Treating Infanticide Respectfully Makes it Respectable

by Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC on June 25, 2012

Infanticide — for which doctors were hanged at Nuremberg — is becoming an increasingly commonplace issue of debate. Indeed, it seems to me that the notion of killing babies is now precisely where abortion was in the 1960s. And we know what happened then.

But back to the point at hand. The Journal of Medical Ethics is doing an issue on the propriety of infanticide. This raises a question of how opponents should respond. From the Washington Post guest blog, “Is Infanticide ‘Madness’?” by Charles C. Camosy:

And the pro-choice position for infanticide appears to be here to stay. In a move which will confuse those who think of this position as something new, Savulescu is planning a special issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics devoted to infanticide which will have contributions from many of its defenders over the past forty years — including himself, Peter Singer, Michael Tooley, Jeff McMahon, and more. To his credit, Savulescu is also inviting pro-lifers like myself, Robert George, and John Finnis to contribute diverse and opposing views as well.

How should pro-lifers respond to the debate over infanticide? I have tried to convince public pro-life figures like George to resist using language like “madness” to describe the arguments of our opponents. For if one throws out the sanctity of life ethic as one’s moral guide — as we have already done in many aspects of our culture in the developed West — it seems perfectly reasonable to be pro-choice for both abortion and infanticide. In resisting this shift in defense of the sanctity of life, however, the correct strategy is not to insult or call names (or, God forbid, make threats of violence and murder), but instead we should respectfully engage pro-choice arguments for infanticide.

Do that and the game is already lost. Treat the unrespectable respectfully, and you make it respectable.

This whole move puts opponents of infanticide in a very tough spot. Refuse to participate and you abandon the field to the infanticiders. Treat baby killing as potentially legitimate, and it legitimizes. I suggest scathing, righteous opposition. Otherwise, they win by default.

Once again, I am reminded of the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’s cogent warning about bioethicists:

Thousands of medical ethicists and bioethicists, as they are called, professionally guide the unthinkable on its passage through the debatable on its way to becoming the justifiable, until it is finally established as the unexceptionable.

Infanticide is in the justifiable stage. Culture of death, Wesley? What culture of death?

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