Give now
The “logic” of abortion, ‘after-birth abortion’ and infanticide

Last week an article appeared in the Journal of Medical Ethics entitled, somewhat controversially, ‘After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?’  Unsurprisingly, this article has provoked a lot of reaction ranging from embracement of liberal philosophical and ethical discourse to abhorrence and anger at apparent immoral detachment from reality.

The basic thrust of the article is that foetuses and newborns are morally equivalent to each other, that they do not have the same moral status as “actual persons” (persons like you and me, capable of planning for the future and by extension suffering should our future plans be thwarted) and the fact they are “potential persons” is morally irrelevant.

On this basis, the authors argue that killing babies is not immoral as babies are not actual people.  They term this ‘after-birth abortion’ rather than infanticide, euthanasia or murder.  According to the authors, ‘euthanasia’ is not relevant as the killing of the child is not necessarily in the best interest of the child (they advocate the killing of healthy newborns, not just disabled or abnormal newborns) but the “actual persons” involved, be they parents, siblings or society as a whole.  “Therefore, the rights and interests of the actual people involved should represent the prevailing consideration in a decision about abortion and after-birth abortion.”  In effect, a foetus or newborn has no intrinsic rights; rather it merely has rights projected upon it by an “actual person”.

What should we make of this?

We should remember that this is not a policy statement from a political party or government, but a piece of academic research.  However, that does not lessen the revulsion one might feel towards the ideas the article discusses.

Also, this is not new ethical and philosophical territory (see for example the views of Peter Singer on this subject) – the kind of reaction this article has provoked is not new either – but it should cause us to reflect and react strongly to oppose such immorality.  When the article came to light, many suggested it might be an ill-advised joke or spoof, such is the disbelief such views provoke.

The more I read the article, the more chilling I find the arguments contained therein.  The absence from the article of any acknowledgement that what is being written about is ‘life’ is striking, despite the nature of the paper as a piece of academic research.

Life is precious.  Life is God-given (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13).  Life is not abstract.  We can all agree that a newborn is life.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘born’ as “existing as a result of birth”, ‘birth’ is defined as “the emergence of a baby or other young from the body of its mother; the start of life as a physically separate being”, ‘life’ is defined as “the existence of an individual human being”.

Ultimately, as abhorrent as a piece of academic work such as this may be, it shouldn’t come as a particular surprise.  After all, as Lord Alton noted in the wake of the paper’s publication, infanticide – the killing of a child soon after birth – is merely the “chilling and unassailable” logical end point for a society that permits killing a baby up to one day before birth.

The onus is on us to expose such flimsy morality for what it is and to stand up as those who value human life at all stages of its existence, especially when that life cannot defend itself.


Read ‘After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?’ here.

Other useful interesting links/articles:

Catholic Herald


Christian Medical Comment – Peter Saunders

Guardian, Comment is free – Andrew Brown

New Statesman

Blog response from the Journal’s Editor, Julian Savulescu


  1. Mar 2, 2012
    10:16 am

    John Hudson

    Thank you so much for bringing this horrific development to my attention. This is but yet another indicator of where “progress” is going. Abortion is bad enough as it is. I fully support any actions that CARE feels necessary to take to highlight the depravity of such thinking.

  2. Mar 8, 2012
    3:10 pm


    Prayer After Birth (Acknowledgements and Apologies to Louis MacNeice).

    I am now born: please hear me,
    Let not the debt collectors,
    Or the rights protectors,
    Or the seditious insurrectors come near me.

    I am now born, comfort me,
    Else I fear that the human-folk may:
    With clever lies debase me,
    With bad science un-race me,
    And with strong drugs erase me.

    I am now born: please bestow me,
    Among the dancing grass, babbling brooks,
    Swaying trees and singing rooks,
    Undiminished bright light of grace and truth,
    To restore me.

    I am now born, with lullabies lull me,
    With warm cuddles mull me,
    With deep love sustain me, and,
    With silence, not gainsay me.

  3. Mar 8, 2012
    7:26 pm

    John Bradley

    The article states:” Both a foetus and a newborn baby certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life'”. If that is so, then those against abortion should take that conclusion to show that therefore abortion is wrong! (The foetus being a human being) Does not that argument therefore turn the debate on its head and in doing so provide academic support for the anti-abortion lobby? I hope so.
    John Bradley

    • Mar 26, 2012
      12:30 pm


      Before I answer, please understand that I am against abortion, I also am a counselor at a pregnancy care center. That said. Most of the time an abortion done in the second trimester is done while the patient is under twilight sleep or general anesthesia. You would not remember anything.I have had three abortions in my life, the lives that I stole will always haunt me. I had 2 abortions that were done within 12 weeks of conception and one done at 20 weeks. As I was leaving the abortion clinic after the procedure, I saw a nurse inspecting an aborted fetus (could have been mine). It was an obvious baby. It was red and in several pieces. This happened when I was 18, I am now 38 and it still haunts me and I imagine it always will.I know what it is like to take a life, to give life and keep it and give life and give it away (adoption). Let me tell you that giving life is less painful than living with the acts of abortion for the rest of your life. It is a painful hole that can never be filled and the more you try to fill it, the deeper and darker it becomes. My oldest daughter was supposed to be aborted. She would have been the 4th. I had the laminara stips put in the night before the abortion. I was 23 weeks pregnant. I changed my mind, I went to another doctor, had them removed. I had a healthy baby girl a few months later. She will be turning 18 on August 29th. Today she and I are the best of friends, I cannot imagine my life without her. I have told her everything about her life inside my belly. She has learned through me that she never wants the same things to happen to her and she forgives her mother for almost ending her life.You need to know what you are going to loose with an abortion esp. this far advanced.

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