Above: What happens to assholes who follow a twisted, corrupt, ignorant worldview when they are confronted with the obvious truth that sometimes child suffering should be ended.
Perhaps the most counter-intuitive conclusion from the pro-abortion position is its defense of after-birth abortions. I was a little too wary to address it because, after all, it wasn’t relevant to defining the pro-abortion position. I knew people would howl about it and that it would distract from the really important arguments. But given that my introduction for a new position has faded into obscurity, I can address the issue fully without fear of getting in anyone else’s way (yes, I did at some point think that my pro-abortion series would catch on; a delusively optimistic expectation in retrospect, especially given my confrontative attitude at the start of it).
An excellent starting point on the after-birth abortion issue is the paper After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?, by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva (they use the term “after-birth abortion,” and I follow them in this usage, because it is a form of abortion and should be labeled as such). Giubilini and Minerva argue a number of points:
(1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people
Much of their energies are devoted to showing that the “potential person” argument applies equally to fetuses and to newborns. Everyone knows this, but no one is allowed to say it because it goes against the two major factions in the abortion debate. Giubilini and Minerva’s paper attracted death threats because they basically said something that is still a taboo in our society: that there is no magical difference between a fetus and a newborn, that they are only two stages in a progression of development.
The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus, that is, neither can be considered a ‘person’ in a morally relevant sense…
Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’. We take ‘person’ to mean 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.
This is the crux of the issue: both pro-choice and anti-abortion advocates implicitly or explicitly believe there is a moment before birth or at birth when a non-person becomes a person and is entitled to protection by law (I have analyzed the arguments presented to me by anti-abortion readers). Now, I know most pro-choice advocates would argue that they don’t really believe in such a moment. But all the scientific evidence tells us that personhood keeps developing throughout childhood; given that the pro-choice advocates must select some cut-off date (it could hardly be a viable political position if they didn’t), whether it is birth or some point before that, such a cut-off date must be arbitrary.
The only position compatible with the belief that there is no defining moment is the pro-abortion position. As the paper discusses, it cannot be proven by any logical means that a 9-month old fetus and a newborn are significantly different from the standpoint of personhood. Giubilini and Minerva use the presence of conscious values as their measure, but any other definition of personhood used will give you the same result.
I expect that pro-choice advocates will reply that pro-abortion advocates must also have some arbitrary cut-off point in mind, and that without such a cut-off point legislation is impossible. First of all, I don’t see why I should be particularly concerned about legislation, especially since I am an anarchist. But that objection aside, I see no particular reason why an arbitrary cut-off point must be chosen. If personhood can be roughly determined in any single individual, then we can judge every after-birth abortion on a case-by-case basis. Cut-off points may be convenient, but we see how well that works out for the age of majority.
In response to all this, our opponents argue that the conclusion of after-birth abortion is so horrible that we should reject using ethical principles in this instance. But this is merely a special pleading fallacy. If we could just ignore reality and reject ethical principles whether we feel bad about them, we should allow anyone to murder, steal and cheat in the name of their feelings. This is philosophy for sociopaths, not moral human beings.
Another defense is that we consider some newborns “unworthy of life” and that this is pure misopedia. Furthermore, according to us, Stephen Hawking shouldn’t have lived, and yet he’s done so much. We just need to look beyond our hatred and accept that life is precious, and so on and so forth.
I have to say I find the Hawking argument so contemptible that it’s hardly worth a reply. How dare anyone use the fact that Stephen Hawkins suffers every day from Lou Gehrig’s disease to trivialize his suffering and declare that it was good that he was forced to live a life of constant muscular atrophy, unable to move or speak on his own. It requires quite a callous person, insensitive to the pain of others, to even start such an argument. Besides, Lou Gehrig’s disease cannot be diagnosed in the womb or in a newborn, so the point is entirely moot. Therefore the Hawking ploy is a lie, nothing more, akin to the anti-abortion advocates who complain that an abortion could kill the next Einstein. It could also kill the next Dahmer, so what? An argument from ignorance is still an argument from ignorance.
As for the more general argument, it is not true that we hate newborns; we don’t hate them any more than we hate fetuses. But we hate parents who keep a compromised child alive despite the suffering we expect the child to encur throughout eir life. For these parents I have no pity whatsoever, none at all. They deserve the worse fate their society has to offer. But it is no more hateful to kill a newborn to counter their future suffering than it is to perform an assisted suicide.
Pro-life advocates should be cheering this intellectual development (sadly, that would require intellectual subtlety far beyond the meager means of even the best theologian). If one admits that fetuses and newborns have a similar personhood status, and one believes it’s taboo-level unacceptable to abort newborns, then all forms of abortion must be just as unacceptable. Of course I think the latter premise is stupid beyond recognition, although it is popular.
Which brings the question, why even bother taking on such an unpopular position? I know I have to repeat this often, but people keep asking me this. The answer, of course, is that a truth is a truth regardless of its popularity. I welcome counter-arguments from my pro-choice and anti-abortion opponents, but I don’t expect any. I do expect a lot of insults, though.