Friday, January 5, 2007

Innovative Brits Propose Making Abortion More “Rare”

In keeping with the tenets of the Jocelyn Elders “every child a planned and wanted child” school of bioethics, England’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has called for a public discussion regarding the “active euthanasia” of sick and disabled newborns. Their logic goes like this:

  • “Active euthanasia” is illegal in England but apparently widely practiced
  • Legalizing “life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants” (their term) would allow parents the option of continuing pregnancies that threatened risky or questionable outcomes
  • Parents would therefore be more confident in knowing that they would not be deprived of the option to terminate their sick or disabled infants if they so chose
  • This would impact obstetric decision-making and prevent late term abortions

In summary, the promise of an unfettered right to infanticide might serve to reduce the occurrence of exercising one’s unfettered right to abortion.

In defending the proposed legal change, one member of the English government’s Human Genetics Commission, Manchester University’s Professor of Bioethics, John Harris, argues that:

“We can terminate for serious fetal abnormality up to term but cannot kill a newborn. What do people think has happened in the passage down the birth canal to make it okay to kill the fetus at one end of the birth canal but not at the other?

I couldn’t make this stuff up.

The fact that infanticide is already “widely practiced” in England makes one wonder what practical impact this law change would really have on reducing the number of abortions there. This proposal presumes that parents who are inclined to kill their infants are basing their decision to do so on legalities. But when the effort to defend such a practice centers on a utilitarian view of the infant’s worth, it hardly seems that it matters to them where their infant happens to be when they kill it.

Perhaps the measure would reduce both abortion and infanticide by allowing the possibility that the parents might be dissuaded once they actually see the infant about whom they are making their “choice.” One could only hope. But when a society descends to such a point that condoning infanticide is seen as a way to protect life, something is rotten in Britain.

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