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Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

March 6, 2012

Now It's After-Birth Abortion

There are more serious threats against the lives of the unborn than ever. Now a recent statement by two British doctors has floated the possibility of “after-birth abortions.”

Your students may have heard of this paper published by the Journal of Medical Ethics entitled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” by Drs. Alberto Giubilini (University of Milan) and Francesca Minerva (University of Melbourne) on February 23, 2012. The Journal has since removed the article from its website, however many in the media have offered comment.

This is a summary of this truly reprehensible argument:

  • It should be permissible to kill a baby after birth for all of the same reasons that is permissible to abort a baby (basically, for any reason at all). Part of their justification, however, is that parents may not find out that their child has a genetic defect until after the baby is born and thus have lost their opportunity to abort the baby.

  • They see no difference between a fetus and a newborn except that they call them both “potential persons” rather than “persons.” They connect actual personhood with the ability to make aims and appreciate their own life.

  • “If a potential person, like a fetus and a newborn, does not become an actual person, like you and us, then there is neither an actual nor a future person who can be harmed, which means that there is no harm at all” in killing the child.

  • The doctors are also uncomfortable with allowing others to adopt these unwanted newborns: “What we are suggesting is that, if interests of actual people should prevail, then after-birth abortion should be considered a permissible option for women who would be damaged by giving up their newborns for adoption.”

You may want to help your students develop an argument against after-birth abortions that will also illustrate the moral flaw in the pro-abortion arguments. These are some other points/questions.

  • Do you know any “potential persons?” It would seem that children are “potential” according to this argument until they are at least seven or eight, the traditional “age of reason”?

  • In addition, are adults who are aimless or mentally ill, addicted to drugs, or for some other reason unable to make aims and appreciate their lives also “potential persons”?

  • If a thirteen-year-old is somewhat brain damaged in a car accident, has she also joined the ranks of the “potential persons?”

  • Does our national community view unborn and newborn babies as commodities that can be destroyed at will? Please also add a class prayer for the unborn and for the conversion of people with these anti-life beliefs.

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