An article in last weeks Journal of Medical Ethics arguing the case for “after-birth abortion” has been picking up some attention.
Sadly, the logic of the piece is impeccable. Ironically, it is exactly the kind of logic that pro-life campaigners have themselves used – “Why is killing a baby before it is born any different from killing it after it is born?” So the article might almost be read as a piece of Swiftian irony, logically arguing one point to prove its exact opposite. However, tragically, this is obviously not what the authors are doing. Rather, they genuinely accept that after-birth abortion (let’s just stick to “infanticide”) makes logical sense, as a newborn is not a “person.”
What is perhaps most chilling about the authors argument is their concluding statement that, “People should be given the chance of not being forced to do something they cannot afford.” And so we see the logical conclusion of the consumer society – that having a baby is a lifestyle choice, dictated by economics.
The justification for this argument is that a newborn is not yet a “person.” As the authors express it:
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 might seem an extraordinary argument, but it is a very common one. I remember a pro-abortion advocate using exactly the same argument in a debate at my sixth-form 25 years ago. (It is also an argument that has more than a whiff of the gas chambers about it.)
How much better – how much more human and dignifying – is the biblical definition of human life, that we are “made in the image of God” (Gen 1:27). And how much more reassuring is the biblical assumption that the time to be born and the time to die is in the hands of a sovereign God (Eccl 3:2).
We don’t need logic to tell us that a newborn (or, for that matter, a foetus) has a right to life. To be honest, we don’t even need the Bible. Some simple humanity will do it.