February 28, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The editor of an ethics journal that recently published an article advocating infanticide (what the authors call “post-birth abortion”), has responded to widespread criticism by pointing out that promoting the killing of newborns is nothing new: in fact, in the Netherlands infant euthanasia is already legal and practiced.

Editor Julian Savulescu also criticizes what he calls the “hate speech” directed at the authors of the article, arguing that the public’s response to the piece shows that “proper academic discussion and freedom are under threat from fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.”

In the journal article Alberto Giubilin, a philosopher from the University of Milan, and Francesca Minerva, an ethicist from the University of Melbourne, made the case that “after-birth abortion” should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is perfectly healthy. They base their argument on the premise that the unborn baby and the newborn do not have the moral status of actual persons and are consequently “morally irrelevant.”

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In response to the backlash, Savulescu wrote that the arguments in the article “are largely not new and have been presented repeatedly in the academic literature and public fora by the most eminent philosophers and bioethicists in the world, including Peter Singer, Michael Tooley and John Harris.”

He also observes that the paper “draws attention to the fact that infanticide is practised in the Netherlands.”

The fact that The Netherlands already permits the killing of disabled newborns is not widely known, even by many in the pro-life movement. The practice is permitted under the so-called Groningen Protocol, which outlines the circumstances under which a physician may deliver a lethal injection to a newborn who suffers from a disability, at the request of the child’s parents.

An article published in 2008 in the prestigious Hastings Center Report about the Protocol similarly provoked outrage after the authors argued that disabled babies might be “better off dead.”

The authors of that article also linked infanticide to legalized abortion, arguing that infanticide may in fact be the morally superior alternative to abortion.

“The supposedly morally superior alternative [of abortion]…does not strike us as superior at all,” they wrote. Instead, they said, parents of a child with a poor prenatal diagnosis should wait until the child is born, when they can make a more informed decision about the chance that their child has of living a “satisfactory” life.

“We join disability activists who condemn the routine recommendation of abortions performed for no other reason than to prevent the birth of an affected baby,” they said.

In his response today, editor Savulescu observed that the authors of the recent paper simply took for granted the premises that undergird legal abortion, and followed them to their logical conclusion.

“The goal of the Journal of Medical Ethics is not to present the Truth or promote some one moral view,” he writes. “It is to present well reasoned argument based on widely accepted premises.

“The authors provocatively argue that there is no moral difference between a fetus and a newborn,” he continues. “Their capacities are relevantly similar. If abortion is permissible, infanticide should be permissible. The authors proceed logically from premises which many people accept to a conclusion that many of those people would reject.”

The pro-infanticide article and the defense from Savulescu come only months after a Canadian judge employed similar arguments in the process of handing out a lenient sentence to a mother who strangled her newborn and threw him over a fence. 

According to Justice Joanne Veit, Canada’s lack of an abortion law indicated that “while many Canadians undoubtedly view abortion as a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy, they generally understand, accept and sympathize with the onerous demands pregnancy and childbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support.”

“Naturally, Canadians are grieved by an infant’s death, especially at the hands of the infant’s mother, but Canadians also grieve for the mother,” she added.

Savluescu, the director of the Center for Practical Ethics at Oxford University, has made the news in the past for arguing that the requirement for organ donors to be dead at the time of organ harvesting should be removed, and that “mandatory” organ donation should be instituted. He has also argued that humanity has a “moral obligation” to use in vitro fertilization (IVF) to select the most intelligent embryos for the good of society.