In a recent article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, the authors, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, promote the idea that regions where abortion is legal should also allow the killing of newborn children. The Princeton University bioethicist Peter Singer put forth a similar argument a number of years ago. Singer reasons that beings that do not have “self-consciousness” may justifiably be killed for any reason including mosquitoes, people with severe cognitive disabilities, unborn humans, and newborn babies.
In their article, “After-birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?,” Giubilini and Minerva argue that because the line between an unborn fetus and a newborn child is arbitrary, there is no reason why parents or others should not be allowed to put to death a newborn infant for any reason.
This reasoning is a logical step from any country that allows abortion on demand, and demonstrates abortion’s chilling effect on the value of human life. Obviously, as Christians, we need to keep standing firmly on the principle that human life and personhood begins at conception. Any other position takes one down this slope toward “after-birth abortion,” Giubilini and Minerva’s cover-up for the term “infanticide.”
The reasoning of both Singer and the authors of this article brings special concern to people with disabilities. For example, although Giubilini and Minerva say that “after-birth abortion” should be allowed for any reason, they give several circumstances in which it may be especially desirable, most having to do with disabilities of the newborn child. For example, they say, “Euthanasia in infants has been proposed by philosophers for children with severe abnormalities whose lives can be expected to be not worth living and who are experiencing unbearable suffering.”
But who decides that a life is not worth living? The brilliant physicist and author, Stephen Hawking, has lived with severe limitations from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) for decades. But even if someone with disabilities is not “productive” in the sense that she or he is working, that would not automatically imply that his or her life is not worth living. In fact, as Christians, we argue that every human life is worth living because every human is made in the image of God.
Peter Singer says that valuing human life over the lives of other creatures that possess self-consciousness is inappropriate, and he names this bias “speciesism.” So instead of dividing lives via the human/non-human divide he chooses to divide life by the self-conscious/non-self-conscious divide. Yet, by introducing this distinction, he creates a bias against any human who does not possess self-consciousness including unborn and newborn children and people who have severe intellectual disabilities. This too is a bias which has a name: ableism. Ableism declares that certain abilities are of greater value than others (in Singer’s case, self-consciousness), and therefore any creature possessing that ability has greater value than those that do not possess that ability.
When we move away from biblical values, humans naturally tend toward devaluing the lives of people with disabilities. Hitler’s “Final Solution” began by exterminating people with disabilities before he began his systematic attempt to kill all Jews. Singer, Giubilini, and Minerva all move in the same direction.