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A step closer to 'after-birth' abortions?

We blog on the abortion issue fairly frequently as we believe this is a key barometer of how much society values the life of the weakest individuals and by implication how close a nation is aligned to God’s moral values. In our most recent blog we made the grim prediction that there would be increasing calls to end the lives of infants soon after birth. One of the reasons for this is that we cannot see what basis there is for denying the right of parents to kills their babies just after birth if it’s OK before birth – after all, the status of the baby as a living being does not really change before and after birth.

A group of medical ethicists made headlines last week by highlighting this very point. In their study entitled, ‘After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?’, they state that ‘the moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual’. They go on to conclude that, ‘what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled’. To be honest, it is difficult to fault the logic of this article – if you take the position that killing a baby is OK before it is born, on what basis can you argue that it is wrong to kill a new-born baby? They are equivalent ethical positions, even though both immoral in our view.

What makes this even more pertinent is that whilst there is a trend towards this way of thinking in academic circles, the advances in medical science continue to improve the chance of survival of extremely premature babies. Modern technology now makes it possible to show how fully formed a baby is at just 20 weeks, where scans show babies and this age using normal human movements such as stretching and swallowing. Whilst some want to widen to parameters of when it permissible to end a babies life, we are also widening the parameters of when it’s possible to save a babies life! In the UK, we are in a state of moral confusion over this issue – in the same hospital, we sometimes define a 24 week old baby as a ‘fetus’ and kill it if it is unwanted, or we define it as a ‘baby’ and use amazing technology and skillful medical expertise to save it if the baby is wanted. What a bizarre situation!

As Peter Saunders argues, ‘each society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members. Neonatal centres of excellence in Britain are already demonstrating how worthwhile it is to make sacrifices for these most vulnerable of human beings. It’s time now for Parliament again to ask serious questions about late abortion’.

On the one hand, more are arguing that on the basis that abortion is permissible, why not extend this to include the killing of unwanted newborn babies? On the other hand, technology is now demonstrating that extremely premature babies have a greater chance of survival than ever before. As a nation, we will be forced to confront our stance on this issue and thereby reveal how disposable human life really has become to us. We believe there will be increasing pressure to widen the parameters of abortion to include the killing of unwanted newborn babies. This is extremely serious from God’s point of view and would be a significant step in further provoking judgment upon this nation. We must defend the rights of those who cannot defend themselves and continue to uphold the biblical concept of the sanctity of life. God values the life of every human being from conception and so should we…

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:13-14, NIV)

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5)


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