If Infanticide is Wrong, then So is Abortion


A pair of philosophers, writing in a bioethics journal, are advancing the argument that if we’re going to say that infanticide—the killing of innocent newborns—is wrong, then all the arguments against apply equally to abortion.

David and Rose Hershenov, writing in the journal Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, say that newborns and the unborn—even if they are minimally conscious or non-conscious—are “morally equivalent in their fundamental interests,” that is in their human development in a natural progression to adulthood.

Insofar as we see infanticide as wrong, we should, therefore, see abortion as wrong. The authors assert that “Mindless organisms only have interests in healthy development or proper functioning and the flourishing that involves”. Even if this is a fairly basic interest, it is nevertheless, morally important and worthy of respect: “...When it is mindless, there is probably nothing else to its good than its health, i.e., its proper functioning is constitutive of its flourishing. But that is still very valuable and is why infanticide is a great wrong.”

Unfortunately, the argument depends on acknowledging that infanticide is wrong and we’ve begun to see the erosion of that in recent years as bioethicists and philosophers begin to argue in favor of the permissibility of infanticide.

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