Tuesday, March 6, 2012

LTI Podcast #28 - After-Birth Abortions [Serge]

Rich, Jay, and Scott are back to discuss a recent article in the Journal of Medical Ethics advocating infanticide under the label of after birth abortions. Also, listen for Scott to offend most of the East Coast. Search for LTI on ITunes or download the pod directly here.


  1. Rich (I think) said around the 17 minute mark, regarding a woman who has had alcohol during pregnancy:

    "It would always be ethical to perform an abortion, and always be less ethical to allow the child to live. Because if we allow the child to live, then we could be causing harm in the future. But if we abort the child, we could be causing no harm."

    Then a bit later:

    "You'd be obligated in a moral sense to kill the child to make sure no harm came of them."

    Doesn't this assume another premise along the lines of: it's always ethically better to make the choice resulting in less harm, irrespective of benefit? If this premise is rejected, you could have a choice like this:

    * abort - no personal harm; no personal benefit
    * don't abort - personal harm, but also the benefit of personal existence

    If we move the point of personhood back to conception and make the problem about a woman's pre-existing infectious disease then we'd have:

    * don't conceive - no personal harm; no personal benefit
    * conceive - personal harm, but also the benefit of personal existence

    I doubt Rich would would say a woman in this position would have a moral obligation to refrain from conceiving. So I don't think this counter argument works unless the paper authors affirm that additional premise.

  2. Thanks for your well thought out comment Garren.

    It is true that we are not obligated to ever risk harm. If that were the case, and if the author's point of view is correct, you'd be obligated to kill every newborn before they reached the stage of personhood in order to prevent harm. That makes an already absurd situation more so.

    However, my basic point is to question the idea that it is possible to intentionally kill a newborn child and by doing so causing no harm to the child. Killing = no harm. Sublethal injury that the child survives from = harm (but at some point in the future.)

    Which brings up the question: if an injury occurs, when does the harm actually occur?


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