Why Should the Baby Live?

Ever read something that is just so all around awful and disturbing and morally reprehensible that it makes you almost wish for the days of Noah? Well, this article from the Journal of Medical Ethics might be it. Here’s the authors’ abstract:

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.

In other words, because abortion is largely accepted in our culture, (one author is from University of Milan & affiliated with the Centre for Human Bioethics in Melbourne, the other from the University of Melbourne & affiliated with the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Oxford University) “after-birth abortion” (i.e. infanticide) should be equally permissible, as a fetus has the same “moral status” (i.e. if a fetus is not a person yet, then neither is a newborn).

This shocking proposal is of course not new. In fact, as far back as 1972, Michael Tooley wrote:

A newborn baby does not possess the concept of a continuing self, any more than a newborn kitten possess as such a concept. If so, infanticide during a time interval shortly after birth must be morally acceptable.*

The following year, Mary Anne Warren published an article suggesting that the qualifications for being a human being were five attributes: consciousness, reasoning, self-motivated activity, capacity to communicate, and self awareness. Failure to meet these criteria meant there was no “person” present.** Warren only went as far as to argue that a fetus was not a person, making abortion a viable legal option. That same year, 1973, came the landmark Roe v. Wade case, which brought legal abortions to the US.

In this line of thinking this is not a person:

This is disposable genetic “potential” but not actual humanity. I cry when I think that anyone could look at this and say it’s OK to not only allow her to die, but actively pursue her death, just because I don’t want to deal with it. That line of thinking is not human. Some may see genetic material which may become human, but I see the image of God.

Of course, I make no apologies for my pro-life stance. I find the mere idea of abortion abhorrent. Chances are those who read this blog share that sentiment, so this is not meant to be an attempt to “convince” anyone to change their mind (if it does that, then Hallelujah!). The point of this is to make folks aware of what is happening in public dialogue. This newest article is published in an academic journal. These are leading thinkers, who impact the decisions which judicial and legislative leaders make, based on the best information they have. Our courts and governments look to scholarly leaders’ conclusions on which to base the decisions they make.

Many people scoff at the so called “slippery slope” line of thinking. But this demonstrates quite clearly how things can progress. If aborting a fetus because it is not a “person” is ok, then it is valid to ask what distinguishes a newborn from a fetus.

I also feel like the rhetoric both sides of the abortion debate use is unhelpful. Pro-life campaigns have come across as vigilantes, judging and hurling hatred at pro-choicers. Pro-choice advocates respond with accusations that pro lifers are taking away freedom and interfering with women’s rights to make their own choices. And the folks caught in the middle who suffer are first and foremost the new human life trying to grow and prepare for the world, and the women who bear the consequences of the decisions. So this post is more for pro-lifers, calling on us to change our attitudes, our “tactics” if you will. Instead of campaigning and pleading with legislators to make abortions illegal (which won’t end the problem, just penalize the offenders) why don’t we try to educate young people, and help them make better choices. Most abortions are young women who don’t know how else to deal with their situations. They made a choice, which has consequence which they bear, and are seeking a solution to. Abortion appears to be the best, or only option. Some pro-lifers simply say, abortion is murder. That doesn’t help. Just heaps more and more guilt on a woman already in distress. It pushes her away. It casts her out. “Bear the burden of your own sin” it says. Is that what Jesus taught? Why not say, how can I help you out of this? What can I do to enable to bear the load? What do you need to make this right? How can I “save” you and your child?

Our call as people of the Kingdom is to protect the vulnerable (Deut. 10:18-19, 1 John 3:16-18, James 1:27, etc., etc.). That includes the women contemplating abortion. They are not sinners to be rebuked, but victims of their own sin, desperately seeking a way out. I don’t think anyone wants to have to have an abortion. Those who do so don’t see any other viable option. Perhaps if we took the approach of assisting people, we could end the need for abortion. Give women a “better way”. The laws concerning abortion should be a moot point. The unfortunate fact is that people make poor choices in life. “Unwanted pregnancies” happen. It would be wonderful if they didn’t, ideal even. Until that happens, we need to respond with grace, love and compassion to foster reconciliation and nurturing for those who are being confronted with scary realities.

*Michael Tooley, “Abortion and Infanticide,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 2, no. 1 (1972): 63.

**Mary Anne Warren, “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion,” The Monist 57, no. 1 (Jan. 1973): 43-61.

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One Response to Why Should the Baby Live?

  1. Lauren says:

    I very much agree with you on your point that we need to be working to protect the vulnerable. I think in a lot of cases that means becoming much more intolerant of the behaviour of deadbeat dads. If a woman’s partner isn’t supporting her financially (even if they’re not together), the situation immediately becomes way more dire and seems way more hopeless than it needs to be. I think a lot more women would go through with their unplanned pregnancies if they knew they could provide for their baby once it was born.

    I think a big part of that is advocating for women who don’t understand or know their rights in this situation. I spent a lot of time lurking on pregnancy forums last year, and a lot of the women who were posting were young women whose pregnancies hadn’t been planned, whose boyfriends weren’t in the picture anymore, and who were expecting little more from the father than that he occasionally visit his child for an hour or two and maybe sometimes — if he has a little extra money that month — provide a package of diapers. We should be screaming from the rooftops that this is not okay.

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