Should we abandon arguments for abortion if they also permit infanticide? Two US-based academics say “yes”.
In a new paper in the journal Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, philosophers David and Rose Hershenov suggest that non-conscious fetuses and minimally conscious neonates are morally equivalent in their fundamental interests, namely, their shared interest in “healthy development”.
Insofar as we see infanticide as wrong, we should, therefore, see abortion as wrong. The authors assert that “Mindless organisms only have interests in healthy development or proper functioning and the flourishing that involves”. Even if this is a fairly basic interest, it is nevertheless, morally important and worthy of respect: “...When it is mindless, there is probably nothing else to its good than its health, i.e., its proper functioning is constitutive of its flourishing. But that is still very valuable and is why infanticide is a great wrong.”
The authors continue with the pointed remark, “as long as one’s attitude is that infanticide is a great harm and wrong, even if it is not as bad as killing the reader, then abortion too is a great harm and wrong”.
Importantly, the authors argue that several well-rehearsed arguments for abortion also lead us to endorse infanticide. The two philosophers assert that arguments about viability, consciousness and equality can all be reconfigured into arguments that allow for the killing of newborns.
In 2013 two Australian authors, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva made headlines around the world after publishing a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics that argued for the permissibility of infanticide. The controversy surrounding the Giubilini and Minerva paper generated spirited discussion in the world of bioethics about academic freedom and the role of bioethics in challenging our moral intuitions.
Saturday, August 5, 2017
We have a number of very important stories this week: a paper in Nature about gene-editing human embryos, a rise in euthanasia figures in the Netherlands, some appalling news about commercial surrogacy in India... plus a great interview with Yale bioethicist Lydia S. Dugdale about death and dying.
But, for better or worse, this is a day for shameless self-promotion. Sorry. I have just published a book, The Great Human Dignity Heist, a collection of short essays on topics ranging from IVF to paleo-archaeology to polio epidemics to euthanasia and cannibalism. Its lurid sub-title is How bioethicists are trashing the foundations of Western civilization.
If you live in Sydney, you are invited to a book launch at 1pm on this coming Thursday, August 10, at Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney. Professor Margaret Somerville will be the main speaker. (RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
And of course, if you cannot make it, feel free to order a book online
In Australia from the publisher, Connor Court
In the US and Canada from Amazon (feel free to leave a review of the book!)
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Email: email@example.comIf infanticide is wrong, is abortion wrong?