persons
The Slippery Slope to Infanticide
One’s first instinct, after the initial shock and sheer, visceral disgust, is to disregard the argument put forth by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva in their paper, “After-birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?” But, I think that would be a mistake. This is not some random rant on an anonymous website from the outer reaches of the blogosphere. This is a scholarly paper published in the Journal of Medical Ethics; a respected, peer-reviewed academic journal that covers the field of medical ethics. No, it should not be ignored. If anything, I think this piece is something of a trial balloon, perhaps even a moral anesthetic of sorts, shocking us initially, but getting the idea out there in an attempt to numb us into slowly accepting the premise that a newborn baby is not a person.
So, what exactly are Giubilini and Minerva proposing? Here is the abstract from their paper:
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.
In other words, post-natal abortion should be allowed because the fetus’ “personhood” has yet to be established because the newborn is not “capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.” According to the authors, simply being a human does not mean that you have a right to life. Simply being a human does not mean that you are a person. A newborn, being incapable of having internally derived aims, goals, expectations or any real self-awareness, is no different that the pre-natal fetus and should be subject to the same abortion laws as the unborn. A newborn baby, it is claimed, is no more deserving of life than an inanimate object and less deserving than an animal, which does have self-awareness.
A newborn baby, even a healthy one, has no right to live. That is one of the interesting points of the piece. Life becomes the subject of a cost-benefit analysis. To quote the authors:
“…having a child can itself be an unbearable burden for the psychological health of the woman or for her already existing children, regardless of the condition of the fetus.”
In other words, a perfectly healthy baby which is born to a mother who finds caring for the child to be too stressful, should be able to terminate, post-partum.
Again, regarding children born with birth defects:
“…to bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole…”
This is where it gets particularly relevant to the United States. There is virtually no restriction on the funding of abortion through Obamacare. The federal government had long operated under the auspices of the Hyde Amendment; the pretense that abortion was just too controversial to allow taxpayers’ money to be used for any kind of abortion services. But, state exchanges that were established by Obamacare, and receive federal subsidies, are allowed to cover abortion services. As a result, the president’s healthcare law represents the biggest expansion of abortion access in the history of the country as federal monies are filtered down to the states to cover any service the states deems appropriate.
So, if at some point the newborn is designated as being no different than the fetus, what kind of access to healthcare can he or she expect if they are not even considered a “person”? And, will the same committees (the “death panels”) that can ration out services to those it deems worthy, get a say in the life of the newly born non-person? If the value of the newborn is to be weighed against the cost to his/her family and to society at-large, what if the panel deems the newborn to be too costly to live, contrary to even the mother’s wishes? Who will get the final say? If a mother wishes to raise her Down Syndrome newborn, can the panel deny healthcare on the basis that the child is a non-person and too costly to society? Could the panel choose to terminate the life of the newborn, even against the mother’s wishes, due to the newborns drag on society-at-large?
Maybe this is a slippery slope that we will never encounter. Then again, maybe Giubilini and Minerva are already firing shots in the war to legalize infanticide. The National Catholic Register contends that the second we allow ourselves to become the arbiters of who is human and who isn’t, this will be the calamitous yet inevitable end. Once you say all human life is not sacred, the rest is just drawing random lines in the sand. Lines are being drawn now.