The Infanticide/Abortion Link - the Dehumanization of Infants

By Carolyn C. Gargaro

Many people today are asking the question: "Why does it seem like the level of infanticide has risen? What's happening? How can we stop it?"

I have a hypothesis - perhaps it is the dehumanizing of infants and lack of respect for life that is causing this problem. Before dismissing this possibility, take a moment to listen to what some well-known people have been saying recently.

On Sunday, November 2 1997, the New York Times carried an article by Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at the august Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Pinker seriously suggests infanticide as a legal practice.

Pinker argues as follows: Killing a newborn infant should not be penalized as harshly as killing an older child. "To a biologist, birth is as arbitrary a milestone as any other," Pinker says. Pinker says babies aren't real people because they don't have "an ability to reflect upon (themselves) as a continuous locus of consciousness, to form and savor plans for the future, to dread death and to express the choice not to die. And there's the rub: Our immature neonates don't possess these traits any more than mice do."

Babies aren't real people? Infants can't express the choice not to die? Where else have we heard this argument?

"The fetus is not a real person, thus, it is my right to have an abortion."

"The fetus can't reason, and the fetus does not know what death is."

I have often asked why is it legal to abort a child in the womb but that the same child, if not in the womb, suddenly has rights? In March 1998 in New Jersey, a girl gave birth a day before she was supposed to go to a clinic for an abortion. The girl was farther along than she realized, and she gave birth in her home, and in the attempt to hide the newborn, she ended up killing the infant. She is now being brought up on manslaughter charges. How ironic that she could have aborted the next day under her legal "right to choose."

Is it any wonder that girls are throwing their newborns in trashcans? If they could have aborted the child that same day, why would they have a problem with disposing of the child right after birth?

I have also said that a lack of respect for life within the womb would lead to lack of respect for life outside of the womb. When I suggested this, people would usually respond "Oh come ON! How can you make such a wild connection between abortion and the killing of born children? That's ridiculous!"

Is it ridiculous? Let's look at some more statements by Pinker.

According to Pinker, "Several moral philosophers have concluded that neonates (infants) are not persons, and thus neonaticide (killing an infant) should not be classified as murder."

Pinker favors a system where "A new mother will first coolly assess the infant and her situation" and then decide whether to keep the baby or kill it.

Pinker is not the only academic arguing for infanticide. Michael Tooley, a philosophy professor at the University of Colorado, makes the SAME argument. Tooley has argued that there should be "some period of time, such as a week after birth, as the interval during which infanticide will be permitted." (Philosophy & Public Affairs 2 (Fall 1972) pp. 37-65 (c) 1972 Princeton University Press) Other "philosophers" have argued that parents should be able to kill their children "up to the time the (baby) learns how to use certain expressions."

Tooley believes that parents would like to kill infants "suffering from severe physical, emotional, or intellectual handicaps;" in other words, children that would be a burden to their parents or to society.

Kill infants because they have a severe physical, emotional, or intellectual handicap? To many, this would sound discriminatory toward the handicapped, but is this really a surprise? How often are abortions done because the fetus has a physical or mental handicap? These abortions are often seen as justified because of the "horrible life" the child will supposedly have. Is it any wonder then that people would suggest that perhaps we should dispose of such infants when born? After all, what if the handicap was not detected prior to birth? Shouldn't the woman have the same "right to choose" to end the child's life after birth, just as a woman who detected the abnormality while in the womb had the right to choose to end the unborn's life while in the womb?

Furthermore, Tooley believes that if moral objections to infanticide were removed "the happiness of society could be significantly and justifiably increased." Interesting argument, and one that reminds me of one of the arguments often used to justify abortion.

Do you find arguments in favor of infanticide outrageous? Think about this -- if you're an American taxpayer, you help subsidize such thinking. Both MIT and the University of Colorado, like most every other bastion of "higher education" in the United States, are subsidized with tax monies. But then, are these arguments that outrageous when you consider that abortion is legal through all nine months of pregnancy?

Ironically, medical advancement and the discoveries of the actual human qualities of the fetus may actually be used to justify infanticide if abortion is kept legal. Years ago, before sonograms, before people like Lenart Nilsson took stunning photos of an unborn child, it was much easier to define the fetus as a "blob of cells" and not equate any humanness with the unborn. Thus, it was easier to justify abortion because many believed that what was inside the womb was nothing but "a blob" and not really human. However, medical technology has given us the opportunity to actually see the unborn, to save premature babies earlier and earlier, and to even perform fetal surgery. It is increasingly difficult to say that the unborn is "just a blob of cells" when presented with current medical evidence that fetus is indeed human. Thus, the current common argument for legalized abortion is that the fetus may be human, but it is not a "full human" or a "person" or a human with the same rights as you and I. Once we start acknowledging a class system for humans - a class system which determines at what developmental level a human has the "full rights" of a person - what is to keep us from applying the same class system to born, as well as unborn children? We could before say that the unborn was not human, and since everyone considered a newborn human, it was easy to keep the abortion mentality from creeping up towards infanticide. But now that we acknowledge that it is justifiable to terminate the life of a certain class of humans (the unborn) what is to keep us from extending that class to day-old infants?

Legal abortion was supposed to make "every child a wanted child." So far, this questionable goal has not been met whatsoever, since infanticide seems to be on the rise, and so is child abuse. So, for those who wonder how we can stop infanticide, I have an answer - stop violence in the womb, and perhaps we will have less violence outside the womb as well.

This article is copyright © 1997-1998 Carolyn C. Gargaro. All rights reserved. It may not be reproduced with out specific consent of the author.

HOME E-mail Original Rightgrrls Library Links What We Think!