Philosopher Peter Singer is famous for advocating infanticide, acknowledging that if it is okay to kill a baby in the womb, nothing magical happens in the journey down the birth canal. Recently, two ethicists, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, in Australia have argued in a the Journal of Medical Ethics for the same sort of thing. You can read about their article here. I would like to respond by making a few observations.
First, I must be honest by saying that I have two autistic children and so I am far from impartial on this issue.
Secondly, this is a dangerous game they are playing. They are advocating the death of someone and defending it by redefining the victim. Find the killing of a baby as offensive? Then all we have to do is redefine them as being outside the category of ‘person.’ Now it is no big deal. This is the same sort of defence that the Nazis used in the holocaust. I understand that comparing an opponent to the Nazis is unpopular but in this case, there is a parallel. How would the authors of this article feel if the state redefined what they are and used that as support in taking away their rights?
The argument by these authors reveals a deep problem within society. They acknowledge that some special needs children live good and fulfilling lives. At the same time, they suggest that the personal comfort and ease of the parents outweighs the potential good life of the child. As a parent of five children, I am not sure when personal comfort or ease of the parents ever became a priority. Frankly, even the parent of a healthy child would probably have an easier life in terms of money and leisure time if the baby was killed shortly after birth. Is this really acceptable? Work needs to be done on what society considers virtue and where personal comfort fits on that scale.
This article focuses on the wish of the parents. If the parents think it would be easier if the child is killed, their wish should be honoured. If this was ever put into practice, how long before society in general gets the say? The benefit for society is hinted at in this article. How much money is spent on health issues for people born with disorders or at least having the genetic marking that would identify issues later on? How much could society save if these people were killed at birth? If this door is ever opened, how could society stay uninvolved? Why should others pay for the choice some parents make not to kill their baby?
Finally, I want to acknowledge that these authors and others are at least being consistent. If babies inside the womb are allowed to be killed, then there is no reason that babies outside the womb should be protected. If people are repelled by what these ethicists are saying, they should also rethink what they think about abortion, especially late term abortions.
I want to say that as a parent of two autistic children, I am thankful they were not aborted and they were not a victim of infanticide. It is hard being the parents of special needs children but it is also hard being parents of typical children. These children are not a drain on us or our society. They bring great joy and emotional maturity to all that they encounter. No redefinition will ever change that.