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25 Mar, 2012 12:03

Science journal under fire for newborn termination article

An article published in a leading UK medical journal stipulating that killing newborn babies is no different from abortion has triggered uproar. The article argues for after-birth abortion on the basis that newborns are “morally irrelevant”.

The authors of the controversial paper Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva have received death threats from activists since its publishing. The authors defended the publication, maintaining they were merely entering into an academic debate.The paper, entitled “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?” pays particular attention to fetuses and newborn children with disabilities and the psychological burden they might represent for their mothers. Given that the status of a newborn is the same as that of a fetus, according to the paper, the authors use the phrase “after-birth abortions” as oppose to “infanticide” or “euthanasia”.Citing the example of Downs’s syndrome, the authors say that “to bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.” They argue that the potential of quality of life for children with certain pathologies may not be equal to that of a “normal child.”They classify the life of a newborn child as “equivalent to that of a fetus, that is, neither can be considered a ‘person’ in a morally-relevant sense.” In this way they put after-birth abortion in the same category as regular abortion, and as such argue that it should be a “permissible” practice “in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”Dr. Kenneth Boyd, Associate Editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, in which the paper was published, said it was the journal’s “job is to publish arguments for and against on controversial subjects so that people can make up their own minds in the long run.”“I don’t agree with the conclusions of the paper, i would like to defend people’s right to express these views and other people’s rights to respond to them,” he said to RT.Professor Savulescu, an ex-collegue of the authors from Oxford University also defended the decision to publish the paper.“The goal of the Journal of Medical Ethics is not to present the Truth or promote some one moral view. It is to present well-reasoned argument based on widely accepted premises,” he said to UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph.The paper sparked outrage among pro-life groups and mothers of disabled children who had been offered abortion but declined.“There definitely seems to be a trend now to say that these children shouldn’t be here,” UK mother Shelly Thoupos told RT’s Ivor Bennet. Her son was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome after eight months of pregnancy and she was offered the chance to abort by doctors, but refused.“I was treated as if I was a bit stupid really. It’s very sad to think that they are the people giving advice to mothers,” she said to RT.