Monday, February 27, 2012
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.
So there we are. Who will raise their voices against this madness? Plenty of conservatives will, of course. Will liberal voices be raised? I hope so. Surely if respected philosophers were arguing for a right to kill members of a racial or ethnic minority group, as opposed to infant children, there would be denunciations from left and right alike. But the left's having tied itself to the abortion license creates an obvious problem. Giubilini and Minerva, like Singer and Tooley before them, and like more than a few others in between, alas, really are simply following out the logic of their commitment to "abortion rights." Or so it seems to them, and to me.
It is interesting to think back to 1972 when Michael Tooley published "Abortion and Infanticide." In those days, the pro-choice position on abortion had not yet hardened into an orthodoxy on the left. The pro-life cause was embraced by Edward M. Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, and other notable liberals. Many, including Kennedy and Jackson (and Al Gore), eventually caved. Others, such as Senator Frank Church and Governor Robert P. Casey, stayed faithful but their party and movement left them behind. On the conservative side, there were supporters of abortion, such as columnist James J. Kilpatrick and New York talk radio guru Bob Grant. One of them was Norman Podhoretz. He remained faithful to the pro-choice cause until he enountered friends at a cocktail party who were arguing in favor of the infanticide of handicapped newborns. When he expressed shock at their view, one of them replied, "well, you are in favor of legal abortion, aren't you?" "Sure," Podhoretz replied. "Then you should be on our side of this debate," argued his friend. "Infanticide is just a post-birth abortion, and surely birth can't be an event that transforms a non-person into a person." At that moment, Podhoretz recalled a discussion he'd had with a pro-life person a few years before. The pro-lifer had made exactly the same argument: Birth is an event of no moral significance; if abortion is permitted, its logic takes us to the approval of infanticide. Reflecting on the two conversations caused Podhoretz to shift to the pro-life camp.