A leading British medical journal has published an article calling for the introduction of infanticide for social and medical reasons.
The article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, entitled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” states in its abstract: “After-birth abortion (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”
The article, written by Alberto Giubilini of the University of Milan and Francesca Minerva of Melbourne University, argues that “foetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons” and consequently a law which permits abortion for certain reasons should permit infanticide on the same grounds.
The article follows alleged instances of sex-selective abortions throughout Britain raising alarm concerning the application of the 1967 Abortion Act.
Lord Alton, co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, said that infanticide was the “chilling and unassailable” logical step for a society that permits killing a baby one day before birth.
He said: “That the Journal of Medical Ethics should give space to such a proposition illustrates not a slippery slope, but the quagmire into which medical ethics and our wider society have been sucked.
“Personal choice has eclipsed the sacredness, or otherness, of life itself. It is profoundly disturbing, indeed shocking, to see the way in which opinion-formers within the medical profession have ditched the traditional belief of the healer to uphold the sanctity of human life for this impoverished and inhumane defence of child destruction.
“It has been said that a country which kills its own children has no future. That’s true. And a country which accepts infanticide or the killing of a little girl or a little boy because of their gender, the killing of a baby because of a disability, or the killing of a child because it is inconvenient, the wrong shape, or the wrong colour, also forfeits its right to call itself civilised.”
But Julian Savulescu, the editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, has defended the publication of the paper on the British Medical Journal website. He said: “What is disturbing is not the arguments in this paper nor its publication in an ethics journal. It is the hostile, abusive, threatening responses that it has elicited. More than ever, proper academic discussion and freedom are under threat from fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.”
He continued: “As Editor of the Journal, I would like to defend its publication. The arguments presented, in fact, are largely not new and have been presented repeatedly in the academic literature and public fora by the most eminent philosophers and bioethicists in the world, including Peter Singer, Michael Tooley and John Harris in defence of infanticide, which the authors call after-birth abortion.
“The novel contribution of this paper is not an argument in favour of infanticide – the paper repeats the arguments made famous by Tooley and Singer – but rather their application in consideration of maternal and family interests. The paper also draws attention to the fact that infanticide is practised in the Netherlands.
“Many people will and have disagreed with these arguments. However, 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.”
Kenneth Boyd, associate editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, said that the publication of the paper did not reflect his personal view and that the article had gone through the process of academic peer review.
Mr Boyd said: “I think what the authors are addressing is a minority problem following birth, where there would have been grounds for a termination and many people would feel that that circumstance is unfortunate but no reason for infanticide. But our feeling was that it’s better for these views to be discussed.”
The authors, when discussing children with Down’s Syndrome, state: “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. On these grounds the fact that a foetus has the potential to become a person who will have an (at least) acceptable life is no reason for prohibiting abortion. Therefore… when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissable.”
The authors also support infanticide for non-medical reasons but do not state at which point in a baby’s development infanticide would no longer be permissable because “it depends on the neurological development of newborns, which is something neurologists and psychologists would be able to assess”.