Note: Whilst preparing this I looked for the article in the Journal of Medical Ethics. The paper on after-birth abortion referred to was by Australians Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva. Mysteriously, their article has ‘disappeared’ from the on-line version of said Journal.
+ Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney
11 Mar 2012
There were 44 million abortions worldwide in 2008 according to last month’s issue of the Lancet.
It is a huge number; big enough to worry the editor, who declared that reducing abortion “is now an urgent priority for all countries”.
But not everyone agrees. Also last month in another medical journal, two Australian academics opened abortion’s last frontier with a discussion of the “ethics” of “after-birth abortion”.
The argument is simple enough. There are persons and “potential persons”, who are in fact “non-persons” and can be killed.
A person can value its life and have goals for the future. If it realises what it is losing when you kill it, then killing it would be wrong. On this definition, “many non-human animals and mentally retarded human[s]” are persons.
A potential person cannot attribute a value to its life or form aims for the future. If you kill it, it does not know what it is losing. So killing it is “ethical”, is O.K. The authors claim the unborn and newborn infants are only potential persons and can be killed. The infant’s level of mental development “determines whether or not she is a ‘person'”.
So it is only infanticide and wrong if you are killing a young person. If you are killing a non-person after birth, it is after-birth abortion and O.K..
I’m not making this up. Unfortunately it gets worse.
With some disabled babies, the authors claim “death seems to be in the best interest of the child”. But “the best interest of the one who dies” is not enough.
The best interests of “actual persons” who have to look after the child, or society which pays for its care and education, always prevail over “the alleged interests of potential persons to become actual ones, because this latter interest amounts to zero”. All this legal-speak means that even a healthy child, even healthy babies could be killed, if they are a big nuisance!
“Merely being human” is not enough to have the right to life, or any rights at all. And if you don’t know what you’re missing, you can’t be harmed, even by killing.
You are only a person if you value life, have aims, or are valued by someone else. There are plenty for whom none of these apply. These non-persons too would be eligible for after-birth abortion; liable to be murdered.
It is madness, of course. But this is where the logic of abortion leads us.