Two medical ethicists connected to Oxford University are arguing in Oxford’s Journal of Medical Ethics that babies have no moral status, and can be killed because they are only “potential persons” rather than “actual persons.” They also argue that if a newborn is disabled, it can be killed.
The journal’s editor, Prof Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, said in their defense, “The goal of the Journal of Medical Ethics is not to present the Truth or promote some one moral view. It is to present well reasoned argument based on widely accepted premises.” When asked about the threats made against the article’s authors, he casually categorized them as “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.”
The article, “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?”, was written by two of Prof Savulescu’s former associates, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva. They wrote:
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 … 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 … it is not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense …
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.
And in the time honored philosophy of those who see life as purely a utilitarian matter, they conclude: “To bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.”