After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?

  1. Alberto Giubilini
  2. Francesca Minerva
  1. Department of Philosophy, University of Milan, Milan, Italy
  2. Centre for Human Bioethics, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Francesca Minerva, CAPPE, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia;
  1. Contributors AG and FM contributed equally to the manuscript.

  • Received 25 November 2011
  • Revised 26 January 2012
  • Accepted 27 January 2012
  • Published Online First 23 February 2012


Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue 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.


Severe abnormalities of the fetus and risks for the physical and/or psychological health of the woman are often cited as valid reasons for abortion. Sometimes the two reasons are connected, such as when a woman claims that a disabled child would represent a risk to her mental health. However, having a child can itself be an unbearable burden for the psychological health of the woman or for her already existing children,1 regardless of the condition of the fetus. This could happen in the case of a woman who loses her partner after she finds out that she is pregnant and therefore feels she will not be able to take care of the possible child by herself.

Read the Paper


2 responses

  1. What appears to be argued is that murder is a good way to deal with disabled babies – because it is accepted for the unborn. I think the logic of this is that murder should not be acceptable for foetuses either – abortion is as immoral as murder. If murder is accepted for foetuses, and the philosophers argue that it is therefore appropriate for babies, do we then argue that anyone who becomes handicapped at a later stage in life should also be murdered? That seems to be the logical progression. Indeed it is already happening to the elderly in hospitals all round the country, although the state reserves this right to itself (at the moment).

    To have a severely handicapped child is a terrible burden on the family, but this doesn’t justify murder.

    1. I’m afraid this is just a teaser, a whisper in our ear, a clue, just to get us used to the idea that in the future unelected “experts” and/or “officials” can decide who’s to live for how long and under what conditions.

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