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theodiskaz's avatar

After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?

Asked by theodiskaz (546 points ) January 28th, 2013

This is the title of a paper published by The Journal of Medical Ethics, an online, international peer-reviewed journal for health professionals and researchers in medical ethics. This paper may be found here. http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2012/03/01/medethics-2011-100411.full. My wife thinks it is somebody playing Devil’s Advocate. I found it a disturbingly coherent, well reasoned “slippery slope” kind of position which MIGHT logically proceed from an acceptance of the rational behind the belief in the morality of “Abortion on Demand”. Simply put, IS it one (or both) of these, or something else?

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30 Answers

KNOWITALL's avatar

Very disturbing. While I am Pro-Life and a Christian I cannot condone this in any way, shape or form.

I just can’t help thinking of the many people who say their child recognized them at birth and the rush of love after giving birth, what a horrible choice to have to make.

Then I start thinking about the elderly, surely if this is acceptable for a baby, euthanasia should be applied to the elderly as well. At least they are cognizant of mortality and able to make an educated decision for themselves, which is still not allowed.

deni's avatar

I only skimmed over it, but I think I get the gist. The dilemma here is a moral dilemma as with everything though. We are animals, but not really so much anymore. So in the best interest of animals, or even early humans, a fetus, or baby that has already been born, but will do no one any good realistically, should be discarded. Otherwise it will grow up to be a burden on it’s parents and on it’s tribe and possibly even reproduce, passing on terrible genes. Seeing as how we got to the point we are at now by evolution, like every other living thing on earth, we should want to get rid of the “bad seeds”....we don’t anymore, which is why our planet is grossly overpopulated and many people rely on food that is not food anymore to survive. Their genes are not good and for the well being of the species they should not, and in the wild WOULD not, reproduce. So, this type of thing would be nipped in the bud before it even became an issue. However, we have morals. We don’t just discard babies. And that’s why this will never happen (Shit, some people wanna make it so that a raped 12 year old can’t get an abortion!). I’m not saying it should either, I’m just saying that in the wild, this would not be an option. But we aren’t wild anymore, which is part of the entire problem in the first place. Those are my thoughts! Thanks for asking this question, it’s an interesting read.

bookish1's avatar

Yowza. Thanks for sharing this. I kind of can’t believe it’s been published in a peer-reviewed journal… Is this an elaborate joke? I have never heard of the term ‘after-birth abortion.’ Are they just making fun of politically correct language here, or are they taking themselves seriously? I can’t tell.

It does seem to me to be an exploration of some of the logical consequences of (some ways of presenting) the morality of abortion. Their conclusion is pretty damn disturbing:

“What we are suggesting is that, if interests of actual people should prevail, then after-birth abortion should be considered a permissible option for women who would be damaged by giving up their newborns for adoption.”

Speaking of ‘actual people,’ I am having trouble understanding this part:

“The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.

Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’. We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her. This means that many non-human animals and mentally retarded human individuals are persons, but that all the individuals who are not in the condition of attributing any value to their own existence are not persons. Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life.

How can a non-human animal be a person while a human infant is not??? Their definition of personhood just seems to be an organism that values its life, and I think they are taking an extremely limited and reductivist view here.

On a side note, last night I was listening to a radio show about the extremely high rates of sex selection abortions in Azerbaijan. It was so disturbing, I had to turn it off.

Excuse me, I’ve got to get back to the humanities now…

KNOWITALL's avatar

@bookish1 They are saying neither a fetus nor a newborn is considered to have any ‘awareness’ that makes euthanasia unpalatable, I believe. Although many tests and stats show babies feel pain in vitro, which is why late-term abortions were deemed illegal, so it really doesn’t make much sense.

tinyfaery's avatar

Good grief. The human mind can rationalize anything. Any “after-birth abortion” that would or could occur would be the choice of one person. No one else has any say, IMO.

theodiskaz's avatar

@bookish1 I know, I know. Sometimes I am surprised that there are not thriving “hearing impaired for Life”, “Down’s Syndrome for Life”, etc websites on the web.

theodiskaz's avatar

@bookish1 And, as if we were in good balance now, this kind of thing really stands to throw things out of whack, IMHO.

wildpotato's avatar

This sort of argument is based on a type of logical fallacy, and it’s dirty pool, mister. Also, lazy pool – I’m inclined to stop listening to a person if they trot out an argument from an extreme. Dealing with reality is far more difficult, and interesting, than making up a fantasy world where the premises that would lead to an extreme position obtain.

Mariah's avatar

Definitely someone trying to use slippery slope to subvertly argue against abortion. Ugh.

Once the baby is not using my body to stay alive he or she has every right to live.

josie's avatar

A great example of what Orwell called the euphemism treadmill-substituting the acceptable term ‘after birth abortion’ for the more onerous ‘infanticide’, and then taking it one step further by admitting it, apparently knowing the reader won’t care anyway.

Supacase's avatar

It is impossible to abort a fetus/baby/whatever you choose to call it after it has been born. I do believe all sides agree a screaming, kicking, sucking, pooping baby is a person. (Well, except this idiot.). At that point it is called killing.

bkcunningham's avatar

If genetic abnormalities are justifiable reasons for abortions, should these sane genetic abnormalities which were undetected until birth be justifiable cause for after birth abortion?

I don’t think the question is a slippery slope in the least. I would have to argue yes. If you want to justify abortion for this reason then why not after birth abortion for the same reason?

@Supacase, from the paper: “Euthanasia in infants has been proposed by philosophers3 for children with severe abnormalities whose lives can be expected to be not worth living and who are experiencing unbearable suffering.

“Also medical professionals have recognised the need for guidelines about cases in which death seems to be in the best interest of the child. In The Netherlands, for instance, the Groningen Protocol (2002) allows to actively terminate the life of ‘infants with a hopeless prognosis who experience what parents and medical experts deem to be unbearable suffering’.4…

”...Nonetheless, 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 fetus has the potential to become a person who will have an (at least) acceptable life is no reason for prohibiting abortion. Therefore, we argue that, when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.

“In spite of the oxymoron in the expression, we propose to call this practice ‘after-birth abortion’, rather than ‘infanticide’, to emphasise 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. Therefore, we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk. Accordingly, a second terminological specification is that we call such a practice ‘after-birth abortion’ rather than ‘euthanasia’ because the best interest of the one who dies is not necessarily the primary criterion for the choice, contrary to what happens in the case of euthanasia.”

bookish1's avatar

@bkcunningham: Well, I suspect that this was the intent of the article. To extend the logical consequences of one of the moral justifications of abortion, as a way of shocking people and undermining that very same justification.

Does anyone know, what sort of ‘abnormalities’ typically encourage doctors and parents toward abortion? Apparently parents often opt for abortion in cases where the child has Down’s syndrome or some other kind of retardation. Are they deciding that these “lives will not be worth living,” or will cause “unbearable suffering,” or are they just freaked out and want a ‘normal’ child?

theodiskaz's avatar

That’s a good question, @bookish1. I don’t know, but this I do. I have had deaf, Down’s, ADHD and Aspie friends which have made my life measurably more worth the living. . .Oh, and don’t take that contentiously. . . not at you, at all, but I did want to get that out there:) PS “I don’t trust a man who smiles too much” Commander Kang, Star Trek, TOS

KNOWITALL's avatar

@bookish1 I have known people who very much resented the idea that they wouldn’t want to raise a Down’s baby or a mentally retarded baby, they consider any child a gift.

I’ve also known people who were terrified of having a disabled child because of financial and social stress that they’d have to deal with. I’m sure it varies person to person.

theodiskaz's avatar

The paper in question would also seem to lay the groundwork for considering some non human species as “persons”. Would that not be strange?

bkcunningham's avatar

What typical abnormalities typically encourage doctors and parents toward abortion? This is what I have found:

“The reasons women give for having an abortion underscore their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. Three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths say they cannot afford a child; three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.[7]”
Source

Also, I thought I’d check to see exactly what can be detected in prenatal screening and/or testing. That is the only way I know of that a parent or the physician would make a medically based decision to abort a baby. Here is s site that explains the conditions, syndromes, diseases, abnormalities et al.

Since the question from @bookish1 asks about conditions that encourage abortions, it would be interesting to know how many abortions are performs based on these conditions. Does anyone know?

Mariah's avatar

I would consider aborting a fetus with a terrible condition, I can tell you in my case it would be out of a desire to prevent suffering rather than a belief that people with such disabilities are somehow less valuable or a fear of the financial implications of having such a child.

bkcunningham's avatar

Would you consider aborting a newly born infant with the same “terrible condition” in order to prevent suffering, @Mariah?

theodiskaz's avatar

Indeed, The paper’s authors argue that it is self consistent to do so.

bkcunningham's avatar

I really liked your question, @theodiskaz. I am bookmarking the site. Thank you for taking the time to post the question. It makes you think. I like that. I was reading about a nicotine conjugate vaccine on the site and thought about how it would make another good question.

Mariah's avatar

No, I feel that once the child is not using my body to stay alive, “aborting” him or her would be murder, regardless of what the paper said, which I think is a load of crock. I would, however, carry guilt for bringing suffering into existence for the rest of my life.

bookish1's avatar

@Mariah: Hey, creating a life in the first place is ensuring that another sentient being will suffer…

Mariah's avatar

@bookish1 I know life will inevitably include suffering, I just don’t want to create an inordinate amount.

bkcunningham's avatar

Not using your body to stay alive is the line you draw between killing the child to assure it will not suffer and allowing it to suffer. Interesting. So, the same child you would allow to live and suffer would be dead if you knew, what, perhaps one month earlier that she would suffer an inordinate amount?

Mariah's avatar

Not exactly. Not using my body is the line I draw between what is an independent human life and what is not. Ending an independent human life is murder and I won’t do that, even to somebody who is suffering, unless they consent to it. Obviously an infant is in no place to do that. Once s/he is older, if s/he wants to be euthanized because of the suffering, I would support that decision.

Before the fetus becomes an independent human life, the woman sustaining it has the right to make whatever decision she wants, in my opinion. So in the situation that we can detect a disease in utero that will cause inordinate suffering, I would consider abortion morally sound.

Basically my position is that a person’s fate stops being in my hands once s/he is not using my body to stay alive. Even if I think that person would be better off not in existence, that’s not my decision to make anymore once s/he’s not a part of my body.

deni's avatar

@Mariah However, on the flip side, a baby, for years, is not self sufficient. And would die without someone to care for it. So, depending on how you think about it, that same baby is using your body to stay alive still. Or someone else’s if not yours. So really what’s the line, just the fact that it can breathe on it’s own? It still can’t eat, drink, gather food, fight, defend, anything really essential to life.

KNOWITALL's avatar

People suffer every day from pain, debilitating disease, cancer, car accidents, etc…and aren’t allowed the luxury of euthanasia. If everyone on the planet, and especially those of us in the US, will not allow cognizant adults the luxury of an early death, I wonder why innocent children are the exception to that rule for some of you?

Because of their innocence (they don’t deserve to suffer until they’re old enough to decide), or because to you the ability to live outside the womb only occurs after birth (which is not true i.e. preemies)? Just curious if anyone cares to comment.

Mariah's avatar

@deni I’m using a pretty strict definition of the term “independent” here. There is something fundamentally different between someone relying on me to give him food and someone relying on the function of my organs. In the former situation, I have escape options (give him up for adoption, etc.) in the latter I don’t.

@KNOWITALL I absolutely disagree with the illegality of euthanasia.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Mariah It was one of my mom’s biggest fears when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer and I told her I was happy to get her the right pills when she was done fighting. It’s total crap that it’s illegal for humans, it really makes me furious.

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