Saturday, March 03, 2012
That Hideous Strength
In a recent article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, two Melbourne academics advocated what they called “after-birth abortion.”
Their abstract summarises the article quite well: “Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ 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.”
Both the authors and the editor seemed surprised at the opposition to this modest proposal.
One author defended herself by saying “this was a theoretical and academic article.” I am reminded of some lines from C. S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength:
“‘I know,’ said Denniston. ‘One’s sorry for a man like Churchwood. I knew him well; he was an old dear. All his lectures were devoted to proving the impossibility of ethics, though in private life he’d have walked ten miles rather than leave a penny debt unpaid. But all the same ... was there a single doctrine practised at Belbury which hadn’t been preached by some lecturer at Edgestow? Oh, of course, they never thought anyone would act on their theories! But it was their own child coming back to them: grown up and unrecognisable, but their own.’”
Philosophy matters, because it shapes society – for good or ill.
Update: I see that an earlier paper in the same journal pointed out that the concept of “personhood” used to defend “after-birth abortion” also excludes adults who happen to be asleep.