Thursday, March 08, 2012

 Oil on canvas - Green Fields, 2012, Roslyn Ross.

The difference between killing babies in the womb or out of it!

The latest controversy comes in response to an article published by a medical journal in regard to the difference between killing babies in the womb because they are damaged, and killing them after they are born, because they are damaged. As a purely logical argument, and the one that is made, there is no difference.

Now, of course there is and this is where ethics come in but the article also highlights the way that society has ignored the reality of abortion; pretending it is no more than procedure where life is not relevant. But life is relevant, both in the womb and out of it.

The anti-abortion crusaders are up in arms of course but it seems to me this is a wonderful opportunity to actually look at what abortion is and be honest with ourselves about what we do. There is a middle ground between the positions of 'it is no more than procedure with a bundle of cells and blood killed' to 'life is sacred from the time the ovum is fertilised and it is murder' and that is where we need to get.

In essence the position argued was:

A medical journal has called for the acceptance of ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn baby), causing outrage among pro-life campaigners and raising an array of ethical questions.
Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Alberto Giubilini from the University of Milan and Francesca Minerva from Melbourne University argue that foetuses and newborns “do not have the same moral status as actual persons".

The authors say that killing a newborn baby should be “permissible in all cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled". They add that “the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant".

The ‘After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?’ paper argues that the act wouldn’t be classed as euthanasia because the best interest of the foetus or newborn being killed is not necessarily the primary reason his or her life is being terminated.

The authors state that after-birth abortion should be made legal and it should be permitted on the same grounds as abortion. They added that it wouldn’t be the same as infanticide

Perspective is important when assessing such things. This is one article by a couple of researchers which most people would reject. The article and the people involved have no power; they merely make a logical case that if you are prepared to abort 'damaged' babies before birth then why not abort them after birth?

This is a position sourced in the materialistic mindset of modern science and modern medicine (albeit a position which is beginning to change in the latter owing to greater understanding of the mind/body connection) where the human being is no more than machine, or to paraphrase one term: 'a bag full of hormones and chemicals.'

Of course we are much more than that and such articles highlight how ridiculous it is to extrapolate from such a materialistic position.  While it is not an argument that most people would accept, for all sorts of reasons, it is an opportunity for people to sensibly discuss the issue of abortion and allowing 'damaged' babies to die.

The fact is doctors do and have always allowed damaged babies to die. Few people today however, would consider as they did in decades past, that Down's Syndrome children are so damaged they should not or could not live. There is a point where life is not viable - that point may have changed over the years but there still remains a point where a decision has to be made for some babies (and for some children and adults) where medical treatment is stopped.

What is different is that medicine now intrudes into the womb in order to facilitate what it believes is the production of the 'perfect' baby and society has been encouraged to believe that this is possible - or something which can be controlled.

The irony here also is that as modern medicine encourages the death of babies deemed to be 'damaged' while they are in the womb, it is instrumental in producing 'damaged' babies who will grow into disabled children, through saving extremely premature babies. This is a topic which people should address and discuss. Most parents and probably most people would say it is acceptable to abort a damaged baby but not fine to allow a pre-term baby which will have ongoing disabilities, to die. There is a contradiction if not hypocrisy to that which the article highlights.
If this extreme position does anything it makes people think about and talk about the sanctity of life. Well, it could, if it were not hijacked in a propaganda war against abortion. As an ethical question it is important. Modern medicine has become cavalier in its approach to life, or that which could be described as the sanctity of life and if there is a target in this debate it should be modern medicine, not the right of a woman to control her own body.

The materialistic mindset of science-based medicine has created a lack of respect for life where ethics give way to greed and making money matters more than the sanctity of life. A procedure like IVF has become big business, where babies are produced with numerous 'parents' - created from donated, sperm, egg, womb and then handed over to parents who might be a man and a woman with some or no biological connection, or two men, or two women or one man or one woman - and barely a voice is raised in protest. Well, except perhaps in the case of same-sex parents but that reflects religious dogma rather than the rights of the child involved.

One can only ask if those who protest abortion also protest the unwanted foetuses killed in the womb as part of the IVF process to ensure a greater chance that one or two viable babies will survive. An ethical question to be asked is what trauma do these surviving babies experience, aware as they are, of the murder of one, two, or three siblings by their sides?
And, given what we know about the traumas of adoptees who desperately want contact with or knowledge of their biological parents, these babies are likely to have significant psychological problems searching for the truth of who they are. Science and medicine have been instrumental in creating babies who are likely to grow into wounded if not damaged adults.

So the issue raised here is one involving both the sanctity and the quality of life and the system of modern medicine which so betrays the principles on which it claims to be founded. The article takes an extreme position which highlights that hypocrisy.The fact is that we 'kill' through omission, both babies and adults alike and while one would wish for a world where abortion is used minimally, the fact is we will never have a world without abortion and neither we should. Neither should anyone other than the pregnant woman have a right to tell her what to do with her body.

But, what is needed is honest discussion and acceptance of the fact that abortion - or allowing to die after birth - is taking life; is sacrificing. And that sacrifice of life needs to be recognised and honoured. The Japanese have one of the highest rates of abortion in the world, but they also have a social attitude which recognises and accepts it as a killing of the child, a sacrifice, for a 'greater' purpose and they have rituals and ceremonies to honour that lost life.

Interestingly, while links have been made between abortion (and miscarriage) and breast cancer - the breasts symbolic of mothering and abortion or miscarriage representing a lost child for which one needs to grieve - the Japanese with the highest rates of abortion have the lowest rates of breast cancer. But then they have done their grieving. They have admitted to themselves and to society what they have done.

 We have yet to reach that place in the West. Anyone who remembers the horrors of a world where abortion was illegal would never wish such a place again. The fact is no society can ever stop a woman ending her pregnancy if that is what she wants. But what a society can do and needs to do is to work to ensure that the 'act' itself is seen for what it is and not one brushed aside as mere procedure. Neither should the act be judged as right or wrong for unless you 'walk in someone else's shoes' you have no idea why they do what they do. Few women have an abortion lightly and those who may think they do so, will carry with them emotional and psychological scars.

That understanding is what can come out of an article like this if people can put aside their outrage and beliefs and discuss rationally and sensibly what works best in a world where abortion and allowing babies to die will always exist, to lesser and greater degrees.


Blogger Rob-bear said...

This is a fascinating post, which I'm going to have to re-read several times.

This same matter came up in relation to a presentation I did at our University yesterday, on ethics in research. My talk was related to cloning, and the current science in cloning, which largely relies upon human egg cells (or human body tissue, from, say, abortions) for the process to work.

"After birth abortion." An interesting phrase. Quite terrifying, actually.

It reminds me of a comment by an exasperated mum to her teen. "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out." Until now, that was just a saying. Now, it seems to be a possibility. And, for me, a frightening one.

4:28 pm  
Blogger Roslyn Ross said...

I don't believe it is terrifying, merely a salutary reminder of the extremes to which human thinking can go when the body is seen as a machine and no credence is given to anything beyond the material and physical Self.
There is no doubt that science provides some valuable developments; there is also no doubt that science is frequently more destructive than constructive.
Science like any system needs to be regulated and to be held accountable on the basis of ethics and integrity.
And although the scientific paradigm at present is sourced in a materialist mindset, many scientists are, like the rest of humanity, much more than the material.
I have great respect for the innate integrity of human nature - it just needs to be protected by legislation, laws and strong public opinion. Given that the scientific system, like so many others, is fuelled by desires for power and money, we need to keep it honest as much as we can.

10:13 pm  

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