The horrors revealed at the trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell have put abortion advocates on the defensive. One Pennsylvania newspaper has characterized the Gosnell case as “the abortion industry’s worst nightmare.”
The trial is over, but the details of Gosnell’s crimes are haunting. Gosnell would “snip” the spine of newborn infants, killing the child — a grisly circumvention of the partial-birth abortion ban, which involves puncturing the skull of a born-alive infant and suctioning out the brain.
The abortion industry dismisses Gosnell as an “outlier” not reflective of most abortionists. However, that assertion should not obscure the fact that arguments justifying late-term abortions and infanticide are not outliers among abortion advocates. Indeed, over the past 40 years, such arguments have been repeatedly made.
In 1972, Michael Tooley published “Abortion and Infanticide.” Tooley offered an ethical rationale for both. He expanded on this in a 1983 book by the same name.
In his books Practical Ethics (1979) and Rethinking Life and Death (1994), Princeton University Professor Peter Singer offers a similar argument in defense of abortion and infanticide. “If we can put aside these emotionally moving but strictly irrelevant aspects of the killing of a baby we can see that the grounds for not killing persons do not apply to newborn infants.”
Singer asserts that if there is no such thing as an inherent right to life then certain animals have a greater claim to life than a newborn human does.
In an article for Slate, William Saletan argued that pro-choice advocates should consider imposing limits on abortion from the second trimester on.
This was greeted by a stern rejoinder from Ann Furedi, the Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), the “UK’s leading abortion specialist.”
Abortion supporters who question the morality of aborting a second-trimester pregnancy are “ethical straddlers.” Furedi asks: “[I]s there anything qualitatively different about a fetus at, say, 28 weeks that gives it a morally different status to a fetus at 18 weeks or even 8 weeks?” In her eyes there is not, and she takes that as reason to permit abortion, for any reason, throughout pregnancy.
Sex-selection abortion is also justifiable on grounds similar to Furedi’s. On a blog post for BMJ Marge Berer, editor of Reproductive Health Matters, writes: “I believe health professionals and everyone who is pro-choice on abortion should support pro-choice doctors and women seeking abortions, whatever their reasons, even when sex selection may be involved.”
In 2011 Profs. Alberto Guibilini and Francesca Minerva published an article in the British Journal of Medical Ethics that championed what they christened “after-birth abortion.” Guibilini and Minerva ascribe the same moral status to a newborn as to an unborn child. They conclude that, because an unborn child can be aborted, it is permissible to kill a newborn as well.
The Guibilini/Minerva paper is a focus of the current issue of BMJ; indeed the entire May issue is devoted to the subject of infanticide.
By the time Guibilini and Minerva published their article, justifications for infanticide had become so commonplace among abortion advocate academics that one observer questioned why the topic sparked such a furor:
“. . . [O]ne presumes the public was outraged because they were hearing for the first time the old news that liberal ‘bioethicists’ support infanticide. But that just raises the question all over again: What’s so special about this paper?”
In covering the Gosnell trial, ABC cited Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation. The problem with Gosnell, she said, was that he “wasn’t providing care later and wasn’t ensuring fetal demise and not operating under any established standards of care…”
In other words, Ms. Saporta had no problem with late-term abortions – only that Gosnell performed them in an insufficiently lethal manner.
In light of the gruesome revelations from the Gosnell grand jury, Saletan weighed in again on the question of late-term abortions, asking, “Is it ok to abort a viable fetus?”
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Responded Pema Levy at The American Prospect, “I think we’re referring to late-term abortions as post-viability abortions, which means that women would be required to continue their pregnancy for 3-4 months. For me, the answer is yes, late-term abortions should be legal, even if medical complications are out of the picture.”
As political philosopher Richard Weaver famously wrote, “Ideas have consequences.”
Given the justifications for late-term abortions – and even infanticide – from pro-abortion academics and public policy advocates over several decades now, is it any wonder that Kermit Gosnell’s abortion abattoir thrived for so long?
LifeNews Note: Gene Tarne is a senior adviser at the Lozier Institute.