Matthew Parris, discussing the Irish abortion referendum, said this yesterday: ‘I support women’s choice up until a late stage of pregnancy, do not believe human life is sacred, am not opposed to contraception or embryo experimentation and do not believe it’s always wrong to kill the born, let alone the unborn.’
Well, at least he is honest. It does not surprise me that someone who supports abortion does not believe human life is sacred and that there are some circumstances where killing newborn babies is acceptable. I suspect many pro-choice advocates secretly believe this but are not willing, at the moment at least, to admit it.
Philosopher Peter Singer has long advocated legal infanticide in certain circumstances. In Practical Ethics (1979), Singer explains that the value of a life should be based on traits such as rationality, autonomy and self-consciousness. ‘Defective infants lack these characteristics,’ he says. ‘Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings, or any other self-conscious beings.’
In 2012, two Italian philosophers advocated the legalisation of infanticide, not limited this time to ‘defective infants’.
Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva: ‘Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’s health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call “after-birth abortion” (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.’
Most people will be disgusted at the thought of doctors killing newborn babies, but the truth is that as a matter of logic and consistency both Singer and the two Italians are correct – there is no difference between the foetus and a newborn baby.
The foetus and the newborn are at different developmental stages but they are both humans whose humanity is inherent. Singer, Parris and others have a different view: there is nothing inherently sacred about human life so it can be open season according to whatever categories we make. We can choose to kill in certain circumstances. It is a chilling, cruel reality where the strong dominate the weak and vulnerable.
Every argument I have heard in support of abortion could be applied to infants. Women should be able to ‘choose to be mothers’ but surely they can make that choice a few minutes after delivery? Is there anything magical about the birth canal that transforms a foetus into a ‘proper’ new-born now worthy of legal protection? No, there isn’t – some newborns are delivered at 40 weeks, some at 34 weeks, and there are huge weight differences. Let’s not pretend any of this makes a difference to their humanity – it doesn’t.
Instead pro-abortionists constructed a vast legal scaffold, combined with denial of scientific fact that human life begins at conception, to justify the taking of human life. This is accompanied with a relentless rhetorical attack against the unborn child. None of it should hide the fact that abortion is an attack on human life and no amount of philosophical sophistication can get away from that reality.
In truth, there should be no discrimination between humans – no categories of those acceptable and those unacceptable. This separating out of the ‘proper’ human from the mere human or the ‘defective’ human or the sub-human will one day stop. The United States Supreme Court once held that a former slave was not a citizen but the property of his owner. We have seen this dehumanisation before. It was ugly then, and it is ugly now.
In a society obsessed with victimhood, oppression and identity politics, there is an irony that the most vulnerable are singled out for termination.
Let’s not pretend: abortion takes a human life.