Conservatives were horrified when the Journal of Medical Ethics published an article advocating “after-birth abortion” for handicapped, or just inconvenient, babies. They are correct that it is a disgusting piece of amoral analysis, but that is its virtue. As much as conservatives hate it, progressives hate it more. Many are convinced that it’s a plant by the pro-life crowd. What progressives cannot articulate, but intuitively understand, is that by applying a reductio ad absurdum approach to the notion of abortion, the article forces pro-abortion people to confront the Big Lie that underpins their willingness to terminate a pregnancy, even an advanced one.
Francesca Minerva and Alberto Giubilini have advanced a very simple proposition, which is that only “a person” deserves to live:
The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.
Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life.’
In the authors’ lexicon, to be a “person” deserving of life, one has to have a cognitive sense of self, akin to Descartes’ proposition that “I think, therefore I am”:
We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.
Because babies lack a higher existential sense, they have no greater right to life than other biological entities without an existential sense of self — say, for example, a cockroach or chicken. Downgrading a baby’s status from “person” to something equivalent to a cockroach leads to the next step in the analysis, which is that adults have the absolute right to terminate this living, breathing non-person’s existence:
[W]hat 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.
We’ve been down this path before. It ended in Auschwitz.
Read the rest here.