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Why is it wrong to kill babies?

Here’s a simple test for people who call themselves “pro-choice” and support legal abortion.

Most of us agree it would be wrong to kill the cute infant pictured here. But I want to know: “Why is it wrong to kill babies like this one?”  If pro-choice advocates values consistency, then they must become either pro-life, radical animal rights activists, arbitrary bigots, or supporters of infanticide. Let’s look at some possible reasons one might have for thinking it’s wrong to kill an infant in order to see why this is the case:

Answers that make you a radical animal rights activist

Cow

Cow

If it’s wrong to kill the infant because he can feel pain, then it would not be wrong to kill most fetuses because they cannot feel pain. However, since cows can also feel pain at the same level as infants, it would be morally wrong to kill cows.If it’s wrong to kill the infant because he is born or can survive outside of the womb, then you can kill the fetus, who isn’t born and can’t survive on his own. However, it would be wrong to kill the cow, because cows are born and can live outside of the womb.

If these are the real reasons pro-choice advocates think killing infants is wrong, then to be consistent they must also impose the same legal penalties for killing infants upon anyone who hosts a backyard barbecue.

If it’s wrong to kill the infant because he is a born animal who is human, while a cow is of another species, then pro-choice advocates must explain why some born animals get special treatment and others do not. If they don’t have a reason, then pro-choice advocates are as arbitrary as racists who once said it is only wrong to kill a born animal that’s human and white.

Answers that make you pro-life or pro-infanticide

Human fetus

Human fetus

If it’s wrong to kill the infant because he is simply a member of the human species, then it would also be wrong to kill the fetus, since he, too, belongs to the human species. Therefore, pro-choice advocates must become pro-life and oppose legal abortion.If it’s wrong to kill the infant because he has rational thought or can reason like you or me, then pro-choice advocates are mistaken. Both fetuses and infants cannot act rationally, and therefore, if possessing rationality is what makes it wrong to kill a certain thing, then there is nothing wrong with killing infants who lack rational thought.

If it’s wrong to kill the infant because he has the potential to develop rational thought, then it would also be wrong to kill the fetus since he, too, has the potential to develop rational thought. Therefore, pro-choice advocates must become pro-life and oppose legal abortion.

If it’s wrong to kill the infant because many people dislike killing infants and would adopt them, then it would be wrong to kill fetuses because many people also dislike killing those humans and would adopt them. Therefore, pro-choice advocates must become pro-life and oppose legal abortion.

* * *

A critic might object that it’s wrong to kill the infant because he is a human being, but it is not wrong to kill a fetus that is also a human being because no one has the right to use someone else’s body against her will.  However, this would make it right for a woman to let her infant starve to death because she refuses to breastfeed or let her child use her body in anyway. For a more in-depth answer to this argument see this Life Report episode or this hour of Catholic Answers live.

Most professional philosophers agree that any reason that would make it wrong to kill infants would also make it wrong to kill fetuses. Bioethicist Peter Singer writes,

“The liberal search for a morally crucial dividing line between the newborn baby and the fetus has failed to yield any event or stage of development that can bear the weight of separating those with a right to life from those who lack such a right” (Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 2nd ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, 142).

Of course, instead of valuing the unborn as we value infants, Singer thinks infants lack a right to life just as fetuses do. If your pro-choice friend disagrees with Singer and thinks it is wrong to kill infants, maybe this little test can help him see that he should be equally concerned about killing humans who exist in the stage before infancy.

By Trent Horn









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2 comments

  1. Tom Rafferty Reply

    The simple answer to you pro-lifers: the mother has the potential person, thus, she, and she alone, has the final say. Disagree? If she also had a kidney that was the only one that could save another person, is she obligated to donate such? Carry on.

  2. Patrick Gannon Reply

    Why is it wrong to kill infants or fetuses, according to the RCC? Answer: Because Yahweh sends them to Hell, and you don’t want to give Him an excuse to be a monster.
    .
    The RCC provides three options for abortions, miscarriages or infants that die prior to being baptized. 1) The default position is that they go to Hell. The Catechism says that the Church knows of no way for an unbaptized soul to get to heaven. 2) You are allowed to believe in Limbo – a suburb of Hell invented by Augustine where the flames aren’t as high, but moms will never see them, even after death. 3) You are “allowed” to hope (not have faith, only have hope) that God will break His rules and let them in, despite having promised otherwise according to the RCC.
    .
    The real question to me is – who would ever worship a being that would condemn the purely innocent, who through no fault of their own, failed to get baptized before dying? Forget all this silly stuff the author is talking about – the real question is, why would any rational, decent human being worship a god whom the Catholic Church says sends millions of complete innocents to eternal torment? The fact that He’s always done this, doesn’t make it right. See Gen 3:22. We know what good and evil are, and sending any soul (if such exist) to eternal torment when we live but a mere blink of an eye here, is about as evil as you can get. It’s difficult to respect people who would worship such a god, unless we understood it was out of abject fear of that god. Let’s face it – any god who would do this is not “good” according to the dictionary definition.

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