During the aftermath of Roe V. Wade in 1973 there was outcry from those that opposed the decision. As has been the case whenever the topic of abortion comes up in society, the outcry contained a thread of the argument that “if abortion is made legal, then where do we stop? Will we kill infants next?”
Whenever I have had that argument thrown at me (because in many people’s mind you are either ‘pro-choice’ or ‘pro-life’, you can’t fall in the inbetween as I do.) I have come right back with “that’s a slippery slope argument. It’s not reasonable to assume that will be the next step in society. That would never happen.”
It appears that I was mistaken (I know, crazy,but it does happen occasionally) and, like the title of this post says, that slope was a lot more slippery than I expected.
Of course, how could I possibly expect that anyone would ever advocate for making infanticide legal? I suppose I just hold the morality of mankind to a much higher standard than I should.
Or maybe ethicists are just the scum of the earth. British ones at least.*
When I first saw this headline, I was sure it was just a joke article from The Onion.
Unfortunately I was wrong.
Then I saw it was Breibart.com and I thought: “Okay, I better double check these facts.”
And so I followed the story back to the British news site for The Telegraph.
Where I read this headline: Killing babies no different from abortion, experts say[.]
At this point my mouth was hanging open in disbelief and I was making a sort of “cat with it’s tail under a rocking chair” type of noise (according to my mother, I don’t recall this.) and I’m pretty sure I was about to fly to Great Britain and start punching ethicists one after another.**
So what is the argument these ethicists are using to justify this insane view?
The article, entitled “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?”, was written by two of Prof Savulescu’s former associates, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva.
They argued: “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.”
Rather than being “actual persons”, newborns were “potential persons”. They explained: “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’.
“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.”
As such they argued it was “not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense”.
The authors therefore concluded 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”.
My initial reaction to this was “why are they only using the female pronoun? And are Feminists going to get up in arms about that?
Then I started wondering whether these ‘ethicists’ were “individual[s] who [are] capable of attributing to [their] own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to [them].”
Because I’m not seeing any “basic value” in their existence.
and finally, if this ever became a law, then where do you draw the line.
A six year old doesn’treallyunderstand “existence” or the loss of it. So, if that’s the case, can I kill my six year old daughter because she’s mentally deficient or just a nuisance to my life?
For that matter, what about the mentally retarded adults in the world. They are a burden on their family or a burden on society and don’t really understand death or loss, nor are they providing much value to the world. So can we just start killing them off as well?
Or how about the old, especially those suffering with senility or Alzheimer’s?
People in a coma? Yup, flip the switch.***
Where do you draw the line on what constitutes a person, with human rights, when you start this sort of dithering over this sort of thing.
More than one person in the comment section of the Telegraph article posited that perhaps this a “devil’s advocate” type of article, or perhaps a tongue-in-cheek “A Modest Proposal: Part 2” sort of thing. Where the attempt was to showcase how morally wrong abortion is.
Oh how I wish this was true, even if it meant that they were sorely mistaken (in my opinion) on the morality of pre-viability abortion.
However, I don’t reasonably see how this could be the case. If this was merely an opinion piece on a blog, then ‘devil’s advocacy’ could be claimed, but this was published in the Oxford Journal of Medical Ethics, I’m not sure that is a viable platform for devil’s advocacy.
After all, the editor of the Journal, Professor Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, told The Telegraph:
“The goal of the Journal of Medical Ethics is not to present the Truth or promote some one moral view. It is to present well reasoned argument based on widely accepted premises.”
Which does not lend well to the “They are only playing devil’s advocate”.****
Lastly, I’d like to, sadly, point out that this is not a new (or uniquely British view) as this exchange between Rick Santorum and Sen. Barbara Boxer (0f California) in 1999.*****
SANTORUM: If the baby’s foot was inside the mother but the rest of the baby was outside, could that baby be killed?
BOXER: The baby is born when the baby is born. That is the answer to the question.
SANTORUM: I am asking for you to define for me what that is: the baby is being born.
BOXER: In the process of being born, to me it is obvious when a baby is born; to you it isn’t obvious.
SANTORUM: Maybe you can make it obvious to me. What you are suggesting is if the baby’s toe is still inside of the mother that baby can then still be killed?
BOXER: Absolutely not.
SANTORUM: OK. So if the baby’s toe is in, you can’t kill the baby. How about if the baby’s foot is in? We are trying to draw a line here.
BOXER: I am not answering these questions.
I say that if you cannot answer (0r will not, which only means that you can’t answer them in a humane or non-disgusting way, in my opinion) then you are showing your hand as being the same one that these British Ethicists have played.
And it’s a thoroughly disgusting hand to play. One that I have absolutely no qualms about labeling evil in the extreme.
*Sorry Great Britain. I love your history, your science fiction, and your literature…but really!
**Then I remembered that a flight to Great Britain costs money, something that I don’t have much of right now.
***I actually do have opinions on assisted suicide, DNRs, and living wills that are much different than my opinion on this topic, but bear with while I make a point.
****Also, if this is a “widely accepted premise” then the world is a very sad and scary place.
*****Both are uniquely disgusting people, in their own ways.