There is, as mentioned at the outset, a second area in which the pro-choice agenda has been looking to shift the landscape to accommodate their lost ground while still attempting to set-up the pro-life movement for ultimate failure. Realizing that defining a fetus as less than human is increasingly difficult to do with any stretch of science, some in the pro-choice community have taken to supporting infanticide outright. In such cases, advocates admit that abortion is no different than infanticide but, instead of being repulsed by the thought as many people in our present culture are, they propose the expansion of “abortion” to children who are already born. While I do not suspect that the whole corpus of the pro-choice movement presently embraces this shift, it appears quite plausible that those who chart its course are both capable and willing to take it there. Pro-life men and women should take care to not underestimate this reality.
In February of 2012, the British-based Journal of Medical Ethics published an article by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, “After-birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?” The piece proposed the moral acceptability of infanticide and went viral. A follow-up in the Journal a year later brought commentary from many bioethicists, including some who support infanticide and have done so for years. For the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade in January of this year, Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote a well-traveled article on the online magazine, Salon, entitled “So what if abortion ends life?” To her credit, she wrote with honesty that abortion takes the life of a human being and called-out the illogic of her less-straightforward peers. But then she proceeded to justify the taking of unborn lives on the basis of [what she believes to be] a mother’s existential superiority over her unborn child, saying “She’s the boss.” In March, Alisa LaPolt Snow of the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates made headlines for her testimony before a committee of the Florida House of Representatives. At the hearing, relating to consideration of HB 1129 (a bill, now law, to protect infants who survive abortions), Snow stated the position of Planned Parenthood was that decisions about whether to treat an infant born alive in a botched abortion should be left to the mother, the family, and the physician. Planned Parenthood later backtracked on those statements, but one cannot simply unring the bell.
While the negative coverage surrounding Kermit Gosnell may provide some hope that infanticide is not yet accepted by even a majority of the pro-choice community, the foregoing string of high-profile instances of its being condoned are likely a sign of things to come. The legal taking of newborns’ lives has an unfortunate history in many times and places – early Christians, in fact, often saved children discarded by Roman parents – and the pro-life movement cannot afford to presume that it will not arise in our present society.
Pro-lifers must now cultivate ways to convince people not only that fetuses are fully human beings, but that weak or voiceless human beings at any stage should not be extinguished. Perhaps this could appeal simply to self-interest by reminding listeners that they may one day be in a debilitated and voiceless condition and that a legal regime that permits the taking of infants’ lives could logically turn against them as well. Should a listener then appeal to a putatively altruistic utilitarianism in which the death of some is an acceptable price for the convenience of many, one might propose that a society that embraces such a principle would hardly be of utility for the many who would live with the knowledge that they or their loved ones might one day be taken away against their will and without recourse on earth.
Whatever path pro-life advocates may take in addressing these troubling developments, it is imperative that they do address them soon and do so strongly. The changing landscape of the conversation, with regard to both the youngest of humans immediately after conception and those who are newly born, threatens to pull the carpet out from under the pro-life movement. To succeed, the movement must not only stand firm but begin reestablishing its footing to meet these new challenges.
Editor's note: This is the second in a series of two columns. To read Mr. Vega's first column, click here.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.