Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
One of the recurring topics I’ve addressed while filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN has been what I see as the growing disturbing trend of a total disregard for human life. A new entry in the Journal of Medical Ethics clearly falls into this category.
It’s chilling, despicable, heartless, evil. Written by Alberto Giubilini (Department of Philosophy, University of Milan, Milan, Italy) and Francesca Minerva( University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia) the article’s title is outrageous enough:
After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?
After-birth abortion? That would be cold-blooded intentional murder.
Here are some excerpts:
“Severe abnormalities of the fetus and risks for the physical and/or psychological health of the woman are often cited as valid reasons for abortion. Sometimes the two reasons are connected, such as when a woman claims that a disabled child would represent a risk to her mental health. However, having a child can itself be an unbearable burden for the psychological health of the woman or for her already existing children,1 regardless of the condition of the fetus. This could happen in the case of a woman who loses her partner after she finds out that she is pregnant and therefore feels she will not be able to take care of the possible child by herself.
“A serious philosophical problem arises when the same conditions that would have justified abortion become known after birth. In such cases, we need to assess facts in order to decide whether the same arguments that apply to killing a human fetus can also be consistently applied to killing a newborn human.
“An examination of 18 European registries reveals that between 2005 and 2009 only the 64% of Down's syndrome cases were diagnosed through prenatal testing. This percentage indicates that, considering only the European areas under examination, about 1700 infants were born with Down's syndrome without parents being aware of it before birth. Once these children are born, there is no choice for the parents but to keep the child, which sometimes is exactly what they would not have done if the disease had been diagnosed before birth.
“Euthanasia in infants has been proposed by philosophers for children with severe abnormalities whose lives can be expected to be not worth living and who are experiencing unbearable suffering.
“Also medical professionals have recognised the need for guidelines about cases in which death seems to be in the best interest of the child. In The
“…people with Down's syndrome, as well as people affected by many other severe disabilities, are often reported to be happy.
“Nonetheless, to bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care. On these grounds, the fact that a fetus has the potential to become a person who will have an (at least) acceptable life is no reason for prohibiting abortion. Therefore, we argue that, when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.
“In spite of the oxymoron in the expression, we propose to call this practice ‘after-birth abortion’, rather than ‘infanticide’, to emphasise that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child. Therefore, we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be.
“…it should also be permissible to practise an after-birth abortion on a healthy newborn too, given that she has not formed any aim yet.
“There are two reasons which, taken together, justify this claim:
1) The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus, that is, neither can be considered a ‘person’ in a morally relevant sense.
2) It is not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense.
“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."Merely being human is not in itself a reason or ascribing someone a right to life.
“Although fetuses and newborns are not persons, they are potential persons because they can develop, thanks to their own biological mechanisms, those properties which will make them ‘persons’ in the sense of ‘subjects of a moral right to life’: that is, the point at which they will be able to make aims and appreciate their own life.
“It might be claimed that someone is harmed because she is prevented from becoming a person capable of appreciating her own being alive. Thus, for example, one might say that we would have been harmed if our mothers had chosen to have an abortion while they were pregnant with us or if they had killed us as soon as we were born. However, whereas you can benefit someone by bringing her into existence (if her life is worth living), it makes no sense to say that someone is harmed by being prevented from becoming an actual person. The reason is that, by virtue of our definition of the concept of ‘harm’ in the previous section, in order for a harm to occur, it is necessary that someone is in the condition of experiencing that harm.
“If a potential person, like a fetus and a newborn, does not become an actual person, like you and us, then there is neither an actual nor a future person who can be harmed, which means that there is no harm at all. So, if you ask one of us if we would have been harmed, had our parents decided to kill us when we were fetuses or newborns, our answer is ‘no’, because they would have harmed someone who does not exist (the ‘us’ whom you are asking the question), which means no one. And if no one is harmed, then no harm occurred.
“The alleged right of individuals (such as fetuses and newborns) to develop their potentiality, which someone defends, is over-ridden by the interests of actual people (parents, family, society) to pursue their own well-being because, as we have just argued, merely potential people cannot be harmed by not being brought into existence. Actual people's well-being could be threatened by the new (even if healthy) child requiring energy, money and care which the family might happen to be in short supply of. Sometimes this situation can be prevented through an abortion, but in some other cases this is not possible. In these cases, since non-persons have no moral rights to life, there are no reasons for banning after-birth abortions.
“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.
“…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.”
David Pohlmann, a senior lecturer at the Christian Heritage Ciollege wrote a response, in part:
When I began to read this article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, I initially thought the authors were writing somewhat tongue-in- cheek. My intrigue turned to dismay when I realized that they were actually arguing that killing newborn babies is morally justifiable. Law would call post-birth abortion murder, infanticide, or possibly euthanasia, but the authors argue that such an act should not be referred to as infanticide, claiming it to be morally equal to abortion; and reject the term euthanasia because they are not necessarily interested in the well-being of the baby concerned. They argue that 'the moral status of [a newborn] is comparable with that of a fetus' , hence the use of the term after-birth abortion.
The authors accept that there are some arguments brought to bear by people who would oppose abortion. They admit that 'people with Down's syndrome, as well as people affected by many other severe disabilities, are often reported to be happy.' , but gloss over this as if it is not important to their argument proposing that some such people should die at birth. While not rejecting the truth of such reports of happiness in life, the authors simply regard this evidence as immaterial to their argument. When the authors state that "It might be maintained that 'even allowing for the more optimistic assessments of the potential of Down's syndrome children, this potential cannot be said to be equal to that of a normal child'" , they are allowing tyranny of the bell curve to guide their proposed behavior. After all, the concept of 'normal' is a statistical function of central tendency and in itself simply a statement of what is, not a means of proposing what should be. If we retrospectively implemented these kinds of ideas, the world would have been robbed of people like Helen Keller, Andrea Bocelli and Nick Vujicic simply because someone decided they weren't normal.
Surely value as persons is something that all humans are born with? The UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that 'All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights'. The
The authors state that 'in order for a harm to occur, it is necessary that someone is in the condition of experiencing that harm.', but they have proposed harm to these children as they purport to stealing their very future, and therefore all future experiences, good and bad, would be dissolved by those doctors, neurologists and psychologists informing the decisions of parents . It puts an enormous burden on the moral or ethical judgements of those, in whose power it is, to 'abort' newborn babies. The authors' thesis calls on such professionals to assume the role of 'god' by determining which humans have value and which ones don't-I personally wouldn't want that job! If, as Churchill is attested to have said, it is true that 'you measure the degree of civilisation of a society by how it treats its weakest members' what kind of society are the authors of this article proposing?