A recent WSJ “Best of the Web Today” entry led me to a Telegraph article on a recent academic paper that would shock many, though sadly it shouldn’t. I wish I had more time to write about it, but I did want to mention it here so that you could read it for yourself.
Quite a brouhaha was stirred this past week when the Journal of Medical Ethics published a paper titled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” (The Telegraph article was titled “Killing babies no different from abortion, experts say”.) The paper essentially argued that there would be nothing morally wrong at all with killing a newborn for whatever reason the parents should choose. While there is a focus on children born with deformities and other challenges, the authors make clear that the reason it would not be morally problematic to kill such infants is because killing any infant, in general, is not morally problematic. The key element in the argument is that infants are only “potentially morally relevant people” — potentially being the important word. The position of the paper is that there is not real distinction in terms of moral choices between killing an child soon after birth and killing a child in the womb.
That such a position would be published in a prestigious medical journal should not be shocking. As the Telegraph reports, this is not necessarily a new development but one that has been bandied about for a time, though perhaps in more raw forms.
And at the heart of the vile conclusion is a truth: There truly is no moral difference between abortion before birth and “abortion” after birth. As Dr. Trevor Stammer of St. Mary’s University College points out in the Telegraph article, rather than turning on the word “abortion” we could link the two terms with “infanticide,” calling abortion an “antenatal infanticide.”
There is a cold logic that runs throughout the argument which only turns in the direction of hauntingly repulsive due to the moral flow. Rather than move from the general immorality of elective infanticide to the immorality of abortion, the flow is in the other direction, with the presumed moral acceptability of abortion leading to the acceptability of elective infanticide. It’s OK to kill our babies in the womb, so it’s OK to kill them after birth, as well.
It is the argument that pro-life individuals have tried to make for years: That abortion represents a disrespect for life made in God’s image, and that the “culture of death” represented by such positions will inevitably grow and spread. This is the spread. The professional ethicists fail to see that by unmooring morality from the will of God, all substitute moorings are illusory. They pat themselves on the back for their enlightenment and the belief that they are establishing new anchors of a reasoned morality, all the while they are drifting and truly unmoored in any way.
These may seem like “high falutin'” journals that “real people” do not read, but don’t make that mistake. Those who establish medical and political policy do read such journals, and they do have their impact. The abominable work of men like “ethicist” Dr. Peter Singer don’t always stay on the outskirts or fringes. They do, slowly, come in from the edges and take seats among us.
The authors of the article and the editor of the JME have apparently received death threats over the matter, and that is wrong. And they, editor Dr. Julian Savulescu in particular, have decried such threats come from people who are “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.” I think James Taranto responds well:
He’s half right. People who issue death threats in response to an academic article are indeed “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.” But so are people who write or publish academic articles arguing in favor of the murder of children.
In such matters it seems clearer and clearer that we are living off of the remaining “principal” of a “moral investment” made earlier in our culture, and we are no longer making deposits into that account. And like any fund from which withdrawals are made without deposits to replenish the account, eventually the account zeros out.
That our academic community and professional ethicists are making recommendations that should be vomitous to a civilized society is a symptom of a society in horrific state or moral decline. That the logical groundwork for those recommendations have been present for decades–at least since Roe v. Wade–and solidly accepted by vast swaths of our society shows how systemic the problem is. Some would argue that a position like this paper represents does not reflect the sentiment of most of society, and this would be true. Yet there are sentiments now held by most of society that once only existed in academic papers. These things start somewhere. Today’s papers sometimes turn into tomorrow’s policies, if only by degrees.
The authors make a solid point in their ties between infanticide and abortion: the only difference between the two is legality, and the current state of the law is irrational and inconsistent in what it forbids and allows. Without God in the picture, though, I fear for how that irrational and inconsistent state would eventually be resolved over time.
We are increasingly losing the ability to distinguish between the clean and the unclean, the holy and the unholy. That our leading thinkers should consider the murder of children a small thing of no moral consequence is a travesty and a demonstration that the educational system that produced such “thinkers” is an abomination.