‘Post birth abortion’ exposes the moral poverty of academia

In Daniel Gasman’s The Scientific Origins of National Socialism, he lays out in detail how many of the seeds of Nazi doctrine were sown in respectable, mainstream German scientific journals and debates in the late 19th century. Today’s transgender ideology springs from obscure academic debates in the 1980s and 90s.

The lesson from this is that it’s a grave mistake to write off the highbrow circle-jerking of academics as inconsequential mental masturbation. Because those academics have students: students who go on to staff the boards of NGOs, become political advisers, infest HR departments – and, worse, become teachers themselves.

So, if you’re wondering how society could ever get to stuff like New York’s “post-birth abortions”, or as we used to call it in a less PC age, “infanticide”, you should start by thumbing through back issues of academic journals.

Killing newborn babies is morally the same as abortion, a publication in The British Medical Journal argued back in 2012.

According to the paper, authored by Monash and Melbourne University academics, the “moral status of the infant is equivalent to that of a fetus”. The authors, however, go on to suggest that “neither can be considered a ‘person’ in a morally relevant sense.”

This is pretty old news, perhaps: the paper caused a firestorm when it was published. But, as legislators in the US move to enshrining its argument in law, it is imperative to recall how we got here.

The paper also shows the often yawning gap between academic ethicists and the real world of moral judgements and outcomes. Historian Michael Burleigh notes, in his excellent moral history of WWII, Moral Combat, that the academic moral philosophers were either missing in action or irrelevant, while politicians, commanders and soldiers were having to make flesh-and-blood judgements in one of the most morally consequential conflicts in history.

The authors argued that “after-birth abortion” can be justified on the basis that the baby is not missing out on a life he or she cannot contemplate…According to The Daily Telegraph, the article, which claims a foetus and a newborn both lack a sense of life and aspiration, sparked worldwide outrage and even elicited death threats following its publication.

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Now, I’ve sat in Philosophy classes and listened to and discussed the arguments on all sides regarding person-hood. These are important arguments, especially when it comes to matters like animal rights and abortion. I don’t pretend to have the answers to all these difficult questions.

But just as all the intellectual debates about just war, war crimes, and so on came to naught in the bloody crucible of the Pacific, and when the death camps were liberated, there are certain facts of human experience that render all academic debate moot. Samuel Johnson famously dismissed Bishop Berkeley’s Idealism by simply kicking a rock. All the academic jerking-off in the world about the moral status of an infant can be demolished by the simple act of holding a newborn baby.

I refute it thus, as the good doctor said.

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