Bye-bye, baby! 135

This is from the Telegraph:

The article, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says newborn babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life”. The academics also argue that parents should be able to have their baby killed if it turns out to be disabled when it is born.

Before you say “Oh well, if it’s disabled …” please read on.

The article, entitled After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?, was written by 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.”

Note the “her”. If that was the only word you read in their manifesto of death, you’d know they were a pair of politically correct lefties.

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”.

Death – you must understand – is no damage at all to someone “becoming a person”.

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”.

They also argued that parents should be able to have the baby killed …

Note now the distance put between the condemners to death and the executioners. Just give the order, have it taken away to be done in, and think no more about it.

… if it turned out to be disabled without their knowing before birth, for example citing that “only the 64 per cent of Down’s syndrome cases” in Europe are diagnosed by prenatal testing.

Once such children were born there was “no choice for the parents but to keep the child”, they wrote.“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.”

“When the state provides …” Sure, let the state provide for you, and you are its thing. It can do what it will with you and your child. If a family cannot afford to keep a child, there is the possibility of finding foster parents or would-be adopters, but if the state has the final say … bye-bye, baby!

Well, in such a society, one in which the individual is a thing belonging to the state, maybe it is best to have no babies.

Is death preferable to slavery? Discuss.

Then back to the Telegraph’s report on the ideology of Giubilini and Minerva:

They did not argue that some baby killings were more justifiable than others – their fundamental point was that, morally, there was no difference to abortion as already practised.

They preferred to use the phrase “after-birth abortion” rather than “infanticide” to “emphasise that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus”.

… Minerva was a research associate at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics until last June, when she moved to the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Melbourne University.

Ah, “practical ethics”. None of your airy-fairy theories about right and wrong. It’s what’s practical that counts. If you don’t like the baby, why keep it? If the state’s budget for babies is all used up, away with this one.

And “public ethics”. There’s a phrase to conjure with. A whole “public” can now be deemed to have a conscience, to think, to arrive at a justifiable conclusion. Such a public we need to meet! A many-bodied monster with one head.

What Melbourne University means, of course, is a bunch of academics deciding what is good for “the public”. We’d rather meet the monster than the academics. We might call it “God”, just for fun.

Giubilini … too has gone on to Melbourne … to the city’s Monash University.

Defending [his] decision [to republish the article] in a British Medical Journal blog, Professor Savulescu said that arguments in favour of killing newborns were “largely not new”. What Minerva and Giubilini did was apply these arguments “in consideration of maternal and family interests”.

And the interests of the state.

While accepting that many people would disagree with their arguments, he wrote: “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.”

“Well reasoned arguments”: If your baby is a bother to you (or the state), it’s okay to kill it.

“Widely accepted premises”: If your baby is a bother to you (or the state), it’s okay to kill it.

But wait. It’s not the child you should feel sorry for – it’s Minerva and Giubilini who need your compassionate concern. Apparently the authors – former associates of the good professor – have been receiving death threats provoked by the publication of their article.

The journal’s editor, [that same] Prof Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, said the article’s authors had received death threats since publishing the article. He said those who made abusive and threatening posts about the study were “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society”.

“The very values of a liberal society”. If you don’t think parents should be allowed by law to call the exterminators and have the baby collected for the gas oven or whatever, you are opposed to the very values of a liberal society. Good grief – don’t you understand that approving the extermination of unwanted babies is the very essence of  liberal values? The contemporary liberal society is defined by that approval. Tolerance and open-mindedness are defined by it. Community co-operation is defined by it. To be opposed to it is wildly abnormal. Only sociopaths and fanatics would go so far as to raise an objection.

[Professor Savulescu] added: “This “debate” has been an example of “witch ethics” – a group of people know who the witch is and seek to burn her. It is one of the most dangerous human tendencies we have. It leads to lynching and genocide. Rather than argue and engage, there is a drive to silence and, in the extreme, kill, based on their own moral certainty. That is not the sort of society we should live in.”

See – he’s against extremism. He’s against killing. He’s against people acting on their own moral certainty.

So no doubt are Minerva and Guibilini.

If you thought otherwise, you must be not just illiberal and fanatical, but unable to comprehend a simple text written in plain English.


Note: We dealt with the Giubilini and Minerva thesis when it was first published. See our post The Nazi ethics of the left, March 5, 2012.

Posted under Commentary, Ethics by Jillian Becker on Saturday, August 10, 2013

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Questions of statism 230

In its February issue, the Journal of Medical Ethics published an article titled: After-birth abortion: why should the baby live? by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva.

Glenn Beck’s newscast The Blaze reports:

Alberto Giubilini with Monash University in Melbourne and Francesca Minerva at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne write that in “circumstances occur[ing] after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.”

The two are quick to note that they prefer the term “after-birth abortion“ as opposed to ”infanticide.” Why? Because it “[emphasizes] that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child.” The authors also do not agree with the term euthanasia for this practice as the best interest of the person who would be killed is not necessarily the primary reason his or her life is being terminated. In other words, it may be in the parents’ best interest to terminate the life, not the newborn’s.

The circumstances, the authors state, where after-birth abortion should be considered acceptable include instances where the newborn would be putting the well-being of the family at risk, even if it had the potential for an “acceptable” life. The authors cite Downs Syndrome as an example, stating that while the quality of life of individuals with Downs is often reported as happy, “such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.”

The editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, Professor Julian Savulescu, said that those who object are “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society”.

Regardless of your views on abortion – a subject that even atheists cannot, we have found to our dismay, debate rationally – we invite your reasoned arguments for or against the killing of children if their existence is inconvenient for their parents, or a burden on the welfare state.

If you are for it:

Under what age is a child disposable? 1 month, 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, 15 years? Why that age?

How should the child be killed?

Should a child be killed only if it is abnormal? Should all abnormal children be condemned to death? What degree of abnormality would mark him/her for killing?

Should any child who is a burden or nuisance to its parents be destroyed?

Should the parents alone have the right to decide on the child’s elimination? What if they disagree with each other ?

Since the welfare state supports the lives of the people, would it also be right for the state to kill those it no longer chooses to support? If so, on what grounds would this be justified – age, physical health, deformity, mental health, political activity, political opinion, general non-conformism, unpopularity, any?

At what level of government should such a decision be taken, and should it be taken by a single bureaucrat or a committee?

What method of killing should the state use?

Should the organs of parent- or state-condemned children/citizens be regularly harvested for transplant? Should children/citizens be killed in order that their organs may be harvested?

Would it be acceptable for freshly killed people to be eaten? Should human meat be sold by butchers?

Discussion need not be limited to these questions. Any aspect of the topic may be examined.


Afterword (March 9, 2012)

Giubilini and Minerva, the authors of the paper advocating that newborns who are a nuisance to a parent or “society” should be killed, have issued this sort-of apology:

We are really sorry that many people, who do not share the background of the intended audience for this article, felt offended, outraged, or even threatened. We apologise to them, but we could not control how the message was promulgated across the internet and then conveyed by the media. In fact, we personally do not agree with much of what the media suggest we think.

Their suggestion is that reaction to what they wrote is merely emotional: “people … felt offended, outraged, or even threatened”. Such people, they imply, are not capable of the superior detached ratiocination that they themselves and their “intended audience” bring to ethical questions. Yet it is they who did not think out objectively the results of their recommendation if it were to be enacted in law. And what they meant was perfectly clear and not distorted by the media.

Check out the whole article on their weasel-worded apology here.

A future for some, or maybe none 80

Lately there seems to be more  discussion than usual, at websites devoted to political comment, on the emotionally charged, interrelated subjects of abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, and eugenics.

Eugenicists want to breed a better human species – better according to their own taste – by selecting desirable specimens for reproduction and systematically killing off the rest.

Such a program is acceptable to environmentalists, who want the earth to have a much smaller human population. Some of these go much further. Believing that the globe we live on is more important (to whom?) than ourselves, they wish and plan for there to be no human beings on it at all. For we are willy-nilly contaminators and destroyers of the natural world, which will flourish best without us, and only without us be perfectly preserved (for what?).

Dealing with these subjects, This Week in Eugenics! is a fascinating and important article (read the whole thing) by Zombie at PajamasMedia. Among other facts and connections, he supplies this:

John Holdren, the Science Czar of the United States, has long expressed an intense admiration — one that bordered on hero-worship — of a man named Harrison Brown, a respected scientist from an earlier generation who spent his later years writing about overpopulation and ecological destruction. In fact, as Holdren has pointed out several times (including very recently), it was Harrison Brown’s most famous book, The Challenge of Man’s Future, which transformed the young Holdren’s personal philosophy and which inspired him to later embark on a career in science and population policy which in many ways mirrored that of his idol Brown.

Holdren’s regard for Brown was so high that in 1986 he edited and co-wrote an homage to Brown entitled Earth and the Human Future: Essays in Honor of Harrison Brown, in which Holdren showers Brown with accolades and unrestrained applause.

At first glance, there’s nothing remarkable or amiss with this picture: one respected scientist giving credit to and paying tribute to another. Happens all the time. Except in this case, something is amiss. Grievously amiss. Because Harrison Brown, whatever good qualities Holdren might have seen in him, was also an unapologetic eugenicist who made horrifying recommendations for “sterilizing the feeble-minded” and other “unfit” substandard humans whom he thought should be “pruned from society.”

Quotes from both Brown and Holdren:

“The feeble-minded, the morons, the dull and backward, and the lower-than-average persons in our society are outbreeding the superior ones at the present time. … Is there anything that can be done to prevent the long-range degeneration of human stock? Unfortunately, at the present time there is little, other than to prevent breeding in persons who present glaring deficiencies clearly dangerous to society and which are known to be of a hereditary nature. Thus we could sterilize or in other ways discourage the mating of the feeble-minded. We could go further and systematically attempt to prune from society, by prohibiting them from breeding, persons suffering from serious inheritable forms of physical defects, such as congenital deafness, dumbness, blindness, or absence of limbs. … A broad eugenics program would have to be formulated which would aid in the establishment of policies that would encourage able and healthy persons to have several offspring and discourage the unfit from breeding at excessive rates.” — Harrison Brown, in The Challenge of Man’s Future

“Harrison Brown’s most remarkable book, The Challenge of Man’s Future, was published more than three decades ago. By the time I read it as a high school student a few years later, the book had been widely acclaimed…. The Challenge of Man’s Future pulled these interests together for me in a way that transformed my thinking about the world and about the sort of career I wanted to pursue. … As a demonstration of the power of (and necessity for) an interdisciplinary approach to global problems, the book was a tour de force…. Thirty years after Harrison Brown elaborated these positions, it remains difficult to improve on them as a coherent depiction of the perils and challenges we face. Brown’s accomplishment in writing The Challenge of Man’s Future, of course, was not simply the construction of this sweeping schema for understanding the human predicament; more remarkable was (and is) the combination of logic, thoroughness, clarity, and force with which he marshalled data and argumentation on every element of the problem and on their interconnections. It is a book, in short, that should have reshaped permanently the perceptions of all serious analysts….” — John Holdren, in Earth and the Human Future: Essays in Honor of Harrison Brown

This man remains the Science Czar of the United States, appointed by Obama. My previous exposés of Holdren (the whole “forced abortions and mass sterilization” thing) were so widely linked that they entered the mainstream consciousness; but to my mind this lesser-known eugenics-related scandal — the connection between Holdren and Harrison Brown — is even more shocking. And yet he blithely jets around the world as a representative of the United States, as if none of this had ever been revealed.

As most of us are dull a good deal of our time in this vale of tears, and all of us are backward in something or other, and even the most intelligent among us act stupidly now and then; and as deafness, dumbness, blindness, and limblessness do not affect this state of affairs one way or the other (remember Homer was a blind man), the question is not who will be the victims of this sweeping schema for understanding the human predicament and permanently solving global problems since plainly we all qualify, but who will be the arbiters of our fate

Only exceptional, brilliant people, or at least people who believe themselves to be exceptionally brilliant, ponder and define “the human predicament”, and come up with a remedy for it. It takes a lot of leisure – probably as much as a tenured professorship provides, or an appointment as an adviser to a president – to devote oneself to defining and analyzing “the human predicament” with “logic, thoroughness, clarity and force”, and then to solve it tout court. Or if not that, anyway a lot of chutzpah.

Is it in the hands of such persons that we should willingly entrust ourselves, for them to decide whether we may continue our existence individually or en masse? How many of us want John Holdren and his like to guard over us? As many, one might suppose, as want Obama to be our “keeper’ (which he claims to be, having been called he says to that high service by his Christian faith). We’ll only know the answer in 2012 when we find out what proportion of the electorate, informed at last that Obama is one of the would-be arbiters of human fate, will vote for him to serve a second term.