The Dim-Post

March 2, 2012

Taking the non-identity problem a bit too far

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 11:26 am

You can critique the idea of ‘after-birth abortion’ on a number of levels, but I always look to the practical. And my practical experience as a new father is that parents of infants suffer extreme sleep deprivation and this impacts in a number of ways, like putting new bags of frozen vegetables in the pantry, or leaving to work without your shoes on, or going to the supermarket, realising you’ve forgotten your wallet, going home and then returning to the supermarket and then realising you’ve forgotten your wallet again. It’s not a good time to make profound life choices. So anyone suggesting, ‘Hey, let’s give that guy with the tiny red eyes and vomit all down the back of his shirt the power of life and death!’ Is not onto a winner.

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43 Comments »

  1. I always think the biggest problem is when to stop.

    “Either eat your damn spinach or it’s off to the abortion clinic with you!”

    Comment by Thomas Beagle — March 2, 2012 @ 11:31 am

  2. My sense is that this is a case of academic naivety about the ‘real world’. It was a paper about ethics and about ‘what if’ scenarios, which doesn’t translate well when reported in the mainstream media.

    (note: I havent’ read the academic paper)

    Comment by caycos — March 2, 2012 @ 11:33 am

  3. Yeah, that and raging hormones for new mothers. Not a good time to make decisions.

    Comment by Me Too — March 2, 2012 @ 11:39 am

  4. “Either eat your damn spinach or it’s off to the abortion clinic with you!”

    I don’t have a reference handy, but one of Philip K Dick’s most explicitly political stories was based on exactly that premise – a near future in which abortion law had been relaxed to the extent that it was legal up until a child was capable of algebra. It’s interesting because most of his politics were pretty far left, but then he was never one to be pigeonholed. I’d need to read it again to decide what his message was meant to be.

    Comment by sweetnavelorange — March 2, 2012 @ 11:41 am

  5. A friend wrote a thesis (in philosophy) some years ago arguing against spending scarce medical resources on “marginal” babies – those born very early or with multiple medical problems – and instead letting them die. Her argument was around personhood, that the elderly had a stronger claim on scarce resources than marginal new-borns because they had more of the qualities we associate with being a person.

    Interesting philosophical questions, but not to be confused with policy or practicality.

    (She is now a mother, I wonder if she has changed her opinion from when she was a childless 22 year old?)

    Comment by Me Too — March 2, 2012 @ 11:45 am

  6. I thought it was either satire or a reductio ad absurdum anti-abortion argument.

    But apparently not.

    Comment by NeilM — March 2, 2012 @ 11:46 am

  7. And the irony of death threats against academics from – presumably – people who object to killing. I guess it’s okay to kill if it is for the greater good…

    Comment by Me Too — March 2, 2012 @ 11:47 am

  8. My thought: if you allow “post-natal abortions”, there is a very difficult question of when the cutoff should be. Is it age-based? Competency-based? There is enormous room for debate. What you really need is a clear, unmistakable line. And, of course, we have an excellent candidate …

    Comment by Repton — March 2, 2012 @ 11:53 am

  9. Which would be true if the scenario put forward was not entirely theoretical on the philosophers part

    Comment by Brad Gibbons — March 2, 2012 @ 11:55 am

  10. To hell with the children! What I want to know is why are the hard-earned tax dollars stolen (STOLEN!) from my wallet and other hard working people used to fund such ridiculous research by rapacious, Godless lesbo-homo researchers in their pampered ivory towers? MY TAX DOLLARS!!! MINE!!! STOLEN!!!

    Comment by seadog63 — March 2, 2012 @ 11:55 am

  11. a reductio ad absurdum anti-abortion argument.
    Yeah I figured these guys were either running a pro-life argument or were sponsored by a group that were…

    Comment by garethw — March 2, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

  12. “Either eat your damn spinach or it’s off to the abortion clinic with you!”

    I made poached eggs, baked beans and vogels for breakfast this morning and did not get a positive reaction (surprisingly it was the tomato sauce in the baked beans that caused the problem, not the eggs – go figure).

    Will the new rule will extend to 4 and 7 year olds? And, for sake of clarification, and In response to sweetnavelorange, neither knows algebra.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — March 2, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

  13. i say retroactive abortion should be allowed up to voting age.

    Comment by amc32 — March 2, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

  14. Yeah, I think this is more like a quixotic approach to the question of personhood – something academic philosophers talk a lot about – than a serious policy proposal. So approaching it with a self-proclaimed “practical” approach is kind of missing the point. It’s like taking the analogy of The Cave and saying “But we shouldn’t let people be locked up like that, that’s horrid!”

    Comment by Hugh — March 2, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

  15. You’ve got to be kidding. There’s been nine months of bonding with the unborn baby, only to see it killed shortly after it’s birth? I don’t think so, not when there are so many people out there willing and qualified to adopt.

    Comment by Daniel Lang — March 2, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

  16. It doesn’t seem like you’ve read the research, Danyl. I could play devil’s advocate and suggest you’d prefer to see a child suffer horribly for the sake of its parents.

    Comment by Ross — March 2, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

  17. > …if the scenario put forward was not entirely theoretical on the philosophers part

    Except it’s not entirely theoretical. Far from it. To quote the autors:

    “In The Netherlands, for instance, the Groningen Protocol (2002) allows to actively terminate the life of ‘infants with a hopeless prognosis who experience what parents and medical experts deem to be unbearable suffering’.”

    I wonder how many doctors here keep babies alive at all costs, even where the prognosis is hopeless and the suffering unbearable.

    Comment by Ross — March 2, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

  18. putting new bags of frozen vegetables in the pantry

    It’s not just new parents that do that, I can assure you :-/

    there is a very difficult question of when the cutoff should be.

    I believe Bill Clinton approved abortions up until the 42nd trimester.

    Comment by The Green Blazer — March 2, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

  19. “So anyone suggesting, ‘Hey, let’s give that guy with the tiny red eyes and vomit all down the back of his shirt the power of life and death!’ Is not onto a winner.”

    I’m not sure they are – abortion (and assumedly post-birth infanticide?) is a woman’s choice. Maybe if the mother dies in childbirth you’d get a say, but otherwise not.

    But let’s take the point semi-seriously … if the fact that “parents of infants suffer extreme sleep deprivation and this impacts in a number of ways” is a valid reason for not letting the mother (or the parents, or whomever) decide to post-abort a newborn, then why isn’t the impact of pregnancy on a woman’s mental state (hormones, etc) a disqualifying factor when it comes to deciding to have a late-term abortion? Which are, at least in Australia, permitted on “psycho-social” grounds – see http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/healthy-babies-aborted/story-e6frf7l6-1225868918358

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — March 2, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

  20. People decide all sorts of things when under stress that they later regret. Talking to intensivists, it is common for their patients to ask to die. Later, once their health is restored, they are glad their pleas were ignored. In terms of babies, the first few days after a baby is born involve huge hormonal shifts for new mothers, which is where the “day 3 blues” comes from. A really really bad time to be making important decisions. Hormonal shifts in pregnancy tend not to be of the same magnitude.

    But the abortion laws in NZ are crazy for this very reason: you have to convince two certifying consultants that having the baby (or continuing with the pregnancy) will create huge mental health issues, yet at the same time they have to believe you are mentally competent to make such a decision…. it’s a game and you have to understand how it works to get what you want.

    Comment by Me Too — March 2, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

  21. “I wonder how many doctors here keep babies alive at all costs, even where the prognosis is hopeless and the suffering unbearable.”

    I’d say very few, if any. But that’s not the same thing as “actively terminat[ing] the life” of a baby.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — March 2, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

  22. Andrew says “let’s take the point semi-seriously.”
    No, let’s not.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — March 2, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

  23. It would not be abortion but early end of life termination.

    Comment by Ron — March 2, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

  24. Andrew,

    I’d be surprised if some doctors didn’t actively terminate the lives of babies whose prognosis was hopeless and their suffering unbearable. Some doctors have admitted that they practice euthanasia in NZ.

    http://www.parliament.nz/NR/rdonlyres/1CA87108-6437-49DC-8BD1-4A1565A3A3F2/328/0307VoluntaryEuthanasia1.pdf

    Comment by Ross — March 2, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

  25. McGillicuddy Serious had a policy of extending the abortion time-frame to 18 years and 9 months.

    Comment by mikaerecurtis — March 2, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

  26. It’s unlikely doctors would *actively* terminate anyone’s life – that’s murder; but from my (limited) experience with end of life issues, they just neglect to prolong it. i.e. don’t intervene. Or they knowingly prescribe medication to relieve pain that also just happens to have serious side effects such as making breathing more difficult. In a patient with breathing problems, is that euthenasia or not? Technically it is not, if the dose is within normal prescribing limits and can be justified for pain relief.

    Comment by Me Too — March 2, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

  27. “I believe Bill Clinton approved abortions up until the 42nd trimester.”

    Obama extended the ruling to all 52 states.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 2, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

  28. Obama extended the ruling to all 52 states.

    All 52??

    Comment by The Green Blazer — March 2, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

  29. Well Kenya is 51, because otherwise he couldn’t be president right?

    Comment by insider — March 2, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

  30. “You could prefer that your child actually has an after-birth abortion instead of giving your child to an orphanage…”
    from the article.

    If thats how the parents think then society would be better off if the parents were “aborted”, and the child bought up by others who do actually give a damn.

    Comment by gn — March 2, 2012 @ 4:08 pm

  31. It was a philosophy paper! If anything it asks the question: When does life really start? and are our reasons for allowing abortion really valid or just completely selfish. Things pro-lifers have been asking for years. The academics are not actually proposing post birth abortion as a viable option. They are using essentially the same argument you might use for abortion yet no one in their right mind would agree with it. As someone who is pro-choice it does stop and make you question your values.

    Comment by Kieran — March 2, 2012 @ 4:10 pm

  32. @ MeToo – “Her argument was around personhood, that the elderly had a stronger claim on scarce resources than marginal new-borns because they had more of the qualities we associate with being a person.”

    Best not to fall asleep with your friend around – she may take your lower level of brain activity as a sign to shuffle you off this mortal coil… ;)
    People who make death threats against abortionists generally seem to do so because they view the abortion providers/enablers in similar light to genocidal maniacs, like H*tler. Who was also keen on infanticide of the ‘unwanted’ (like Downs Syndrome babies).

    @ Andrew G & Matthew H – please read comment 17 by Ross; the researchers were seriously proposing infanticide as an option.

    @ Repton, did your line have Paul Holmes on the wrong side of it? ;)

    Actually, it’s fascinating how people approach ‘serious’ research proposing (at least hypothetically) infanticide with satiric good humour, while we all frothed into a frenzy over Holmes’ racist Waitangi Day rant (which at least didn’t propose killing all Maori babies at risk of abuse).

    @ seadog63 – To hell with the parents! What I want to know is why are the hard-earned tax dollars stolen (STOLEN!) from my wallet and other hard working people used to fund such ridiculous infanticide by rapacious, Godless lesbo-homo parents in their pampered Mediterranean villas? If they wanted the kiddy enough to get pregnant, why are they stealing my tax dollars to knock ‘em off now? MY TAX DOLLARS!!! MINE!!! STOLEN!!!

    Comment by bob — March 2, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

  33. @Ross; “I’d be surprised if some doctors didn’t actively terminate the lives of babies whose prognosis was hopeless and their suffering unbearable.”

    Agreed – there’s 3 possible classes of doctor. Those who “keep babies alive at all costs, even where the prognosis is hopeless and the suffering unbearable”, which I think will be negligible (as such behaviour probably is unethical). The second are those who simply withhold treatment/over-paliatate knowing this will result in death, which I think will be large. The third are those who take measures solely intended to actively hasten death, which will be smaller than the second (but larger than the first).

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — March 2, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

  34. Political Parties have promoted the idea in the past… with good humour

    http://www.expdev.net/htownwiki/index.php/The_McGillicuddy_Serious_Party

    Comment by shorts — March 2, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

  35. The argument, I think, is not a very novel one. Peter Singer – amongst others – has argued that infanticide could be justified on the basis that neo-nates are not ‘persons’. It’s when he starts claiming that the mentally and physically disabled might be singled out for such treatment that those on the left of things tend to get a wee bit uneasy.

    Personally, I tend to take a dim view of abortion generally, but I don’t find the argument especially outrageous. It is certainly morally coherent on its own (robustly utilitarian) terms. But then, I can’t really see what’s especially wrong with sex-selective abortion, either.

    Comment by Higgs Boatswain — March 2, 2012 @ 8:18 pm

  36. A response from someone who’s read the story is here: http://johnnysnotmyname.tumblr.com/post/18479689675/prolife-news-site-headline-ethicists-in-australia :P

    Comment by QoT — March 2, 2012 @ 8:22 pm

  37. I am in favour of post adolescence lobotomies to parents who entertain the idea of post natal abortion. That way it evens up the playing field and eliminates stupidy from the human genome.

    Comment by Kevin — March 3, 2012 @ 11:25 am

  38. Once it’s born, it’s born. No-one has the right, not even a Doctor, to kill it due to illness or the baby being deformed. That’s not a part of our culture and society at present and nor should it be.

    People have all kinds of challenges in life. What’s the next step? To kill off people from poor families because they have little chance of becoming successful or attaining life-long employment opportunities? It’s just utterly barbaric to suggest intentional death, murder to be exact, shortly after life.

    Comment by daniel Lang — March 3, 2012 @ 12:22 pm

  39. “People have all kinds of challenges in life. What’s the next step? To kill off people from poor families because they have little chance of becoming successful or attaining life-long employment opportunities? It’s just utterly barbaric to suggest intentional death, murder to be exact, shortly after life.”

    Which was partly the point of my nod to Jonathan Swift that agitated a few people in our midst.

    Comment by DeepRed — March 3, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

  40. “agitated a few people in our midst”
    It’s all quiet on that front. Perhpas PG is busy jetting to Italy via Australia to counsel those academics on the consequences of condoning child abuse?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 3, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

  41. “…Perhpas PG is busy jetting to Italy via Australia to counsel those academics on the consequences of condoning child abuse..?”

    Damn, as a victim himself of teh evil unfair discrimination he could cry from the heart – “oh! How it burns!”

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 3, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

  42. “To kill off people from poor families because they have little chance of becoming successful or attaining life-long employment opportunities?”

    @ DeepRed, comment 39 – the ACT party is already there (see Cactus Kate’s blog for her suggested treatment of ‘poor breeders’) ;(

    Comment by bob — March 4, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

  43. I say retroactive abortion should be applied immediately to all pollies.

    Comment by moko-lover — March 6, 2012 @ 3:11 pm


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