Questions of statism 262

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.