‘Irrelevant’ Newborns?

Killing babies after they are born is no different from abortion, according to a group of Oxford-affiliated theorists. In an article published recently in the Journal of Medical Ethics titled “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?,” authors Alberto Giublini and Francesca Minerva argue: “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.”
Given their premises, their logic is impeccable — not much different from that articulated in Roe v. Wade, in which the U.S. Supreme Court decreed that a fetus is not a life protectable as a person under the U.S. Constitution. Effectively, the argument goes, it is not a being of moral worth because some subjectively inferred attribute — besides being a human individual — is lacking.  According to Roe v. Wade, that quality is called “viability,” which, practically speaking, boils down to the ability to survive outside the womb without being attached to an umbilical cord. For the Oxford group, the test is even more arbitrary.
No one is questioning that a newborn, just as an unborn fetus, is an individual. Nor even that that both are “human beings.” But that is not enough, in the authors’ view, to qualify as a person in the sense of “subject of a moral right to life.” So what class of human beings gets to assert that right? According to these experts, only “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.”
In other words, unless you possess sufficient appreciation of your own life to regret losing it, you have no right to hold onto it!  And how exactly is this to be determined? The authors say that it should be up to the parents to decide.
It soon becomes clear that, for these so-called ethicists, an individual human being’s right to life is neither innate nor inalienable, but rather one to be validated by others.
They even go so far as to express their sympathy for parents denied the “benefit” of being able to kill their pre-born children who had Down syndrome — unlike the 64% who had the good fortune of knowing this through pre-natal testing so that they could have them killed off (more conveniently) before they were born. It’s only fair that those parents so put upon as to be stuck with already born “Down syndrome cases” or a baby who turned out to be “disabled” — however one imagines this category — should be able to kill them just like those exercising their choice to abort before the baby is born.
No doubt the reasoning offered by these authors will soon find its logical extension to end-of-life scenarios where human beings (not to be presumed persons!) suffering from various forms of dementia or loss of consciousness will easily be able to “qualify” for a quick dispatch.  If they are so disoriented so as to no longer know or care much about their own comings and goings, then they would likely be eligible for the same treatment as unwanted pre-borns and, by the authors’ cold logic, newborns that can be deemed unworthy to exist.
Our Catholic faith upholds the truth that every human individual is objectively a being of moral worth from the moment of conception until natural death has occurred.  If nothing else, these theorists show us the truly Hitlerian consequences of any narrower, ultimately subjective basis of the right to life. Either the right to life is inalienable from the time it is conceived — or it is not.  And if not, then at no point in time is it inviolable.

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