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Oxford Ethicists Endorse “After-Birth Abortions”

Here at Via Meadia we are exposed to some shocking news, but nothing more shocking than this: A group of Oxford-affiliated “ethics experts” have published an article finding that infanticide is acceptable and no different from abortion, giving the practice the charming name of “after-birth abortions.” We are practically at a loss for words, so we’ll allow the ethicists’ findings to speak for themselves. From the Telegraph:

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.”

As such they argued it was “not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense”.

First gendercide, and now this? Perhaps the English believe themselves to be leading the way to a more enlightened future. If so, Via Meadia is happy to be based an ocean away, although our interns of British origin may have more trouble.

If this idea goes mainstream, Via Meadia will be first on board for a right-to-life amendment to the Constitution.

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  • Mrs. Davis

    If you are willing to tolerate abortion, it is difficult to see how this extension of logic is difficult. After all, what real difference is there if the blob of protoplasm is inside some woman’s body or on a table next to it? The whole ethical problem is when the blob becomes a person. The critical issue now is location of the blob. And these blobs are so troublesome. So disposing of them avoids unnecessary inconvenience.

    Life begins at conception as does personhood and citizenship. To believe otherwise is to begin to slide down the slippery slope that now ends at after birth abortions.

    And as you get older, don’t forget that the old become blobs. See the Dutch experience with euthanasia. Bring in the eugenicists.

  • LarryD

    It’s worth researching the eugenics movement, they did not disappear after the Holocaust.

    They didn’t dislike the Nazis because they abhorred what they’d done, but because the Nazis had poisoned the well for them.

    A lot of them declared themselves “bio-ethics experts”. The old evils have festered in hiding for generations, now they reckon conditions are ripe for them to become more open.

  • Jeff77450

    I suspect that we’ll find that an overwhelming majority of the British are opposed to this line of thinking. It is truly horrific.

  • Jim.

    “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 principle could be used to justify killing Oxford-affiliated moralists in their sleep.

    If they don’t perceive a loss, there isn’t a loss, right?

    WRM, if this view goes mainstream, there’s basically no chance of getting that Constitutional Amendment passed. Think about that.

  • Martin Berman-Gorvine

    Contrary to what the first commenter said, I actually find this horrifying spectacle to be a good illustration of the limits of the slippery slope argument. It seems to me that most people would have no trouble distinguishing between murdering a newborn infant and aborting a zygote that is just an undifferentiated cluster of cells. In the real world where most of live, where to draw the line is the difficult question.

  • Louis Wheeler

    This really is a covert denial of Natural Law. If a person does not possess a right, granted by God, to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then the state may take away each at its convenience. Faceless experts and bureaucrats get to decide the value of your existence. Oh! This will be about improving efficiency, but tyranny is always more efficient than freedom. These moralists start with those who cannot complain, but this denial of rights will end up in gulags and gas chambers.

  • Tom Richards

    Calm down, dear. No real world legislator cares what a couple of academics publish in some learned journal. The voting public would never even remotely stand for it, so it’s a non-issue for practical purposes.

    The paper’s also very poorly argued and shoddy in all sorts of ways (what would you expect from ethicists – if they were good enough to do real philosophy they wouldn’t be stuck in such a silly backwater). However, what one might view as its central thesis seems correct: if you are willing to allow abortions for reasons other than saving the life of the mother at 35 weeks, why not immediately after birth?

    I submit that moral personhood is in all probability a matter of degree, and that there’s enough of a chance that foetuses have enough of it by 18 weeks or so that we shouldn’t allow abortions beyond that point. The notion that it begins at conception seems . . . unlikely, to say the least.

  • Jude Fallows

    This is simply the logical conclusion of the pro-choice argument. We should not be shocked, just saddened.

  • EvilBuzzard

    Via Meadia is happy to be based an ocean away…

    And presumably pleased to vote to re-elect a President that voted against the Infant Born Alive Protection Act of 2004 twice. Congratulations on your selective perspicacity, Doctor.

  • Andrew

    There’s no better place than this forum to ask what the larger forces are that are pushing British elites towards barbarism.

  • Eric from Texas

    Isn’t this obscenity a logical extension of the increasingly secular worldview that many in Europe have developed? Seems like they are emulating the secular Roman world, when Christians would take in unwanted (often female) infants.

  • Steve in Colorado

    What do you want to bet that these “ethicists” are opposed to the death penalty?

    The ethical systems that take the virtue of life seriously, for instance, the Catholic Church, argue from plausible biology that the infant just before birth is really no different than the infant just after birth. The argument is then repeated to show that the least arbitrary position to take is that we ought to assign moral agency to the individual at the moment of conception.

    These ethicists take the position that they can arbitrarily assign moral agency however it suits them. There really is no limiting principle at work. From their own arguments, they would be hard pressed to find a reason, one universally based, that one could not find an “ethical” reason to deny moral agency to say, gays, or Down syndrome individuals, Jews, blacks or any other disfavored group. It is eugenics all over again.

  • ari

    that particular notion could get kicked to the curb if those particular ethicists would wander down the walkway to the developmental psych buildings. There are perfectly good studies, published by PhDs showing infants recognize and react to other human beings on the day of their birth. One study- the lead guy went in and made a face at a newborn- he stuck his tongue out at the neonate. The next day, he walked into the room, caught the infants attention, and the infant stuck his/her tongue out at the researcher. The child hadn’t not stuck his/her tongue out at any one else. there was also a look of recognition and delight, when the researcher, again reciprocated.

    I can, anecdotally, point out the games that one can play with a child in utero. I’ve had three. My husband would poke in, the inner-resident would poke out. They’d do this a few times, and then go for sequences- one poke, two pokes, and so on. There was one who would poke here- and then swim over and poke there- and would be practically morse-coding when the response was here, there, as well. One day I wore a pair of pants with a tight waistband, and I had pokes along the entire length of the waistband, on the upperside, and then along the lower side. That, to me, sounds exactly like an astrophysicist poking a telescope everywhichwhere: asking what’s out there, testing what’s out there, coming to conclusions about what’s out there.

    Have any of these bio-ethicists actually been around real, live infants? There starting premise is nonsense, if they have even looked carefully at a child exploring its’ world.

  • ari

    for that matter, there are perfectly good philosophy books stating that Homer Simpson, or any blue-collar person- is incapable of being considered a person, or even aspiring to be good, b/c they don’t think in categories of “good” and “bad” such as philosophers use. They bumble about, eating donuts and forgetting saxophone performances by their children. So, is this a rationale to euthanize average parents, blue-collar workers and everyone without a college philoshopy degree?

  • Eurydice

    Interesting that the non-morally relevant, non-person newborn is characterized as female.

  • Preston Pate

    The chilling part of this point of view is not just that it is morally reprehensible, but that it carries the logic of abortion towards its logical conclusion. It would not be hard to extend this line of thought to sanctioning killing of anyone who is not “capable of contributing to their own existence”.

  • Some Sock Puppet

    Good lord.

    No one believes in the continued existence or right to it, of white people, apparently.

    Sins of the fathers and all that.

    I am continually and soul-crushingly reminded of this daily.

  • SiliconValleySteve

    Peter Singer who is the highly regarded DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University has been saying the exact same thing for years.

  • Mrs. Davis

    It seems to me that most people would have no trouble distinguishing between murdering a newborn infant and aborting a zygote that is just an undifferentiated cluster of cells. In the real world where most of live, where to draw the line is the difficult question.

    I absolutely agree that where to draw the line is a difficult question. That is why I choose to draw it at the absolute beginning.

    The issue is not the difference between a newborn and a zygote. That is a false choice. The problem is where to draw the line when the change occurs. And I would err on letting the zygote reach its maturity.

  • Graciela

    The ethicists are perfectly correct. A liberal society puts sexual interests above ANY other good. Abortion is just late contraception, and infanticide slightly later. And SO important so that no one has to live with the consequences of their sexual acts.
    Anyone who votes in favor of abortion MUST understand what it means: the designation or “person” is arbitrary and can be imposed. And you or a loved one may be left out. Your old mother or father? Your new baby with disabilities requiring the rest of us to pay for expensive care?

  • Tom Gates

    All of this and more outlined in CS Lewis; ” The Abolition of Man”. If we justify that babies who cannot take care of themselves are ripe for killing, then why not the aged?

  • Jim.

    @Mrs Davis-

    Very well argued in comment 19 there.

    Any debate on this subject that doesn’t include a statement like yours is a dishonest one, slanted against your position from the beginning.

  • LoveIsAlive

    I could let anger and frustration get the best of me…however, where would that get anyone?

    There are many reasons why some woman would want to terminate a pregnancy…at any stage. But really, when it’s all said and done with, you’re still left with that memory whether painful or not on how one conceived. That woman whether she would admit it or not, will have to live with that memory of conceiving and aborting that baby for the rest of her life.

    I am pro life- and I don’t care how smart you are to have to get into Oxford…but I think this is just ridiculous! And one is selfish to think this is okay and what not. I mean…c’mon! I would more than gladly take in all those un-wanted babies! Disabled or perfectly healthy!

  • Vilmos

    The sad thing is not that someone has an opinion like this. Other ‘acedemics’ think that children are nothing just pollution source, and they also think that children should be a tax burden.

    The real sad thing is that these opinions are acceptable in polite circles.

    The problem with Hitler was not that he was an extremist. There are a lot out there. The problem is that he became acceptable and mainstream and was allowed to redefine Germany.

    Personally, I don’t see much difference between Hitler’s racial theories and this “age theories”. Both are equally antihuman.

    God save us from that such people really to the levers of power.


  • Mrs. Davis

    Thank you, Jim. /blush

  • Walter Sobchak

    Jonathan Swift wrote a paper somewhat like this. But, we knew he was a satirist.

    Incidentally, this is the same conclusion that famous Princeton “philosopher” Peter Singer has reached in the past, he also endorsed euthanasia. OTOH, Singer thinks eating meat is immoral.

    I have often called Singer the Andy Kaufman of academia, and entertainer whose work is aimed at annoying his audience.

  • Kris

    This is somewhat ironic. Pro-lifers have been making the slippery slope argument for a long time, arguing (like Mrs Davis and Gerald) that passing through the birth canal does not magically change the intrinsic status of the being-under-discussion. They’ve been emphasizing, through logic and medical means such as sonograms, just how similar late-term foetuses are to babies, with the aim of deterring abortion. Instead, it seems that some people have so successfully desensitized themselves to abortion that “the next step” does not cause them to recoil in horror but rather seems reasonable. O brave new world!

  • Fred

    _The voting public would never even remotely stand for it, so it’s a non-issue for practical purposes._

    Sounds like wishful thinking to me, Tom. Thirty years ago any sane person would have had the same reaction to an article recommending same sex marriage. Twenty years before that, any rational human being would have been outraged at the proposition that there was a “right” to abortion. We’ve been continually defining deviancy down (as Daniel Patrick Moynihan put it) in this country for over forty years. Infanticide seems like a perfectly logical next step to me. As Robert Penn Warren said about Jesus coming to save mankind, “The joke is on Him/Man being what he is.”

  • Corlyss

    Why not? The Europeans have chipped away at the right of self-defense to the point that it legally practially doesn’t exist. The Oxford ethicists have finally cut to the chase:”Let’s just kill ’em before they start to annoy us.”

  • Corlyss

    “And SO important so that no one has to live with the consequences of their sexual acts.”

    I chalk it up to the feminization of society over the last 60 years of liberal runamokedness. The welfare state is so drawn as to exist to “tidy up” after society, to console them, educate them, pay them when they can’t find work, take the salutary sting out of their painful and costly bad decisions, level playing fields for everyone but evil white males, raise the kids, feed the families, heal the sick, comfort the grieving, even ensure that they don’t have to hear loud commercials on tv programs they watch, etc. As human rights proliferate, individual responsibilities evaporat. The state will do all and be all for sybaritic Lotus-eaters that most voters have become. I wonder if our fathers and grandfathers imagined what they were fighting and dying for in WW2.

  • http://N/A Duane

    Peter Singer has groupies?

    Sad to say, I am not surprised.

    Aktion T4, here we come! Its a Brave New World, but the World Controllers will probably grant the Gammas a generous ten year life span before such pets are mercifully put down.


  • Swearjar

    Shall we define ‘newborn’? Then stretch it just a bit, by say a few months … or years? And how about those oxygen-thieving old folks who just hang on and keep draining our social security budget? What about those metally or physically handicapped folks who – allegedly – have no real quality of life?

    Where does this stop?

  • JohnSF

    This may or may not be regarded as nitpicking, but is surely relevant to the degree to which it reflects British morality: the authors of this (horrific) statement may be affiliated with Oxford University, but are actually Australian academics.

  • Lorenz Gude

    I come down on both sides of this issue – on the basis of experience on both sides of the debate. I have had to conclude that abortion is the taking of human life. I see no wiggle room. At the same time I remember the days before abortion was legal in the U.S. Michael Creighton’s 68 novel A Case of Need brings back those days of desperate people caught in the situation of not simply unwanted pregnancy, but socially impossible and life shattering pregnancy. That includes a person I know who aborted them-self at the age of 12. Alone. Nature is ruthless, and we are nothing less that the children of nature. My position is that yes, this is the taking of human life, but both outlawing it and making it completely available also have massive negative consequences. The best compromise I have ever encountered is to make it available and try to talk the maximum number we can into carrying the baby to term and make is socially as easy as possible to do so. The only country I am aware of that does this is Germany where I understand a compromise between Christian Democrats and Social Democrats produced a system that works in that fashion. This map of abortion percentages for much of the world is instructive.
    A few observations. The US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand along with France and most of Scandinavia all run a rate of abortion between 20% and 30%. Russia and China are are between 30% and 50% and face demographic problems. Germany is between 11 and 15%. Some, not all, of the Catholic countries run below 2%, and India at below 5%?! Historically, before abortion and birth control, abandonment was the main alternative. According to The Kindness of Strangers by John Boswell abandonment rates peaked at 40% in the early 19th century as cities began to keep statistics. 40% – look at the map…plus ca change….

  • Chris

    [casual blasphemy deleted], Mead. You (and more than a few of your readers) need to read a few things about noncognitivism before spouting such nonsense. Try A.J. Ayer or R.M. Hare.

    Oh wait, you’re a theist, huh. Well then you probably won’t get it, but I encourage you to try nevertheless…

  • Vilmos


    > the authors of this (horrific) statement may be
    > affiliated with Oxford University, but are actually
    > Australian academics.

    What’s wrong with Australian? I read examples where Australian “academics” said that children are a pollution source, and in order to discourge people having children, they should actually pay tax after children instead of getting tax relief.

    Also, the ABC, the BBC’s Australian equivalent, had a computer questionnaire for children, where they asked them about their resource usage habits, and once they got the answers, they “helpfully” told the children at which age they should die so they don’t consume more than their fare share of resources.


  • Kohl Haas

    No babies – no taxpayers for those pension plans: Extinction. Perhaps justified based on being too stupid to survive.

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