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I'm Jon. Increasingly fond of the term Queer. Increasingly concerned about myself. A ghost ate my everything burrito and I was sad but it was a dream about a dog.

I write stuff about Pop Culture and post in on a site called Theory Pop.

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Prolife news site headline: "Ethicists in Australia Call for “After-Birth Abortions”

Two “ethicists” who are college professors in Australia are furthering the pro-infanticide arguments of American professor Peter Singer by calling for so-called “after-birth abortions.””

It’s a reference to this piece of terrible academic writing: http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2012/02/22/medethics-2011-100411.abstract

And the lengthy response I posted on link to the story on facebook:

Alright, firstly: “lifenews”. Really? Really? Secondly: this is the case of two ethicists positing an entirely theoretical case about newborns - a term undefined in the lifenews article.Giubilini and Minerva are positing immediate action for newborn babies with serious issues. Moreover, the ‘downs’ example is presented as an example for abortion as it currently stands, and they note that it’s only a point of reference because it’s the closest analogue they can find: 
"Although it is reasonable to predict that living with a very severe condition is against the best interest of the newborn, it is hard to find definitive arguments to the effect that life with certain pathologies is not worth living, even when those pathologies would constitute acceptable reasons for abortion. It might be maintained that ‘even allowing for the more optimistic assessments of the potential of Down’s syndrome children, this potential cannot be said to be equal to that of a normal child’. But, in fact, people with Down’s syndrome, as well as people affected by many other severe disabilities, are often reported to be happy" (which to me reads as a pretty flaky piece of academic work. The article itself is quite short). 
What’s happening in this piece is simple: two ethicists suggesting that a term be given to the extremely rare circumstances where babies who have severe, untestable defects are not made to live with them. It names a few:

"Perinatal asphyxia, for instance, may cause severe brain damage and result in severe mental and/or physical impairments comparable with those for which a woman could request an abortion. Moreover, abnormalities are not always, or cannot always be, diagnosed through prenatal screening even if they have a genetic origin… One example is the case of Treacher-Collins syndrome (TCS), … [which can cause] potentially life-threatening respiratory problems. Usually those affected by TCS are not mentally impaired and they are therefore fully aware of their condition".

The situations they posit as permissible are the really awful things that will almost invariably kill the baby and make them suffer until it does. 
The moral argument it makes is simply academic practice: it’s an answer to the question “But where does it end?” Ethical problems do not have easily demarcatable parameters, that’s why they’re problems and not yes/no answers. The argument is about the point immediately after birth at which a judgement can be made as to the quality of life of a child. The ‘newborn = fetus’ argument is discussing an entirely hypothetical situation where the individual is given privilege over the collective (which frankly sounds like an Ayn Rand-ian nightmare):

"What we are suggesting is that, if interests of actual people should prevail, then after-birth abortion should be considered a permissible option for women who would be damaged by giving up their newborns for adoption". 

The academic work is wonky as hell. Their ‘response to potential criticism’ is just an entirely new set of problematic things that need responding to. How the hell this got into a peer-reviewed journal is beyond me, but the fact remains that this is not a call for post-birth abortion to become a regular thing. It’s an entirely academic exercise in the ethics of ending the lives of severely ill newborns that unfortunately strays into a realm that needs about another 10000 words to navigate correctly. Further to that, it is an exercise in a very narrow ethical band where the individual is superior in importance to the collective. It is not a call to make being a burden a ‘capital crime’. It is just a terrible piece of academic writing that attempts to give a name to a hypothetical situation (that, in the case of an all-but-strangled-to-death -in-labour newborn, isn’t that implausible). But when you get this news from lifenews (really? really?), of course it’s going to paint it as a call to kill anything and everything.

TL; DR: It’s an academic piece that attempts to name and explain a hypothetical situation of abject misery, not a call to infanticide, and fuck lifenews for painting it that way.

I don’t even give a fuck about their argument. It’s kinda terrible, and just the sort of thing that exists to justify pro-life hand-wringing. But I can and will get angry with anyone who paints academic hypotheticals (that can only exist in a Ayn Rand-ian Republican’s wet dream of individualism) as calls for infanticide. That is not journalism. That is either an ignorance of or show of contempt for academic work.

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