Abortions in the Fourth Trimester: Why Not?

In the latest online edition of the Journal of Medical Ethics, two ethicists working in Australian universities make the argument that if abortion is legal in the first, second, or third trimester, why not in the fourth trimester as well?

Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva make the case that in “circumstances occur[ing] after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.”

“After-Birth Abortion” = The New Infanticide

Giubilini and Minerva would be uncomfortable with saying they’re advocating “infanticide”; instead, they prefer the term “after-birth abortion.”

While freely acknowledging “the oxymoron in the expression,” they believe the latter “[emphasizes] 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.”

They go on to write:

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. This means that many non-human animals and mentally retarded human individuals are persons, but that all the individuals who are not in the condition of attributing any value to their own existence are not persons.

Like Humpty Dumpty, Giubilini and Minerva believe that a word (in this case, “person”) can mean whatever they want it to mean.

The Line between “After-Birth Abortion” and Murder Unclear

They’re also fuzzy about what point killing someone would cease to be after-birth abortion and become willful murder:

[W]e do not put forward any claim about the moment at which after-birth abortion would no longer be permissible, and we do not think that in fact more than a few days would be necessary for doctors to detect any abnormality in the child.

What constitutes “a few days”? Two? Three? Four? 365?

They press on, with even less certainty:

In cases where the after-birth abortion were requested for non-medical reasons, we do not suggest any threshold, as it depends on the neurological development of newborns, which is something neurologists and psychologists would be able to assess. [emphasis added]

Because, you know, it’s not like there’s a danger of a slippery slope or anything.

Writing at National Catholic Register, Matthew Archbold trenchantly observes:

An ethicist’s job is like a magician’s. The main job of both is to distract you from the obvious. The magician uses sleight of hand to pretend to make people disappear. But when ethicists do it, people disappear for real. …

They throw around this term “potential person” like it’s a real thing. As if it’s science. But there’s no such thing as potential persons.

Taking Abortion to Its Logical Conclusion

Yesterday, the editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, Julian Savulescu, defended the article’s publication:

The authors provocatively argue that there is no moral difference between a fetus and a newborn. Their capacities are relevantly similar. If abortion is permissible, infanticide should be permissible. The authors proceed logically from premises which many people accept to a conclusion that many of those people would reject.

On this point, of course, Savulescu is absolutely right.

Say what you will about the monstrosity of the argument for “after-birth abortion.” But Giubilini and Minerva — along with others like Peter Singer, who have been saying the same thing for years — are nothing if not logically consistent.

After all, if abortion is morally acceptable at any point in pregnancy, well, then, why is it not morally acceptable to kill a newborn?

Planned Parenthood Is Never This Candid

I suspect that Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards and the rest of the pro-choice establishment would prefer that professors like Giubilini and Minerva and others who baldly argue in favor of fourth-trimester abortions would just keep quiet.

Counter-protester at Pro-Life Action League sponsored Face the Truth Day in Chicago

The average pro-choice person finds it a lot easier to rationalize his belief that abortion is OK because he has first convinced himself that killing a fetus before birth is radically different from killing a baby after birth.

So when we find ourselves in an exchange with a pro-choice person who shares our belief that killing newborns is wrong, it may be worth our while to point out the fact that there are people who are pro-choice who are intellectually honest enough to admit that abortion and “after-birth abortion” are essentially the same thing — and maybe even to ask straight up: Certain pro-choice people are honest enough to admit that killing a baby after birth is the same as killing a fetus before birth. Why aren’t you?

We’re not necessarily going to change someone’s mind on the spot, but it may make the person we’re talking to a lot more squeamish about their beliefs on abortion, which in turn may cause them to start reconsidering their position.

We as pro-lifers believe that killing a fetus before birth is equivalent to killing a newborn baby, that both acts are morally wrong, and that both should be illegal.

But it takes an extraordinarily high level of ideological commitment to believe that killing a newborn baby is equivalent to killing a fetus before birth, that both acts are morally acceptable, and that both should be legal.

And that’s a level of commitment the vast majority of people who call themselves “pro-choice” simply do not have.

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