When do we stop re-drawing the line?

One of the reasons I switched from being conservative pro-choice (genuine choice, not “choose to have an abortion”) to pro-life was because I recognized something, something I should have recognized a very, very long time ago: It becomes impossible to hold the line when the line is erased and re-drawn a multitude of times.


The line I chose to hold was the 20-week line. Even as recently as four years ago, I wasn’t completely pro-life, but I drew my line at 20 weeks. Then, my wife became pregnant and I watched my child develop through ultrasounds and monitors. I saw life. I didn’t like talking about the issue of abortion, quietly switching to a full belief in life, but only really ever engaging on the 20-week issue.

I was naive enough to believe  that if we recognized fetal pain and see what it was we were killing, then we could reach a truce of sorts. We’d still fight the battles on the first twenty weeks, but in time we could come to a (grudging) cease-fire. I know what some of you are fervently typing into the comments at this point: “How could you be so stupid, Joe?” And, I recognize that I was naive and far too trusting of a side that saw pregnancy as a nine-month forced pause in an otherwise hedonistic lifestyle.

Flash forward to now: a group of people who apparently think themselves “medical ethicists” have decided to redefine what life is and have ethically OK’d post-birth abortion.

The article, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says newborn babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life”. The academics also argue that parents should be able to have their baby killed if it turns out to be disabled when it is born.


The article, entitled “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?”, was written by two of Prof Savulescu’s former associates, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva.

They argued: “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”


Rather than being “actual persons”, newborns were “potential persons”. They explained: “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’.

What I originally thought – that there could be a line that sensible people could hold – is completely invalidated by medical professionals redefining life as a when a child can recognize a sense of self. “The child thinks, therefore it is,” to borrow a phrase. What this philosophy (a philosophy that utterly turns thousands of years of human thought on its head) does is suddenly make it okay to take the life of a child that has drawn its first breath because it is disabled in some way. The definition of “disabled,” mind you, is one that can easily be re-written to suit the needs of whoever wishes to change it.

This belief flies in the face of what we know to be true: that a child is a person with the potential to be anything it wants, and that no human being can be owned by another. To diminish a newborn to the status of a “potential person” is to say that it is property and can be disposed of as its owners dictate.

What constitutes a “moral right to life”? Who gets to decide that? I realize that this article was written by “medical ethicists” in Europe, but we as a nation recognize in our own founding documents rights given to us by God – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If we deny a child life, we are denying his or her right to liberty and his or her right to the pursuit of happiness by default. We are snuffing out the life of a potential human rights activist, world leader, or revolutionary genius. We are taking away a daughter, a son, a brother or sister, a future mother or father. The amount of lives that are potentially affected by the choice to take a life are countless.

To deny a living being the right to live before they have a chance to figure out who they are is one of the worst sins against humanity you can commit. To do it to someone who has only just learned to breathe, who has not even been able to form a single thought yet, is horrifying. Yet, someone out there – more than just someone, entire groups of people – believes you, a mere mortal, has the right to dictate that someone so new to the world has no right to live.

When do we stop re-drawing the line at when life begins? When have we gone too far for some of these people?



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