After-birth Abortion - Your Thoughts?
  • Original Link: http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2012/02/22/medethics-2011-100411.full

    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.


    This was written by 2 doctors from Melbourne, Australia and published a few days ago. As the text quoted above states, the article talks about the killing of newborns as a morally sound choice which should be made available to mothers, using commonly accepted arguments used to argue why foetal abortion is OK. It also goes into why this is a viable option compared to adoption. The whole article is quite long but it's worth a read on many levels.
  • Some of the scientific arguments I've heard for abortion are biological development that is comparable to humans after a set time, and whether or not the fetus could survive outside the uterus (which it usually can by third trimester). Both of those would seem to sidestep this issue.

    Peter Singer has made a similar infantacide/after-birth abortion argument, based around self-awareness and temporal awareness, which an infant doesn't have until 3 months after birth.
  • At first I assumed this was written as a kind of thought exercise to counter-point debate on abortion, but it appears that they are just re-stating arguments that have previous been used in ethics discussions of 'infanticide' (I can't get the original article from 1972 online, but the same author wrote another similar essay in 1998 here). In fact, their problem might lie in using 'infanticide' or 'abortion' when applying to a new life - as stated in the article, this practice already occurs in the Netherlands ( The Groningen Protocol), but there it is termed euthanasia.

    Predictably this article has generated something of a flame war and the editor's response (available here) is interesting reading too.

    As to how I feel...well...I've previously defended the right of people who are suffering to choose a time to die. And if you extend that thinking to a newborn, whereas medicine currently measures improvement in life as QUALYs (Quality of Life/Years) you could definitely argue that the negative impact of a life inflicted by disability is greatest when that disability is present from birth and continues for the rest of that person's existance.

    I think what makes me feel uncomfortable is the ability of doctors to judge the impact on the life of the baby/carer at such an early stage. To say 'this kid is disabled, his life won't be worth living' removes an awful lot of...I dunno...hope from the equation. From real-life stories I'm sure there are a lot of people who thought they would never be able to look after a disabled kid who go on to have a happy and fulfilling life, but then you also occasionally hear the horror stories of parents who, after years of struggling to cope, take their disabled children's lives and often their own at the same time.

    Ugh, medical ethics is such a sticky area, I'm glad I don't have to worry about this sort of stuff on a day-to-day basis.
  • Not only medical ethics but other ethics.

    When it's not out of the womb as a human, we can think of it in terms of a procedure that a person is choosing to have done on their body, to improve their future (ostensibly).

    Once out of the womb, it is a living, breathing, independent life. If you kill that baby, no two ways about it, you're killing it. In my opinion, assisted suicide is completely different from murder, because the person committing suicide is choosing for themselves whether they want to live on or not... the person helping an assisted suicide is blameless because the person trying to kill themselves made the decision to die. Once a helpless newborn is breathing on its own, it's a human. It may not be able to realize it exists yet, but surely killing a human is murder The child didn't choose to exist. Should anyone be able to force the choice of its non-existence? At what point is murder no longer murder? Do we give a shit about ancient laws like murder that have driven human societies since their inception?

    I personally think children are a precious resource. I think I would have a hard enough time going through abortion or adoption, personally (though I still believe it is an individual's right to choose abortion and should be an available option to save women's lives who are going that route). I believe that once born, killing a child is murder. Is it sad when a child dies because the caregiver can't provide what it needs, or because the child is born with an illness or deformed? Dear lord, it is SO sad. SO, so, so, sad. Tragic, even. Is it sad when a caregiver, because they're mentally ill, or have limited resources, can't or doesn't want to care for the child? Abso-fucking-loutely. Are there situations in which children should not be borne? You bet. Should we use these thoughts as an excuse for what is basically murder?

    Fuck, no. In this case, I'm hard pro-life.

    That's just my opinion. I mean, put yourself in the mom's shoes. A doctor tells you the baby you just carried full-term will survive.... with a life-altering deformity. The doctor advises you it's best to 'put the child down'. Could you do it?

    oh yeah, and this:

    tallchick said:

    I think people who want to have kids ought to be licensed. Why? Well that's a controversial topic, but I'd say it's along the same lines of people who have a horrible hereditary disease (like schizophrenia or down's syndrome) or birth defect that runs in their family who choose not to have children. It is usually purely for medical reasons, and based on the fact that they would want any child they had to have a full life. It can save a lot of pain and heartache. But it would also mean that a couple like me and my husband, who has birth defects in his family, would be disallowed from having kids. It creates and interesting conundrum for me because I'd like to have kids... if this were the case would I have to go to a spermbank to have a child? Interesting to think about anyway.


    Genetic screening exists for a rerason.... it's scary as hell but if you're of the mind that infanticide is a good thing I HIGHLY recommend looking into it to save yourself potential trouble.

    and yeah, for the record:
    tallchick said:
    [My husband's] family also has a history of defects so he wants to go through genetic screening which is SCARY AS FUCK to me, though I can understand the reason behind it. I sometimes wonder if I'm old fashioned for wanting to just have a kid and be it's mom, hell or highwater, and hopefully all the more likely positive stuff in between :D
  • That is an interesting article. While I am pro-choice, I do not agree with their conclusions. Their reasoning seems sound, why are you a non-person on one end of the vaginal canal and a person on the other end? Mother nature would probably have women stay pregnant longer, if the head/pelvis ratio did not get scary around forty weeks. Newborns are not terribly interactive for the first couple of months, just an adorable food tube that is still doing some more basic development.

    The article is asking the same unanswerable question that makes the abortion debate unresolvable, when are you an individual? When do think God puts in the soul? This why the two sides are never gonna agree, because neither side knows for sure. The authors are setting the a bar for being an individual pretty high at self-awareness. I don't find myself to be such a hard ass. I think it is ridiculous to call a fertilized egg a person. I think it is also wrong to kill a newborn. If you held my feet to the fire, I find some of the brain development that occurs around the sixth month of pregnancy a compelling "break point". But that is only my feeling, I do have not a soul detector. Maybe I am just trying to make myself comfortable with how the law works in the US through the trimesters.

    I understand some the ideas Tallchick is throwing out. In the end, I find eugenics repugnant. Schizophrenia runs at about one percent in the population. In reading histories, schizophrenics were often given solitary jobs in the past, like herding. The village knew them and generally no one elected to procreate with them. These days we collect them into hospitals and make them better. They meet other psychotic folks and have lots in common, and not many better options for relationships. The rest is biology. This kind of thing has not affected overall rates of schizophrenia yet, but this kind of thing could take several more generations to play out. I do get some of the ideas that Tallchick is getting at. I just think the solution of licensing, which amounts to eugenics is worse than any version of the problem.

    I looked for an anthropology article I read many years ago that had a wild solution for Tallchicks concerns. It was a tongue in cheek article that said if we were only allowed to reproduce with first degree relatives, for five generations, then the gene pool would get cleaner. That's right, enforced incest, temporarily, was the answer. The idea was that deleterious genes would be isolated into family lines that would die out before five generations were up. Many of the problems of inbreeding don't occur in the first few generations, so the lines with better genes would be alright and start mixing again, five generations later. Just like Fibbles article, the solution was bizarre, but the reasoning to get there was non-terrible. The enforced incest article was satire, unlike this article, which appears to play it straight, although I still think they are making an anti-abortion argument at a meta-level by carrying their reasoning so far.
  • I was just listening to an NPR interview where this scientist claimed that abortion could actually be the secret to a longer life. I guess this is just an offshoot of stem cell development. But it is baby cells that produce this peice of dna that lengthens life. Kind of an irony there... abortion is the key to longer life, one must extinguish the life of another (even prematurely) to propagate his own :x
  • Sounds like the plot of several horror stories, some very old, knowname. "She bathes in the blood of a virgin every night to keep herself young and beautiful..."

    Well said westsw.

    I haven't read the article yet, but I will - in fact I think I might forward it to a professional in the field I know.

    As an adoptee, my initial concern is for the existence of the child: if you can't or won't keep the child, put it up for adoption, there are so many people out there desperate for kids.

    Not saying adoption doesn't have it's pros and cons, but killing a child after birth is just repugnant. Anyone who's ever held a newborn is likely to agree, I'd guess. I'm pro abortion though, in the case of physical or mental defect, the health of either party, or where the mother's (parent's) life circumstances would make the introduction of a child a disaster for everyone. I firmly believe that the mother makes the ultimate call, but the father (if willing and around) should be involved in the decision making process.

    CRC

    EDIT: OK, I've read it now. That is one chilling scientific paper.

    "Adoption as an alternative to after-birth abortion?
    A possible objection to our argument is that after-birth abortion should be practised just on potential people who could never have a life worth living.9 Accordingly, healthy and potentially happy people should be given up for adoption if the family cannot raise them up. Why should we kill a healthy newborn when giving it up for adoption would not breach anyone's right but possibly increase the happiness of people involved (adopters and adoptee)?

    Our reply is the following. We have previously discussed the argument from potentiality, showing that it is not strong enough to outweigh the consideration of the interests of actual people. Indeed, however weak the interests of actual people can be, they will always trump the alleged interest of potential people to become actual ones, because this latter interest amounts to zero. On this perspective, the interests of the actual people involved matter, and among these interests, we also need to consider the interests of the mother who might suffer psychological distress from giving her child up for adoption. Birthmothers are often reported to experience serious psychological problems due to the inability to elaborate their loss and to cope with their grief.10 It is true that grief and sense of loss may accompany both abortion and after-birth abortion as well as adoption, but we cannot assume that for the birthmother the latter is the least traumatic. For example, ‘those who grieve a death must accept the irreversibility of the loss, but natural mothers often dream that their child will return to them. This makes it difficult to accept the reality of the loss because they can never be quite sure whether or not it is irreversible’.11

    We are not suggesting that these are definitive reasons against adoption as a valid alternative to after-birth abortion. Much depends on circumstances and psychological reactions. 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."

    This in particular seems empathetically false.

    Also:

    "Failing to bring a new person into existence cannot be compared with the wrong caused by procuring the death of an existing person. The reason is that, unlike the case of death of an existing person, failing to bring a new person into existence does not prevent anyone from accomplishing any of her future aims. However, this consideration entails a much stronger idea than the one according to which severely handicapped children should be euthanised. If the death of a newborn is not wrongful to her on the grounds that she cannot have formed any aim that she is prevented from accomplishing, then it should also be permissible to practise an after-birth abortion on a healthy newborn too, given that she has not formed any aim yet."

    I'm sorry, has our understanding of the human brain leaped ahead in the last few years, because when I last checked we didn't know enough about the human brain to make this call.
  • Nice thoughts guys. Remember, this article is also arguing for the death of healthy newborns too, not just the mentally disabled or other birth defects. Healthy kids are on the block for these guys too. Messed up!
  • (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people
    When? After the baby is born? Certainly carrying and giving birth to the child is not always in the best interest of actual people but when does then putting the child up for adoption become too much of a hassle?

    "Well I had parasitic in my body for 9 months and went through the process of taking it out. I don't really want to keep the thing"
    "Well, we could give it to someone else"
    "Are you joking? Just kill the thing"

    I don't really get it. I don't think that to any person who can think straight that after-birth abortion is a legitimate alternative to just putting the child up for adoption.

    "Oh but it'll hurt the mother's feelings"

    Yeah wait, I can see that, maybe we should just kill it after all. Obviously that's less psychologically distressing than the alternative.

    "After-birth abortion should be considered a permissible option for women who would be damaged by giving up their newborns for adoption."

    I know it's a really idiotic stock insult used by pro-lifers but I would like to call for the after-birth abortion of whoever came up with this as they obviously do not qualify as an "existing person" as they call the distinction of a new-born and an adult.
  • http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/backbench-tory-files-motion-to-study-human-being-definition/article2328201/
    ^ that right there is an article talking about a back-bench member of parliament's private bill to investigate the modern definition of a human being.

    Just so happens this MP is a social conservative against abortion.

    I think it'll be interesting to see what happens in the wake of this investigation, who or what the medical and ethical community will agree with--if it changes at all--and how it will affect this issue, and other issues in the abortion, law and genetics debates.

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