Marketing Infanticide

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Recently, I addressed the idea of Christian perinatal hospice, a concept whereby parents facing a pregnancy involving a terminally ill unborn child are supported to carry their baby to term and prepare for their child’s death. It is a ministry of loving care for the entire family while honoring the humanity of their baby.

No sooner had I written that piece than I came across a disturbing article published in the March 23rd 2012 edition of the Journal of Medical Ethics entitled “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?” It was written by Dr. Alberto Giugilini at the University of Melbourne in Australia and Francesca Minerva who is associated with Oxford’s Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics in the United Kingdom.


In the article, Giugilini and Minerva state: “We claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk.” They argue that newborn babies are only potential persons without any interests and should be subject to the interests of actual persons of their families. They try to extend the abortion mentality beyond birth: “If criteria such as the costs (social, psychological, economic) for the potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the fetus is healthy, if the moral status of the newborn is the same as that of the infant and if neither has any moral value by virtue of being a potential person, then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn.” Giugilini and Minerva do not identify when they think newborn babies should become actual people.

Their argument is not new, nor are they the only ones to advocate such things in the callous Brave New World of secular bioethics. American ethics professor at the University of Virginia and Harvard, Joseph Fletcher (1905-1991) was a pioneer of bioethics. Forty years ago, he advocated “post-birth abortion” for disabled newborns. His criteria for “post-birth abortion” was simple: If a baby does not increase happiness or reduce human suffering then the baby should die.

Princeton University professor Peter Singer has argued that infants have no moral right to life because they are not “persons.” In an interview he was asked when he thought an infant becomes a person? He said “sometime during the first year of life.” He has advocated the killing of healthy babies for more than 30 years. In 1981, Singer wrote:

Now it must be admitted that these arguments apply to the newborn baby as much as to the fetus. A week-old baby is not a rational and self-conscious being, and there are many non-human animals whose rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, capacity to feel pain (sentience), and so on, exceed that of a human baby a week, a month, or even a year old. If the fetus does not have the same claim to life as a person, it appears that the newborn baby is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee [Peter Singer, “Taking life: abortion”, in Practical Ethics (London: Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 118] (emphases added)

One might be inclined to relegate such ideas to quacks but that’s not true. These barbaric views come from professors at prestigious universities. More and more, what they espouse is being accepted in elite society and put into practice.

Why is the term “after-birth abortion” used instead of infanticide? Could it be that abortion is so pervasive and the abortion mentality so widely accepted, that couching infanticide in the abortion mentality is perceived as an easier sell to society? After all, the culture has coarsened to the point where killing disabled newborns is accepted, but not yet so coarse as to sanction the killing of healthy but unwanted babies. The idea will require some – how should I say it? – marketing.

Remember that abortion had to be marketed in the 1960s to soften public attitudes. Previous generations would be horrified at the wide-spread abortion we now have in Canada, the United States and Europe. What was unacceptable in the past, becomes tolerable today and commonplace tomorrow, unless checked by moral absolutes.

People who believe in a just and compassionate society of inclusion must stand up for the value of every human life even in a culture that no longer believes it (especially in a culture that no longer believes it).

Mark Davis Pickup is chronically ill and disabled with degenerative multiple sclerosis. He is an advocate for life issues and disability inclusion across North America. He and his wife, LaRee, have been married for 38 years. They live in Alberta Canada with their two adult children and five grandchildren. Mark is available to address issues of euthanasia, assisted suicide, and issues revolving around suffering that often fuel calls for euthanasia. He writes regularly at http://markpickup.org and http://humanlifematters.org. For bookings, contact him by e-mail at MPickup@shaw.ca or telephone (780) 929-9230. Mark Pickup's bi-weekly column can be read in the Western Catholic Reporter (Canada) at http://www.wcr.ab.ca/.

Comments (4)

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  1. Perinatal Loss Nurse says:

    You mention the Perinatal Hospice article then jump into the (truly horrible) Ethics article without ever stating what you perceive the connections are or are not leaving your readers to guess for themselves. I don’t think it is fair to the Perinatal Loss community to connect us to that gravely sinful article in any way, shape or form.

  2. Perinatal Loss Nurse says:

    Im seriously concerned about Mr Pickups article on “Marketing Infanticide”. In the article, he references another article on Perinatal Hospice and then discusses the overtly outrageous and sinful Ethics journal about Infanticide yet he never tells the reader why he brings up both of these ideas.

    I’m very very concerned that some might think he is connecting the idea of perinatal palliative care and infanticide.

    In his article on Perinatal Hospice, he says nice things about “Christian Perinatal Hospice” (with Christian in italics) but he includes “notes” from a writer that warn that any Perinatal Hospice program that isnt “Christian” will degrade into murder by starvation and terminal sedation.

    I not only run a Perinatal Hospice in a secular setting (and take SERIOUS ISSUE with people telling me that my program will inevitably kill infants) but Mr Pickup references my work. The photo of the baby hand/ old hand is one of my patients and the video he posted is my work with my name and image. I dont say in the video that my program is secular…he might have assumed otherwise because there is a Priest giving the Sacraments in the video.

    These “notes” include DIRE WARNINGS that babies will be killed if the programs are not Christian…this is quite an accusation…it doesnt say that there are concerns & we should stay diligent or something might happen, it says that people WILL definitely kill babies.

    I am a devout Catholic and I believe that the work I do caring for dying babies (and my larger nursing practice of perinatal loss caring for moms having miscarriages and stillbirths) is my vocation. When I started one of the first 40 programs of this type in the US (to give moms the option of the baby living their natural life) I never ever ever imagined that I would suffer such accusations from my own brethren.

    There are some Christian based Perinatal Hospices in Hospitals and some wonderful Christian based volunteer support networks for parents in perinatal hospice situations, but Perinatal Palliative Care is an integrated function of Neonatology, Obstetrics, Perinatology, Postpartum care, and other Nursing and Medical specialties of hospital settings and not all hospitals are Christian, but that does not mean we can’t/don’t give excellent care.

    Our program is wonderful and I have observed that our Palliative Care program has improved the level of care given to babies in dire circumstances, not compromised it. By working with families as outpatients and using the time we have to prepare, we have improved communication between parents and practitioners and given parents a better voice in the plan of care for their children.

    Professionals dont give parents the option to carry to term just so that we can be sneaky and trick them into some cloaked euthanasia plan once the baby is born…that is absurd…if that were our goal then we would just advocate the pregnancy be terminated at the diagnosis. No, this is about the baby living their life to its natural extent..and it is done by caring professionals and some of them are Christian and some of them aren’t. I will never tell my colleagues that they have no place caring for these babies if they aren’t my same religion.

  3. Mark is not connecting perinatal hospice care to infanticide in this article. He’s actually contrasting the two. Notice, he says hospice care is a “ministry of loving care for the entire family while honoring the humanity of their baby” – UNLIKE the vile and sinful practice of infanticide that the Australian authors advocate.

    I know there are strong and differing opinions on the issue of perinatal hospice care based on people’s very different experiences with it. I’m very happy to hear that your experience has been so positive!

  4. Mary Kochan says:

    Chelsea is very correct here, Perinatal Loss Nurse. Mark Pickup is drawing a distinction or contrast between the attitude toward life shown in Perinatal Hospice and the attitude of the “ethics” article.

    However, I do understand your concern regarding the other article and will comment there.