Abortion, Infanticide, and Murder

Wow, while reading An Atheist Defends Religion by Bruce Sheiman, I came across this shocking quote by a Princeton professor of – of all things – bioethics, named Peter Singer:

Characteristics like rationality, autonomy and self-consciousness make a difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings.

No, he wasn’t talking about unborn children. He was talking about born children. He continues,

I suggest that a period of 28 days after birth might be allowed before an infant is accepted as having the same right to life as others.

It’s not clear in the book whether Singer was referring to both severely disabled children and healthy children. But given that I’m sure Singer has no problem with killing healthy unborn children (which is the case with the vast majority of abortions), I assume that his 28-day rule would apply to the healthy as well.

Actually Singer is taking abortion to its logical conclusion. The only difference between a developed fetus and a newborn baby is the breathing apparatus. While in the womb it gets its oxygen via the umbilical cord, and as soon as it’s born it gets its oxygen via the trachea (windpipe).

Biologists – in particular I think it was Jared Diamond – have pointed out that compared with newborns of other animal species, newborn humans are significantly physically underdeveloped, i.e. unable to survive on their own. With many other animal species, by contrast, newborns can walk and do many things to help protect themselves from predators. It is said that the only reason human babies are born at nine months is that otherwise their heads would be too large to pass through the birth canal. So they have to come out much earlier compared with, say, apes. Compared with other animals, therefore, newborn humans – up to age 18 months or so – are essentially fetuses that are living outside the womb.

So in that sense Singer’s willingness to allow newborn humans to be killed is totally consistent with legalized abortion.

And Singer’s 28-day rule is, I’m sure, arbitrary. Why not 30 days? Why not 60? If you take his logic to its logical conclusion, killing a human of any age is consistent with legalized abortion.

And that’s one of the reasons why legalized abortion is so repugnant. Lack of sanctity for unborn human life spills over into lack of sanctity for all human life. And then you have a more violent, amoral society than would otherwise be the case.

To be sure, an argument could be made that abortion could have the ironic effect of reducing the born-human murder rate because many if not most of those having abortions come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds where they’re more likely to give birth to children who gravitate toward crime when they get older, as pointed out in this paper.

But anecdotal evidence (I haven’t found stats yet – not sure if they exist) indicates that murders and massacres committed by middle- and upper-income people have gone up. Those perpetrators definitely don’t have high regard for the sanctity of life. Could abortion have been one of their (many) influences?

Moreover, if you consider killing to be killing whether it applies to the unborn or born, then the murder rate is much higher as a result of legalized abortion.

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  1. […] professor Peter Singer is infamous for his writings on infanticide, mainly in cases where the infant is disabled. “Characteristics like rationality, autonomy and […]

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