After-Birth Abortions

Continuing the recent theme of the consequences of ideas, let me comment briefly on an article that I’ve seen shared by several people on Twitter and Facebook today.

Online news source The Blaze published an article yesterday drawing attention to a paper entitled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” published in the online edition of the Journal of Medical Ethics. Basically (in case you haven’t read the Blaze article), two ethicists from Australia argue that if an abortion of a fetus is allowable, so should be the termination of a newborn.

They are exactly right, of course.

But the inverse, logically, must also be true. If it is wrong to kill a newborn, then it is also wrong to abort a fetus. If folks are uncomfortable with the idea of infanticide but have no problem with abortion, then it is up to them to figure out exactly what changes when that baby — excuse me,  “potential person” — exits the birth canal.

But that’s not what I wanted to write about.

The main thing that concerns me in all this is how surprised many people seem to be about it. Peter Singer, who is one of the world’s most influential ethicists (and a Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne, where one of the ethicists who wrote the paper works), has been saying this for decades. Most Christians just haven’t been paying attention.

Singer has long advocated for euthanasia, abortion, and infanticide based on his theory of applied ethics (known as “utilitarian personism”), which states that human beings are not “persons” unless they have the ability to exercise preference (or, as he terms it, “rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness”). Therefore newborns, those with profound mental disabilities, and people with dementia do not qualify as “persons”; thus, there is nothing ethically wrong with killing them. Similarly, it is ethically right to assist anyone who DOES prefer death in committing suicide.

You might think a guy who teaches that we should be able to kill babies, the infirm, and the disabled — just because we’d rather not have to care for them (a waste of resources as he sees it) — would be locked up, right? But this guy has been a department chair at one of our Ivy League schools for 12 years, and guest lectures all over the world. He won “Humanist of the Year” back in 2004.

Interestingly enough, Singer DOES believe that it is ethically dubious to eat animals, though it is NOT ethically wrong to have sex with them… so long as you aren’t cruel to the animal.

This is precisely the reason why I believe it is so important for Christians to be aware of what is going on in fields such as philosophy and bioethics. When we stay blissfully ignorant of ethical developments in Academia, it is often much too late to effectually influence society by the time we are confronted by the ramifications of these developments “downstream”.

For those of you who have never heard of Peter Singer or “after-birth abortion”: welcome to the discussion! Below is a good interview that will introduce you to the man known as “the world’s most influential living philosopher”, or “the most dangerous man in the world”, depending on who you ask. You might also be interested in researching his books Animal Liberation (1975) and Practical Ethics (1979), both now considered “classics” in the field of ethics.

I am grateful for the Humanitas Project, a local organization led by Mike Poore that is committed to staying intellectually “upstream”  on difficult issues related to Christianity and culture. Over the past several years, our weekly book discussions and monthly guest lectures have profoundly influenced my own thinking on bioethics and many other issues. If you’re interested in getting in on this conversation, I highly encourage you to plan on attending some of these debates. Here is the info on the next two:

Friday, March 23 – “The Postmodern Challenge: Evangelizing the Apathetic,” Tom Mahler

At the beginning of the 21st Century, one of the greatest challenges Christians face is apathy.  The Gospel is rejected, not through hostility but by lack of interest.  Is it possible to reach people who don’t seem to care?

Friday, April 20 – “Transhumanism: Why Christians Must Oppose ‘One of the World’s Most Dangerous Ideas’,” Michael Poore

 Christians often fail to spot trends and ideas until after they’ve had a deep impact on the culture. Transhumanists advocate using modern medical technology to “seize control of human evolution” and guide the development of posthumans—beings that have overcome human limitations of death, disease, and intelligence. How can Christians utilize new medical technologies to maintain health and yet oppose their use when they undermine human dignity?

Admission:  Free
Location:  Cody Hall – Nashville State Community College, 1000 Neal Street, Cookeville, Tennessee
Time:  7:00 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.)
Contact:  Michael Poore, Director, The Humanitas Project, (931) 239-8735,

2 comments on “After-Birth Abortions

  1. Nick says:

    Actually you miss one of Singer’s points and perhaps the Giubilini paper does too although I haven’t read it. It is: why should equal consideration be applied to foetuses and infants whichever way around (to abort/infanticide or not to)? This point of view only holds up if we base our concept of how to treat people on their physical or supposed spiritual presence and see that as unchanging. If our basis for their treatment does not change, our treatment cannot. Singer says, and I agree although I’ll state it more directly than he, that our treatment need not be based solely on physical/spiritual presence. I think ‘value to humanity’ is something to be considered (whether judged by parents or society as a whole etc.) and even, for the religious ‘value to God’. Would God worry if a baby was painlessly euthanased as its spiritual worth to God would remain unchanged.

  2. […] of law” to implicitly protect the life of the unborn (one of the reasons why the debate over personhood is so important). Rather, this issue, like all criminal and civil matters, was left in the hands […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s