When I read recently that two medical ethicists had suggested it should be legal to kill newborn babies, my first thought was that they must be anti-abortion campaigners choosing an unusually dramatic way to make their point.
After all, what’s the difference, ethically speaking, between aborting a baby at 20 weeks’ gestation or waiting until it’s born, then quietly suffocating it or administering a lethal injection? None that I can see.
Ethically speaking, the difference is that at 20 weeks, it can not survive outside the mother’s womb, and the mother has rights over her womb. This is the flaw in Karl’s entire column, and the research he refers to. Both totally skip over any discussion of the rights of a woman over her womb. One can only presume they think women have no rights over their wombs once they are pregnant. Now that is a legitimate view to have, but not one many share.
I believe that a foetus or unborn child does have some rights. And a mother also has some rights. The challenge is balancing those rights out. I have little time for those who say a mother has no rights at all, and likewise for those who say a foetus has no rights at all, and it is okay to abort at say eight and a half months.
Newborns aren’t actual persons, they suggest, merely potential persons. Neither the foetus nor the newborn baby is a person with a moral right to life. Only actual persons can be harmed by being killed.
It’s a proposition that would shock decent people. Yet it exposes the fundamental flaw, both logical and moral, behind liberal abortion laws such as those that apply in New Zealand.
Most people who think it’s OK to abort babies in the womb would recoil in horror at the thought of snuffing their lives out once they’ve been born.
And that is because they are now capable of independent life. I do not accept that an egg one second after fertilisation has the same rights as a baby.
But I ask again, what’s the difference? Some babies that are legally aborted under present law (there were 16,630 in 2010) have reached a stage in their development when they are capable, with intensive medical care, of surviving outside the womb.
Newborn babies also need intervention to survive. So at what point do we decide a baby has a right to life at six months old, one year, only when it’s capable of feeding itself and walking?
There are a fer borderline cases, but generally abortions take place (as they should) before they can survive outside the womb.
Yet the Australian state of Victoria already allows babies to be aborted right up to the time of birth and pro-abortion lobbyists would like the same law adopted here. It’s only a short step from there to infanticide.
Which pro-abortion lobbyists are these? Can Karl name an organisation lobbying for this? He may be right, but I am unsure whom he is referring to.
He is right that Victoria’s laws are very permissive, with abortion on demand up until 24 weeks and needing two doctors to consent after considering a woman’s current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances. I think only serious physical danger to the mother should be a reasons for what is commonly called a late term abortion.