March 6, 2012 (HLIAmerica.org) – Kill newborn babies? It sounds like something out of a satire, like Jonathon Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” Sadly, it is not.
Let us consider two excerpts, and see if we can determine which comes from the realm of fiction, and which comes from the field of modern ethics. The first:
That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in the sale to the persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom; always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.
And the second:
Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (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, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.
I suppose the jargon in the latter gives it away as an academic journal abstract – in this case, taken from the article “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?” published last week in the Journal of Medical Ethics. When I first read it, I was hoping it would be the prelude of an updated version of Jonathan Swift’s eighteenth century work A Modest Proposal, from which the first excerpt is drawn. In Swift’s eerily prescient satire, the protagonist argues that the solution to poverty is to eat the children of the poor.
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