A researcher who claimed that killing newborn babies
is no worse than abortion
has been subjected to death threats.
Francesca Minerva from the University of Melbourne wrote the paper with Alberto Giubilini, a university teaching assistant. They posed the question: After-birth Abortion: Why should the baby live?
The authors suggest that newborns do not have a 'moral right to life' as they are not 'actual persons' and 'lack those proprieties that justify the attribution of a right to life of an individual'.
Babies could, therefore, theoretically be killed if the mother was unable to look after them, or if adoption would be psychologically distressing for the mother. The paper also suggested it could be appropriate if the parents discovered, after birth, that the child is disabled.
The paper was deemed a 'pure academic, theoretical discussion' piece by Dr Minerva, who said "This is not a political paper, this is not a proposal for a law."
Dr Minerva - who is also a Research Associate at Oxford University - said the past four days had been the worst of her life, and called for the public to understand the perspective of her work, saying it was based on 30 years of medical ethics discussions. She said she had not been expecting such a negative reaction to the paper because of its academic and theoretical context.
She writes in the paper:
"Both a foetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons but neither is a 'person' in the sense of a '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."
"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."
Speaking about the death threats made against her, Dr Minerva said that most of them came from pro-Life and religious groups groups. She said the threats seemed to be a 'misuse of religion', adding: "I thought religion was about compassion and love. I must be wrong."
Julian Savulescu, editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics
who published the report, defended its publication and criticised the mainly anonymous abuse directed at its authors. He wrote on his blog
"This article has elicited personally abusive correspondence to the authors, threatening their lives and personal safety. The Journal has received a string abusive emails for its decision to publish this article."
"The arguments presented, in fact, are largely not new and have been presented repeatedly in the academic literature and public fora by the most eminent philosophers and bioethicists in the world."
What do you think?
It's so fascinating to see your little one learn about the world, not to mention her own body. If you're lucky, you might even witness the expression on her face when she realises her hands are attached…and she can use them to bat stuff with! (I witnessed the very moment my daughter realised her feet were attached, when she bit down hard on a big toe.)</p>
- Family ties
There will be a particular moment, perhaps not even straight away, and perhaps when you are doing the most mundane of things, when you’ll look at your partner and your baby, and it will hit you for the very first time that you are "a family".</p>
- Making scents
You might have heard people talking about the intoxicating scent of a baby's head before and wondered what on earth they were going on about. But take a big whiff of your own little nipper, and you’ll be away with the fairies! No, you haven't just gone gooey – some experts think babies' heads give off pheromones that send oxytocin coursing through your veins (dads, too). Breathe it in, it doesn't last forever!</p>
- Touching moments
Feeding your baby is always a great time for bonding, but it's the little unexpected things they do - such as clutching at your hand, pawing your breast (or, as mine did, pinging your bra strap) that make it memorable.</p>
- Getting the giggles
Some babies do it early, others make their parents wait and work bloody hard for it… but the first time your baby really laughs from their belly, your heart will sing! Who'd have thought daddy could ever be THAT funny? Seriously.</p>
- Here's lookin' at you!
Most babies arrive a bit puffy and spend the first few days with their faces screwed up, trying to make sense of the shapes they’re suddenly seeing. But when those dark eyes actually find yours, you’ll be blown away by the feeling that this brand new little person knows you to your very soul.</p>
- Mini me!
Many parents find it easier to see their newborn as an image of their partner - but the first time you recognise a part of yourself in your baby (perhaps a wonky yawn or the way they lift their eyebrows) is a strange, yet lovely, sensation.</p>
- Snooze fests
There is nothing more peaceful than reclining with a sleeping baby on your chest: soft little breaths, squidgy cheeks, a perfect pause in time… Zzzz.</p>
- Simple things
You wouldn't be normal unless you sometimes missed the old days, when you could drop everything and head out for a night on the town. But the realisation that you really would rather be snuggling at home with your baby than out strutting your stuff makes you feel as warm as the cup of cocoa you're clutching.</p>
- The 'awwww!' factor
From hiccupping (seriously adorable) to learning to kiss you back, there will by myriad moments of supreme cuteness. But possibly the biggest "Awww!" will come when you use the bubbles in your baby’s bath to make him look like a gnome (and he beams at you because he has no idea what he looks like).</p>
- Adulation and adoration
Who needs to be a superstar, eh? With your baby comes the stupendous feeling of being the funniest, loveliest, most important person in any room. And, of course, you are.</p>