welcome to the culture of death
Mini-symposium on after-birth abortion
Electronic pages: Responses
Why should the baby live? Human right to life and the precautionary principle
- Correspondence to Dr Benedetto Rocchi, Department of Economics and Management, Vua delle Pandette, 32, 50127 Florence, Italy; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Received 16 April 2012
- Revised 29 December 2012
- Accepted 31 January 2013
AbstractThis paper discusses the issue of ‘post-birth abortion’ from an applied perspective. Three hypothetical situations where a newborn considered as a ‘potential person’ is at risk of being killed are proposed to highlight the potential controversial outcomes of post-birth abortion. The internal consistency of the argument proposed by Giubilini and Minerva to morally justify newborn killing is contested as well. Finally, an alternative moral strategy based on the precautionary principle and excluding any distinction between potential and actual persons is proposed as rational.
The basic human experience of the atrocities in the first half of the 20th century has significantly strengthened the recognition of human dignity and human rights for all born people at the political level. Therefore, the Charter of the United Nations in 1945 and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, Article 1 affirms: ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’. This article provides an ethical justification of why we in this political consensus should not waver, and why we should grant the right to life to all born human infants. Moreover, there is an ethical justification to granting the right to life even to unborn human beings, who already bear a human face.
Two notable limitations exist on the use of personhood arguments in establishing moral status. Firstly, although the attribution of personhood may give us sufficient reason to grant something moral status, it is not a necessary condition. Secondly, even if a person is that which has the ‘highest’ moral status, this does not mean that any interests of a person are justifiable grounds to kill something that has a ‘lower’ moral status. Additional justification is needed to overcome a basic wrongness associated with killing something possessing moral status. There are clear arguments already available in this regard in the case of a foetus that are not available in the case of a newborn infant. Hence, there is scope to consistently hold that abortion may be permissible but that after-birth abortion may not be permissible.