The Journal of Medical Ethics published an article this month that has many people questioning the value some may put on the human life. The abstract from The Journal of Medical Ethics article states:
“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.”
We’ve all heard the tale of a person who, suddenly finds himself with unwanted kittens or puppies, puts them in a sack tossing it in the river. Pet lovers everywhere hate this idea. They work tirelessly to save the animals, finding them good homes rather than early demise. Why? Because kittens grow into cats. We know to what family they belong.
Is the idea of killing a newborn any less repugnant? Has our society changed so much that we consider a newborn irrelevant just because we don’t want to be troubled with caring for it? Is infanticide or post-birth abortion equal to killing? Where do we draw the line? It is a slippery slope when we try to decide the value of a life. Why should an infant, of unknown potential be of less value than a bedridden elderly person? If a child…or an adult becomes brain injured should he be terminated?
Pro-life people have long argued that birth–on one side or the other–does not change the person-hood of the infant. International law follows that all human beings, regardless of age, are members of the human family and have equal rights to life. But these rules aren’t followed everywhere. Instead, many countries already acknowledge infanticide as a continuation of the abortion process. In the Netherlands where it is estimated 8% of infant deaths come at the hands of their own doctors infanticide is an acceptable option if a newborn has a poor prognosis for an ‘acceptable quality of life.’ Other countries have accepted the position that just being born a girl is reason enough for death. In Canada a woman was given a suspended sentence after killing her infant son; the judge stating that the unwanted pregnancy and childbirth placed onerous demands on the woman.
The authors question whether it is in the best interest of the child to be placed in an adoptive situation. Yes, there are times when natural and adoptive parents, foster families and other guardians misplace the trust placed in them and do not offer children the best opportunities they can. Is death the preferential option just because there is a possibility of problems? We watch with horror news stories of children killed by the parent. We rise up, en mass, and demand the parent be punished. But what makes them different from one who chooses an after-birth ‘abortion’? Is there a difference? What age does one gain ‘person-hood’? Can it be lost due to a traumatic event? Do human rights depend on the ‘capacity’ of the person? (It is worth doing a web search for people who survived abortion. People who are here with tremendous gifts and talents in a life that could have been extinguished all too quickly.)
We must answer these questions and more. Is an infant a person? Is personal convenience an acceptable reason for infanticide? We need to decide whether life is sacred. If we don’t; others will decide for us and no life will be off limits.