Infanticide on Demand

In ancient Rome, the paterfamilias had the power of life or death over his children from birth onward.  After a baby was born, the midwife put it on the floor.  If the father picked the child up, it was formally a member of the family.  If not, the infant was exposed to the elements on a hillside, where it would die of exposure or be devoured by wild animals.  Sometimes the child was picked up by slave-dealers, who were interested in raising the children to a marketable age, then selling them for work in such professions as prostitution.

The Roman father's absolute right to kill his children was challenged by Christians, who, along with those who followed Judaism, forbade infanticide.

Eventually, due to the influence of Christianity, infanticide was almost completely erased from the West.  Parents' absolute right to do what they wished with their newborn children was bounded by the law, even though the practice would continue sporadically outside the law.  Direct advocacy for and promulgation of infanticide virtually died out, with the notable exception of dictatorial regimes such as the Third Reich.

Until now.

Recently, advocates for the parental right to kill unwanted newborns have appeared in the forms of Drs. Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, whose paper for the Australian Journal of Medical Ethics advocates "after birth abortion."

Giubilini's and Minerva's main argument consists of the relentless logic which pro-life advocates predicted would be an eventual consequence of the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court of the U.S. in 1973.  That decision essentially permitted abortion on demand throughout the entire nine months of gestation.  Pro-life advocates predicted that the arguments in favor of abortion could just as easily be applied to newborns and the elderly as well as any other "undesirable" group of human beings.  The decision set morality concerning human life tumbling down a slippery slope, they argued.  If a fetus could be declared not human or deserving of rights, then newborns' lives would also be jeopardized -- to say nothing of the elderly and chronically ill.

The slippery slope argument has long been scorned by the liberal left, who adamantly denied that born human beings would also eventually be subject to death sentences handed out to the unborn.   Preposterous, the left cried.  A logical fallacy!  Never would happen!  "B" does not follow "A"!

But Giubilini and Minerva have used the slippery slope argument in favor of infanticide, thereby showing that pro-life advocates correctly predicted such a logical development.

Among the arguments the doctors utilize:

A serious philosophical problem arises when the same conditions that would have justified abortion become known after birth.  In such cases, we need to assess facts in order to decide whether the same arguments that apply to killing a human fetus can also be consistently applied to killing a newborn human.

There are, after all, the good doctors argue, abnormalities which cannot be detected until after birth.  Such deformities render the child's life "not worth living." 

To those who protest that children with physical and/or mental handicaps can lead quite happy lives, Giubilini and Minerva reply:

None the less, to bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care. On these grounds, the fact that a fetus has the potential to become a person who will have an (at least) acceptable life is no reason for prohibiting abortion.  Therefore, we argue that, when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after birth abortion should be permissible.

Both doctors go on to write that the newborn and the fetus are morally equivalent.  Both are human beings and "potential persons," but since neither is in the position of attributing any value to his or her existence or able to articulate any aims in life, neither is a person.  It follows that "[m]erely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life."

To be human, the doctors argue, a newborn must have aims in life, must be able to appreciate life.  Since a newborn does not have aims or appreciation, "[i]t is not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense."  In other words, no harm is done to the newborn if she is killed, for she is not like you and me -- a real person.

Now, where have we heard the "not a real person" arguments before?  Need we once again say the argument of not being a real human has been used against undesirable and unwanted groups of human beings over and over again, Jews and blacks being some of the humans who have been labeled "not real persons"?

Giubilini and Minerva suggest a cutoff point for infanticide, allowing a few days for decision-making.  In this opinion, they are following the "scientific" reasoning of Francis Crick, who declared that a child is not fully human until three days after birth. 

Both doctors go through a laundry list of reasons for abortions, which they now believe should apply post birth to newborns, handicapped or normal.  The parents, whose well-being is the primary concern, are to have absolute choice as to whether or not their baby lives.

Even adoption is not seen as a good alternative, as giving up the newborn might cause the parents emotional harm.  Better to kill the baby than that the mother be upset about giving up her child.

What we are suggesting is that, if interests of actual people [the parents] should prevail, then after-birth abortion should be considered a permissible option for women who would be damaged by giving up their newborns for adoption.

Their conclusion:

If criteria such as the costs (social, psychological, economic) for the potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the fetus is healthy, if the moral status of the newborn is the same as that of the infant and if neither has any moral value by virtue of being a potential person, then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn.

So there we have it. 

Infanticide on demand is now to follow abortion on demand.  No argumentation for infanticide remains merely abstract or a mere verbal game.  Regardless of whether or not the authors were "only" ethicists, their article appeared in a respected medical journal and should be taken seriously.  Lest any reader think our current president and administration would adamantly oppose such measures as Giubilini and Minerva advocate, it is well to recall that our president voted against saving the lives of babies who somehow escape being killed by abortion.  He also voted in favor of partial-birth abortion. 

The slippery slope argument of pro-life advocates has been vindicated by leftists who formerly ridiculed the argument as absurd.  The arguments of Giubilini and Minerva follow a gruesomely reversed and morally repugnant logic which now openly advocates the murder of infants.

Just as in ancient pagan Rome, parents are now to have absolute authority over their child's life.  Just as they presently have the absolute authority to decide to abort their unborn children for any reason or no reason at all, so now they are to given the power to decide whether or not their newborn baby lives or dies, if the left gets its way.

Fay Voshell is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.  She may be reached at

If you experience technical problems, please write to