Having now read "After-Birth Abortion" word for word, I am in a position to assert and to argue that Minerva & Giubilini are not simply somewhat misleading, not simply academic whiners, not even simply sophists, when they say that they were "misrepresented" by those who criticized them. They are liars.
Minerva and Giubilini imply that they were merely showing logical connections between propositions--"If X, then Y"--that their article was a "pure exercise of logic" rather than an actual argument for infanticide.
We started from the definition of person introduced by Michael Tooley in 1975 and we tried to draw the logical conclusions deriving from this premise. It was meant to be a pure exercise of logic: if X, then Y. We expected that other bioethicists would challenge either the premise or the logical pattern we followed, because this is what happens in academic debates.
This is an outright lie, as the below quotations will show. The authors assert repeatedly that newborn children do not have a right to life and that there are circumstances in which, for the sake of the interests of the parents and other "actual people" involved (because newborn babies are not "actual people" on their argument), infanticide should be permitted. These are not merely conditional statements, not merely "If X, then Y" statements. They expressly define their terms and then argue from those definitions that newborns are non-persons and therefore are killable. The article is unequivocal on this point.
Minerva & Giubilini also say that they were not advocating policy, because they are merely philosophers. They say that they "should have been clearer about this."
However, we never meant to suggest that after-birth abortion should become legal. This was not made clear enough in the paper. Laws are not just about rational ethical arguments, because there are many practical, emotional, social aspects that are relevant in policy making (such as respecting the plurality of ethical views, people’s emotional reactions etc). But we are not policy makers, we are philosophers, and we deal with concepts, not with legal policy.
On the contrary. This is another lie. They were quite clear in the article that they were advocating policy, as the below quotations also show.
As I noted in my earlier post, Minerva & Giubilini try to calm the masses by saying that they did not advocate "killing people."
What people understood was that we were in favour of killing people. This, of course, is not what we suggested. This is easier to see when our thesis is read in the context of the history of the debate.
This is deceptive sophistry of the worst sort, since virtually the entire burden of their article is that newborn babies are not "actual people"!
Minerva & Giubilini also state that they have been misrepresented as having put no term to the time at which newborns could be killed.
Moreover, we did not suggest that after birth abortion should be permissible for months or years as the media erroneously reported.That report was not a misrepresentation. It is the truth. They are explicit about stating that they suggest no threshold time at which the newborn becomes an "actual person" because this will depend on neurological capabilities. Therefore, of course killing could, in individual cases where neurological capabilities did not develop, be permissible for months or years. Hence, their claim of misrepresentation here is another lie.
Some of the quotations below have appeared elsewhere. I produce this fairly large bulk of quotations here to make it clear that no misrepresentation is taking place. Get the whole article here and see for yourself.
If advocacy of infanticide were not disgrace enough for the profession of philosophy (and it is), the spectacle of philosophers lying in a half-hearted attempt to cover up that advocacy makes the disgrace even worse.
All bold print in what follows is mine.
[I]n fact, people with Down's syndrome, as well as people affected by many other severe disabilities, are often reported to be happy.
Nonetheless, to bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care. On these grounds, the fact that a fetus has the potential to become a person who will have an (at least) acceptable life is no reason for prohibiting abortion. Therefore, we argue that, when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.
This passage represents one of the article's arguments to the effect that what the authors are proposing is not euthanasia, because the killing of the newborn need not be in the best interests of the child at the time of the killing, as euthanasia is said to be! A Down Syndrome child might actually have a happy life later, yet still be killable, even though no argument can be made that the child will not have a life worth living later. Hence, they expressly regard themselves as doing something more radical than advocating euthanasia infanticide, since they are arguing for the permissibility of infanticide solely on the basis of the interests of others.
Compare editor Savulescu's defense of publishing the article:
The arguments presented, in fact, are largely not new and have been presented repeatedly in the academic literature and public fora by the most eminent philosophers and bioethicists in the world, including Peter Singer, Michael Tooley and John Harris in defence of infanticide, which the authors call after-birth abortion.
The novel contribution of this paper is not an argument in favour of infanticide – the paper repeats the arguments made famous by Tooley and Singer – but rather their application in consideration of maternal and family interests.
What this says is this: We professional and eminent bioethicists have been fine with infanticide for a long time. The exciting new contribution of this article to our field is its advocacy of infanticide for trivial reasons. Do you think I'm exaggerating? Consider the quotation you will find below: "[H]owever weak the interests of actual people can be, they will always trump the alleged interest of potential people to become actual ones..."
Notice too the sentence, "Therefore, we argue that, when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible." This expressly indicates that circumstances could indeed justify abortion and that infanticide in such cases should be permissible. This is not merely an if...then statement. This is an overt statement relevant both to morality and to policy. Since abortion should not be prohibited in these cases, neither should infanticide. The statement is quite clear.
In spite of the oxymoron in the expression, we propose to call this practice ‘after-birth abortion’, rather than ‘infanticide’, to emphasise 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. Therefore, we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk. Accordingly, a second terminological specification is that we call such a practice ‘after-birth abortion’ rather than ‘euthanasia’ because the best interest of the one who dies is not necessarily the primary criterion for the choice, contrary to what happens in the case of euthanasia.
Failing to bring a new person into existence cannot be compared with the wrong caused by procuring the death of an existing person. The reason is that, unlike the case of death of an existing person, failing to bring a new person into existence does not prevent anyone from accomplishing any of her future aims. However, this consideration entails a much stronger idea than the one according to which severely handicapped children should be euthanised. If the death of a newborn is not wrongful to her on the grounds that she cannot have formed any aim that she is prevented from accomplishing, then it should also be permissible to practise an after-birth abortion on a healthy newborn too, given that she has not formed any aim yet.
There are two reasons which, taken together, justify this claim:
The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus, that is, neither can be considered a ‘person’ in a morally relevant sense.
It is not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense.
We are going to justify these two points in the following two sections.
Again, notice that these are not merely conditional statements. The authors definitely state that it is not possible to wrong or damage a newborn by killing him and that a newborn is not a person. Rather, to kill a newborn, they are stating, is merely to prevent a person from ever coming into existence in the first place. Their statements could not be clearer.
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. 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. Merely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life.
However, in such cases we are talking about a person who is at least in the condition to value the different situation she would have found herself in if she had not been harmed. And such a condition depends on the level of her mental development, which in turn determines whether or not she is a ‘person’.
Now, hardly can a newborn be said to have aims, as the future we imagine for it is merely a projection of our minds on its potential lives. It might start having expectations and develop a minimum level of self-awareness at a very early stage, but not in the first days or few weeks after birth. On the other hand, not only aims but also well-developed plans are concepts that certainly apply to those people (parents, siblings, society) who could be negatively or positively affected by the birth of that child. Therefore, the rights and interests of the actual people involved should represent the prevailing consideration in a decision about abortion and after-birth abortion.
Ditto on my previous comments about the unequivocal statement that newborns have no right to life. Moreover, the bolded statement at the end expressly, not conditionally, says that the interests of others should represent the prevailing consideration in a decision as to whether to kill the newborn. Notice, too, that this is obviously relevant to policy. If infanticide is illegal across the board, then no such "prevailing considerations" can be taken into account, as there will be no "decision" to make.
It is true that a particular moral status can be attached to a non-person by virtue of the value an actual person (eg, the mother) attributes to it. However, this ‘subjective’ account of the moral status of a newborn does not debunk our previous argument. Let us imagine that a woman is pregnant with two identical twins who are affected by genetic disorders. In order to cure one of the embryos the woman is given the option to use the other twin to develop a therapy. If she agrees, she attributes to the first embryo the status of ‘future child’ and to the other one the status of a mere means to cure the ‘future child’. However, the different moral status does not spring from the fact that the first one is a ‘person’ and the other is not, which would be nonsense, given that they are identical. Rather, the different moral statuses only depends on the particular value the woman projects on them. However, such a projection is exactly what does not occur when a newborn becomes a burden to its family.
It might be claimed that someone is harmed because she is prevented from becoming a person capable of appreciating her own being alive. Thus, for example, one might say that we would have been harmed if our mothers had chosen to have an abortion while they were pregnant with us or if they had killed us as soon as we were born. However, whereas you can benefit someone by bringing her into existence (if her life is worth living), it makes no sense to say that someone is harmed by being prevented from becoming an actual person. The reason is that, by virtue of our definition of the concept of ‘harm’ in the previous section, in order for a harm to occur, it is necessary that someone is in the condition of experiencing that harm.
If a potential person, like a fetus and a newborn, does not become an actual person, like you and us, then there is neither an actual nor a future person who can be harmed, which means that there is no harm at all. So, if you ask one of us if we would have been harmed, had our parents decided to kill us when we were fetuses or newborns, our answer is ‘no’, because they would have harmed someone who does not exist (the ‘us’ whom you are asking the question), which means no one. And if no one is harmed, then no harm occurred.
The alleged right of individuals (such as fetuses and newborns) to develop their potentiality, which someone defends, is over-ridden by the interests of actual people (parents, family, society) to pursue their own well-being because, as we have just argued, merely potential people cannot be harmed by not being brought into existence. Actual people's well-being could be threatened by the new (even if healthy) child requiring energy, money and care which the family might happen to be in short supply of. Sometimes this situation can be prevented through an abortion, but in some other cases this is not possible. In these cases, since non-persons have no moral rights to life, there are no reasons for banning after-birth abortions.
Again we have the unequivocal statements that no harm, zero harm, in fact, is done to the newborn by killing him, since he quite literally does not exist as a person to be harmed. (The authors use phrases such as "possible child" throughout the article to refer to newborn babies.) To kill him is merely to prevent him from coming into existence! Moreover, the final sentence yet again addresses policy, and that in a highly typical liberal way. Liberals love to take things that have never been recognized or permitted and to try to throw the burden of proof on those who want to retain the present situation by asking whether such-and-such is a good reason for "banning" the action in question. Here we see that taken to an almost exquisitely disgusting level: The authors tell us that there are no reasons for "banning" (meaning, retaining present laws treating as murder) the killing of newborn babies! Again, they could not be clearer. They say in so many words, "[S]since non-persons have no moral rights to life, there are no reasons for banning after-birth abortions." Yet later they lie and pretend merely to be ivory-towered philosophers, spinning out logical consequences of ideas, with no interest whatsoever in influencing policy.
We have previously discussed the argument from potentiality, showing that it is not strong enough to outweigh the consideration of the interests of actual people. Indeed, however weak the interests of actual people can be, they will always trump the alleged interest of potential people to become actual ones, because this latter interest amounts to zero. On this perspective, the interests of the actual people involved matter, and among these interests, we also need to consider the interests of the mother who might suffer psychological distress from giving her child up for adoption.
I'm just throwing that one in for good measure.
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.
Now that's a money quote. Notice: They suggest no threshold--that is, they make no statement about when the newborn becomes a person. Why not? Well, because by their own merely asserted premises, that depends entirely on the newborn's capacities, which will depend on things that neurologists and psychologists would be able to assess. This clearly entails that, if the relevant capacities to have aims and value one's life never do develop, then the license to kill could indeed extend for months or years, pace their claim of misrepresentation.
Second, we do not claim that after-birth abortions are good alternatives to abortion. Abortions at an early stage are the best option, for both psychological and physical reasons. However, if a disease has not been detected during the pregnancy, if something went wrong during the delivery, or if economical, social or psychological circumstances change such that taking care of the offspring becomes an unbearable burden on someone, then people should be given the chance of not being forced to do something they cannot afford.
Notice, again, the unqualified statement that abortion "at an early stage" is "the best option." There is not the slightest question here of merely saying, as pro-lifers have said for a long time, that if the unborn child is not a person with a right to life, then neither is the newborn. The authors welcome the quodlibetal abortion license and, for the sake of the psychology of "actual persons," such as the mother, encourage early abortions. However, they advocate, throughout this article, the extension of that license to newborns. Again (again, again) the statement about policy could not be clearer: People should be given the chance to kill their newborn children when not killing the newborn would be being "forced to do something they cannot afford" (either financially or psychologically).
Liars. Minerva and Giubilini are a disgrace to the profession of philosophy, both because they advocate killing newborn babies and because they lied about doing so when people were outraged by what they wrote.
While we're at it, I note the overwhelming ideology here, based on philosopher Michael Tooley's concept of a "person": Only self-creating individuals who value their own lives are real persons, and the slightest interests of such "real persons" trump even the very lives of human beings declared "non-persons." Lawrence Auster has a good comment on this today, saying that this article represents "a liberal academic proposing the literal, not metaphorical, murder of babies in the name of the dark god of liberalism, the self-created, self-worshipping self."
Those who have been following the field of bioethics will, indeed, find all of this depressingly familiar. However, that does not mean that we should be blase about it nor feel superior to the folks to whom it is all new and shocking. If the laymen are only just now finding out and waking up, good for them. At least it will tell them one thing: You might want your kids to avoid bioethics classes at college.
Oh, and here's a rad proposal: If you're hiring a philosopher at a Christian school: You might want to make sure he doesn't think these "eminent" bioethicists deserve the time of day. Discriminate against infanticidal philosophers. Go ahead. Just do it.