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article imageOp-Ed: How to murder a baby — In theory and practice

By Alexander Baron     Mar 13, 2012 in Crime
A recent article published in an academic journal caused controversy; the authors suggested that killing a newborn baby is equivalent to aborting a foetus. In practice, what would this entail?
The article concerned was discussed by Marlene de Wilde who filed it under Health. This article is filed under Crime, for what else can the murder of a newborn baby be called? It is surely not a health issue. The article from the Journal Of Medical Ethics was originally available on-line and linked to the aforementioned Digital Journal article, but for whatever reason, it has now been removed.
Its authors Alberto Guiblini and Francesca Minerva may be philosophers, but philosophy is not an entirely abstract discipline. Diogenes may in truth never have found an honest man, but problems relating to life and death have practical applications in the real world.
In Britain, the law recognises that women in particular are strange creatures, none more so than new mothers, and that sometimes when a mother has just given birth she will go a bit gaga. This may on occasion result in her killing her baby, usually by smothering it. This sort of behaviour is covered by the Infanticide Act, 1938. The British legislation goes back further than the 1930s, but in some jurisdictions there is no equivalent even today. Call our law progressive, compassionate, or anything you want, but it still treats the intentional killing of a baby as a crime.
Abortion is treated differently, rightly or wrongly.
There can be genuine medical reasons for women to abort, but these are few and far between. Whether or not the loony feminists or anyone else cares to admit it, abortion is carried out primarily for the convenience of the mother, and on occasion for the father. Its advocates may dress it up with euphemisms like a “a woman's right to choose”, “a woman's right to control her own fertility” or “pro-choice”, but at the end of the day, the result is the same.
Having said that, it is a quantum leap from killing an unborn baby to killing a live one.
On occasion, doctors are faced with stark choices when some babies are born with profound disabilities and are not expected to survive. Dr Leonard Arthur faced such a choice in June 1980, and ended up facing a murder charge, although he was acquitted. Likewise, doctors involved in the care of the old and infirm can sometimes end up accused of mercy killing or worse, as happened to Dr Bodkin Adams, who is still regarded in some quarters today - wrongly - as a predecessor of Harold Shipman.
That being said, we have now arrived at the point where babies with severe disabilities can be identified at a very early stage, and aborted when they are little more than a conglomeration of cells. It may even be possible in the near future to fix defective genes in the womb. As with many other things in life though, disability is relative. Some cope with it very badly, as did David Rathband, who was blinded in his 40s and decided shortly that life without sight was worse than no life at all. Others, like this guy - well, you can only marvel at him. Like the authors of said article, he is domiciled in Australia. Perhaps they should tell him that his life was not and is not worth living, and that he should have been left to die or killed at birth. But many people all over the world who have met him and been touched by his ministry would disagree profoundly.
Now, about killing babies in practice; here is one attempt that failed, thankfully. Grit your teeth and watch this video, then the next time you hear this sort of argument by two supposedly distinguished philosophers, you'll think maybe they should each find a proper job.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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