Parents should be able to kill their newborn children. So have concluded a group of academics with ties to Oxford University. In a recent article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, the authors concluded that there is no difference between abortion and killing a newborn. They called the latter “after birth abortion.” The Telegraphs’ Stephen Adams reports:
They argued: “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”
Rather than being “actual persons”, newborns were “potential persons”. They explained: “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.”
While no doubt repugnant to many readers, the premise which these authors have rested their case upon is actually a welcome concession which advances the pro-life argument. Indeed, there is no moral difference between the born and the unborn. Of course, that means we should protect the unborn, not kill our children. Even the journal’s editor acknowledges that their premise works both ways.
[Prof Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics] said the journal would consider publishing an article positing that, if there was no moral difference between abortion and killing newborns, then abortion too should be illegal.
By accepting the premise which pro-life activists have long asserted, that there is no difference in moral value between the born and the unborn, the authors lead us to the more fundamental premise upon which not just abortion but every political issue must ultimately be decided. What are rights, and where do they come from?
According to the authors, in order to have a right to life, a human being must be “capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.” In other words, fetuses and newborns have nothing to lose. So killing them deprives them of nothing.