In virtually every debate over the ethics of abortion, both sides have at least been able to agree on the timetable under consideration. Whatever debaters termed the status of the fetus in utero, a bright line has been drawn at birth. Though arbitrary, this distinction has gone largely, perhaps even remarkably, unquestioned (apart from the writings of Peter Singer, who on this subject has expressed what most would concede is a fringe opinion).
Yet this consensus (or was it a ceasefire?) may be eroding. In an alarming post at Mirror of Justice, Robert P. George points to a new article, appearing in this month’s Journal of Medical Ethics, with a title that incorporates what must be the euphemism of the decade: “After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?”
The paper’s abstract is as follows:
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.
Our sister blog, Secondhand Smoke, also covered this story on Saturday, where Wesley J. Smith attempted to put the article in whatever perspective it can be put in:
This doesn’t mean the law will accept come to accept the premise–although it could–this is precisely how the right to dehydrate the persistently unconscious started, with articles in bioethics and medical journals. The point is that such arguments are deemed respectable in bioethics, which would reject racist or homophobic advocacy out of hand.
Not much reassurance there. While there’s no evidence that “after-birth” abortions are likely to be legalized in the immediate future, should some portions of our elite class begin to accept–or even, really, entertain–this logic, how far off can wider societal debate be? Academic opposition needs to be vigorous, swift, and wide-ranging.