Article Advocating 'After-Birth Abortion' Mugs Liberals with Reality

Conservatives were horrified when the Journal of Medical Ethics published an article advocating "after-birth abortion" for handicapped, or just inconvenient, babies.  They are correct that it is a disgusting piece of amoral analysis, but that is its virtue.  As much as conservatives hate it, progressives hate it more.  Many are convinced that it's a plant by the pro-life crowd.  What progressives cannot articulate, but intuitively understand, is that by applying a reductio ad absurdum approach to the notion of abortion, the article forces pro-abortion people to confront the Big Lie that underpins their willingness to terminate a pregnancy, even an advanced one.

Francesca Minerva and Alberto Giubilini have advanced a very simple proposition, which is that only "a person" deserves to live:

The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.


Both 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.'

In the authors' lexicon, to be a "person" deserving of life, one has to have a cognitive sense of self, akin to Descartes' proposition that "I think, therefore I am":

We take 'person' to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.

Because babies lack a higher existential sense, they have no greater right to life than other biological entities without an existential sense of self -- say, for example, a cockroach or chicken.  Downgrading a baby's status from "person" to something equivalent to a cockroach leads to the next step in the analysis, which is that adults have the absolute right to terminate this living, breathing non-person's existence:

[W]hat 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.

We've been down this path before.  It ended in Auschwitz.

For the pro-abortion crowd, the problem with the article's analysis is that it reveals the amoral, illogical, unscientific approach justifying the current no-holds-barred approach to abortion.  The article says a baby is not a person, but only a potential person.  The pro-abortionist says the fetus is not a baby, but only potential baby.  "It" (with "It" being the proto-person) begins as a zygote, then becomes a thing indistinguishable from a similarly situated chicken or a dog thing, and then slowly develops into a potential human.  While in the womb, It does not breath or eat, nor does It think or have an awareness of itself or of others.  It is a simulacrum of a person; It looks like a baby but lacks minimum human attributes.  Being un-human, It therefore has no right to life.

Many pro-abortion folks are uncomfortably aware, at least at a subliminal level, that this is a Big Lie.  With modern medicine, fetuses that have passed the 24-week stage can become part of the breathing, eating, communicating, aware, thinking world, simply by being born.  More importantly, biological reality is that all fetuses, from conception onward, are nascent persons.  Just as life outside the womb is a continuum from cradle to grave, with the soft, fuzzy baby becoming the desiccated centenarian, so too is there a continuum within the womb, as the zygote transitions into a fully fledged -- and viable -- infant.

The after-birth abortion article, by applying to a viable infant the same logic that the pro-abortion crowd applies to a fetus, explodes the magical thinking that allows people to pretend that the continuum of life begins at birth, not at conception.  The article's authors are exactly right when they analyze an infant: the baby doesn't have existential awareness, no more than next week's dinner does.  Just as the cow whose flank will one day make a nice stew doesn't stand around in the pasture thinking, "Yes, the grass is sweet and the air fresh, but tomorrow I die," neither does the infant think, "I really like this lady who's holding me in her arms and filling my tummy.  I just hope she doesn't suddenly decide to kill me."

Both cow and infant live in a world of feeling.  The difference is that the infant, unlike the cow, will eventually develop a greater awareness, one that includes recognizing its mortality.  Because this existential awareness develops long after infancy passes, the article's ineluctable logic allows a mother to kill her four-year-old because he's too expensive or just because she dislikes the way motherhood suddenly has her shopping at Costco.

Most pro-abortion people are not horrible human beings.  Instead, they have been conditioned to believe that "a woman's right to choose" is a moral end in itself, and one that trumps all other considerations.  To sustain this belief system, they must buy into the little deceptions that feed the Big Lie about a fetus's lack of humanity.  None of these people, however, can pretend that a living, breathing baby, even one with a birth defect, is not a human.  Reading an article that advocates a living child's death horrifies them.  The further realization that the article repeats the same tropes that underlie their pro-abortion views is a sledgehammer shattering the cognitive dissonance behind which they hide.

Despite the ugliness of this post-birth abortion article, many pro-abortion people will continue down their current path.  They'll castigate the article for being evil, either on its own terms or as a malevolent pro-life plant, but they'll still say that women must have the right to terminate a pregnancy if they know that they (or society) cannot manage the costs or inconvenience an infant will cause.  If challenged, they'll have left only non sequiturs about "the right to choose" and "government off my uterus."

What makes the article valuable is that other people, more thoughtful people, people who have been affected by seeing sonograms of their own baby or their little niece or nephew, will find unsustainable the cognitive dissonance that the article creates.  They will no longer be able to pretend that the fetus isn't deserving of life because it doesn't have an existential sense.  They will understand that, if one accepts the article's logic, one has opened an easy pathway to killing any people who arguably lack self-awareness.  It's a death knell for those with head injuries, advanced brain tumors, serious stroke deficits, Alzheimer's, etc.  The next step is to look at an entire group of people and conclude that, by virtue of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, etc., that group lacks personhood and doesn't deserve to live either.

Whether Francesca Minerva and Alberto Giubilini are the genuine moral monsters they appear to be or are skillful counter-propagandists, they have done the world a valuable service by focusing on the reality behind abortion's culture of death.  It's not about "a woman's right to choose."  It is, as they explicitly state, about whether a human deserves to live.

Bookworm is the proprietor of the website Bookworm Room.

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