After-birth abortion: How far will we deny the personality of the human being?

Publié le 31 Mar, 2012
The journal of Medical Ethics takes over an article from two philosophers, experts in bioethics, Francesca Minerva1, and Alberto Giubilini2After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?)“. Supporters of new-born baby homicide, the authors push the abortion logic through to the end. The fundamental question which rises is the following one: From when may we recognize the status of person for a human being?
 
After-birth abortion defined by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva
 
Both philosophers distinguish the after-birth abortion from neonatal euthanasia or infanticide. Neonatal euthanasia (recognized as illegal in the Netherlands by the Groningen protocol of 2002), recognizes the possibility to kill a new-born baby, in her/his own interest, when she/he has a serious disability.  The infanticide means that we kill voluntarily a child, or a person. But for the authors, the foetus and the new-born baby, although they are human beings, do not fall within the “person” category. This way the after-birth abortion is a possibility which should be given to parents, in their own interests, to kill their healthy new-born baby, for the same reasons as an abortion (economic, social or psychological reasons).
 
The after-birth abortion legitimized by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva
 
These philosophers intend to legitimize the after-birth abortion developing three arguments:
 
  • The foetus and the new-born baby would not be persons.
 
They note that the foetus and the new-born baby have the same status, that they are “morally equivalent“, that “they are, undoubtedly, human beings”, but they cannot be recognized as “persons”, in the meaning of the “legal person to live“. The philosophers firmly explain that the term “person” means an “individual able to allocate his own existence to at least one fundamental value that of being aware that being deprived of her/his existence represents a lost for him“. This way they declare that the only condition necessary to be a person, a legal person, is that of suffering a decision which would deprive her/him of her/his rights.
 
  • The foetus and the new-born baby would be potential persons.
 
The authors think that “the foetus or the new-born baby are potential persons because they have this capacity to develop, thanks to their own biological mechanisms, properties which would make them persons in the meaning of legal person to be alive: moment when they will be able to have a goal and to appreciate their own life“. For them, the “potential persons” cannot be affected by the fact to be prevented from becoming a “person” because they cannot experience the evil which is made to them. They affirm that if person is injured is because no evil has been made. They conclude that the after-birth abortion of “potential persons” cannot cause harm to anybody and thus that it is legitimate.
 
  • The adoption would not be an alternative to after-birth abortion
 
Both authors support that the mother who gives her child to adoption suffers a psychological distress. They explain that the adoption is not less traumatic than an after-birth abortion because it is not irreversible, and can lead the others to dream about their child returns to them.
 
The clear contradiction of a death culture
 
  • Foetus and new-born baby have a same nature.
 
If the analysis of A.Giubilini and F.Minerva can only be chocking as it attempts to justify the unjustifiable: killing the new-born baby to the simple parents’ goodwill, it can be positive on one point. These authors have the honesty to recognize an incontestable and yet controversial fact: embryo, foetus and new-born baby have a same nature. What a great way to talk down those who, to legitimate abortion or research on the embryo, deny the nature of the in utero little being. The authors have also this merit to push the abortion logic through the end, revealing this way its inhumanity. If the medical termination of pregnancy allows killing a child in utero up to the delivery, why shouldn’t we do the same a few hours after the birth? Is it the simple fact to see and touch this human being which would allow recognizing her/him as a person and would prevent from harming her/him? The utilitarian or feminist logics here found something wrong with it.  Indeed there is no scientific or moral valid reason for considering that the embryo or the foetus can be subject of a treatment different from an infant. Unless of course to support the above-mentioned though on the awareness of one’s own life.
 
  • The terms “potential person” do not mean anything
 
Francis J. Beckwith3 specifies that from the moment when a foetus and a new-born baby are both human beings, considering them as “potential person” makes no sense. Indeed he says: “the foetus is not a potential being in that she/he would become someone else […] acquiring personal powers is irrelevant to her/his nature (like when I lose 4 kilos)“. This way a being does not become a person depending on acquiring or losing his/her capacities, but depending on her/his own nature. But as the nature of the human being does not change from the beginning to the end, we cannot reasonably affirm that human beings at a time of their evolution cannot be person. As this philosopher tells it: “these embryos are not potential beings. They are simply beings with a potential“.
 
  • The vulnerability is any more bearable
 
The thought of both philosophers leaves no room for vulnerability. If a person is considered as such only when she/he is aware of the evil she/he can suffer, then old or unconscious ill people would also lose their status of person and could fall prey to the desiderata of the fittest. No further attention or protection of the weakest would be taken into consideration in our society. But is this not the vulnerability of an individual which makes him a man? Pierre Olivier Arduin underlines that the notion of dignity became without substance: “These transgressive claims […] are first the consequence of a serious anthropological crisis […] which does not allow any more to report the principle of human dignity”
 
1. From the University of Melbourne.
2. From the University of Milano.
3. Francis J. Beckwith, philosopher specialized in politics, law and applied ethics.

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