Feature:Opinion

Latest infanticide push about more than killing babies

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Wesley J. Smith
Senior Fellow, The Discovery Institute
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      Wesley J. Smith

      Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. He also consults for the Patients Rights Council and is a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture.

The ancient Romans used to expose unwanted babies on hillsides. Thankfully, we have come a long way since those bad old days. We would never countenance letting a baby die of exposure or get eaten by animals. No, today’s infanticide promoters insist that babies be killed painlessly. After all, we aren’t barbarians!

Infanticide? Today? Alas, yes. In fact, although technically illegal, baby killing already is being carried out in the Netherlands as a logical extension of that country’s euthanasia license. A bureaucratic check list has even been published — including in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine — known as the Groningen Protocol, by which Dutch neonatologists determine which sick and disabled babies qualify to be euthanized. Indeed, according to two articles published in The Lancet, about 8% of all babies who die each year in the Netherlands (80-90) are killed by their own doctors.

But now, some advocates want to take the infanticide license beyond unhealthy and disabled babies, to include unwanted babies. A new article that has gotten much attention in the blogosphere, “After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?” published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, asserts that whatever reasons justify abortion — and in the USA that means anything and everything — also support the right of parents to have unwanted infants painlessly killed.

This is rank bootstrapping for expanding the killing license. Abortion wasn’t legalized to grant a woman the “right” to a dead fetus. Rather, legislatures or courts — depending on the country — determined that a woman’s right to control her own body should trump the fetal right to life. That being so, once the baby is born the entire issue of protecting female autonomy evaporates and the issue of abortion becomes factually irrelevant.

Or at least it should. To get around this impediment, the authors sophistically expand the concept of personal autonomy to a putative right not to be personally inconvenienced or burdened by the infant or the child she would later become. They write that an infant, by definition, has not yet developed desires or goals:

On the other hand, not only [personal] aims but also well-developed plans are concepts that certainly apply to those people (parents, siblings, society) who could be negatively or positively affected by the birth of that child. Therefore, the rights and interests of the actual people involved should represent the prevailing consideration in a decision about abortion and after-birth abortion.

In other words, babies are not people.

It is tempting to dwell on these shocking views and thereby miss the bigger picture. “After-Birth Abortion” is merely the latest example of bioethical argument wielded as the sharp point of the spear in an all-out philosophical war waged among the intelligentsia against Judeo/Christian morality based in human exceptionalism and adherence to universal human rights.