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ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) -- Should a newborn be allowed to live? This very question is the subject of an article by two Australian-based ethicists that appears in the latest Journal of Medical Ethics (JME), an international publication based in Britain.
The question, of course, is not difficult to answer. In the biblical worldview, a baby should be allowed to live because human life originates with God. Human life is precious, sacred and, as the Bible asserts, made in the image of God.
The authors have a very different take. In their article titled "After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?," Alberto Giubilini of Melbourne's Monash University and Francesca Minerva of the University of Melbourne argue the only reason an infant should be allowed to live is if the parents deem it so.
Giubilini and Minerva believe the criteria that allow an unborn baby to be aborted should also be applied to an infant that has been born. Studies have shown that in developed countries, like the United States, the primary reasons given for abortion range from poverty to simply not wanting an additional child. Simply put, in the developed nations of the world babies are aborted more than 90 percent of the time as a matter of convenience.
"If a disease has not been detected during the pregnancy, if something went wrong during the delivery, or if economical, social or psychological circumstances change such that taking care of the offspring becomes an unbearable burden on someone, then people should be given the chance of not being forced to do something they cannot afford," the authors write.
The authors assert there is no difference between an infant and an unborn child -- they use the precise but sterile medical term "fetus." Both are essentially non-persons, they say, and as such, neither has an inherent right to life.
They write: "If criteria such as the costs (social, psychological, economic) for the potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the fetus is healthy, if the moral status of the newborn is the same as that of the infant and if neither has any moral value by virtue of being a potential person, then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn."
According to Giubilini and Minerva, in order to qualify as a person an individual must have formed an "aim" that he or she is conscious of and able to pursue and/or achieve. An unborn child and infant both lack the aforementioned, according to the authors, and thus only qualify as potential persons.
The argument put forth by Giubilini and Minerva is not new. Ever since medical science has proved that the pre-born baby is indeed alive, abortion proponents grasped for any reason to "validate" abortion. Now they argue that while the "fetus" might be alive, it is not a person, and thus can be aborted. But pro-choicers normally have stopped that assertion at the baby's birth.
What Giubilini and Minerva do is take the current abortion debate to its next logical step and apply it to infants. If an infant, like a pre-born baby, is not self-aware and is not conscious of an "aim" in life then it is not a person and can be killed for any reason or for no reason, they say.
The authors have chosen to describe their practice as "after-birth abortion." Though they admit the term comes across as oxymoronic, it was obviously chosen to make a barbaric practice appear more palatable.
Perhaps the most stunning argument by Giubilini and Minerva centers on adoption. The authors address the question: Why not simply allow the baby to be adopted? Their answer is shocking.
"Consider the interests of the mother who might suffer psychological distress from giving her child up for adoption," argue the authors. "... [A]fter-birth abortion should be considered a permissible option for women who would be damaged by giving up their newborns for adoption."
In the worldview of Giubilini and Minerva, a woman's potential psychological distress outweighs the right to life of an infant. While that is shocking, I have heard the same argument put forth by abortion advocates concerning pregnancy.
It is going to be interesting to see how abortion supporters deal with the recent journal article. The authors use the exact same arguments to justify infanticide that abortion advocates use in defense of killing pre-born children. After all, what is the moral difference between killing a full-term baby minutes before delivery -- allowed under Roe v. Wade and subsequent decisions -- and killing it after delivery?
If personhood requires a measure of consciousness, an aim or a function, then what do we do with those who are mentally challenged? What about the physically handicapped? How about those who suffer from Alzheimer's disease? Will all these be classified as non-persons and become disposable?
Ideas have consequences.
It is amazing how a woman's "right to choose" to terminate the life of her pre-born child has impacted our world. Abortion started out as being permissible primarily in the early stages of pregnancy and then progressed to justify the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion. Now it is even being applied to the lives of infants. Where will it go next?
Pro-choice logic dictates that many of the same arguments used to defend abortion -- particularly late-term abortion -- can apply to newborns. When society embraced abortion-on-demand, it rejected the idea of absolute moral truth. Now we are adrift in a sea or moral relativism where so-called intellectuals believe killing a perfectly healthy infant is permissible. God have mercy on us.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message www.baptistmessage.com, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).