Thursday, February 3, 2011

Infanticide vs. Abortion

I was recently called to task when I expressed my views in favor of infanticide. I’m not surprised; it’s easily my most controversial view, and the only person I’ve discussed it with is my wife. She disagrees with me, as I am sure most people do.

I would personally never kill a baby, but the fact of the matter is that most cultures have explicit evidence of infanticide as accepted practice. It’s not an off-the-wall idea. Ancients cultures did it, and since this is the reasoning for all Christian beliefs, those who oppose abortion are the ones who should most respect my reasoning for legalizing infanticide. We’re both traditionalists, just on different ends of the spectrum.

Legalizing infanticide is more clearly in line with our freedom and liberty based ownership culture. If you make something, you ought to be able to destroy it. “I brought you into this world, I can take you right out of it,” as my parents used to say. It’s not forced on anyone; no one is going to make you kill your baby. Unlike abortion, it does not limit options, it creates a new one, without infringing on anyone.

Except the baby, of course. But what is a baby? Do you remember being born? Do you remember turning 1? I would posit that we are our memory, that we were not who we are now when we were infants. In the parlance of Christianity, I don’t think the soul enters the human being until sometime between the ages of one and three. That’s my belief, and you cannot prove differently.

What interests me, however, is not that people oppose this notion. What I have noticed from exposing people to this view of mine is that I have never gotten as much hate mail. While I got a couple disagreements from liberally minded people on the infanticide issue, the true vitriol came from anti-abortionists.

Now, I have no way of knowing for sure (some of these people might in fact threaten my life for supporting abortion, but no one has before), but I have a feeling people take greater offense at infanticide than abortion. Why? Is it because maybe one is worse than the other? That a full born baby is in fact signficantly different than an unborn fetus, perhaps?

But this shouldn’t be. Anti-choice advocates think females are concubines who have no sovereignty over their own bodies. They think the government has a right to tell a woman what she can do with herself, all because removing what amounts to a smear of cells constitutes “murder.” These anti-abortionists are right now in Washington trying to redefine rape over this very issue, because they want more children of rapists and incest to be borne by women against their wills.

Anti-choice advocates are willing to stomp on the rights of women, and yet despite this… they seem to see the difference between killing a fully-born infant and aborting a fetus. And they seem to think infanticide is worse.

The irony is, what anti-choice advocates don’t realize is that a complete ban on abortion would cause infanticide to sky-rocket. Historically, Christianity and Judaism oppose abortion, which was possible through not only surgery in the ancient world, but with the use of herbs. When those who performed abortions were killed and tortured as “witches,” women could no longer abort a fetus… and infanticide through exposure became more common. Why? Because someone who is determined to not have a child will not keep it. It’s just like how allowing divorce decreases murder; if you can’t leave someone, you’ll find another way of getting rid of them.

Frankly, I don’t think legalizing infanticide would result in the death of many babies, or at least many more babies. It is estimated that 200 children are killed by their mothers every year in the US. When a child under five is killed, it is usually the parents who did it. It’s already happening, so don’t think that the laws are saving all the babies who grow up; most people survive their parents because their parents love them, not because of a decision made by politicians.

So, I’m curious what questions people have, because based on the response I have gotten, this seems to be an idea of mine that most people take issue with (with a distant second being my view on legalizing drugs, which we can discuss in tomorrow’s post). Does the idea of infanticide disgust you (as it does me)? Is it worse than abortion? Am I a heartless monster who wants to round up the elderly, disabled and Jews into camps for extermination?


  1. Infanticide is wrong because children are most delicious at age four. It's arguably moral to allow them to live longer than that since older kids have more meat, but certainly no less.

  2. If you think that's good, try force feeding them only oranges and almonds for months before slaughtering them, then marinate them in their collected tears. Mmmm... that is some delicious atheist cousine.

  3. Regarding memory as a three year old, I see two types of human happiness. One is as it is experienced in the moment and the other is remembered. Moment to moment I prefer staying home to camping, but camping gives more remembered happiness and I will look back on my weekend more fondly if I go.

    If it is important to combine these, I see only one way to do it-to redefine remembered happiness as a subset of moment happiness. Remembered happiness is really repeated (usually small) moment happiness a person has many times, even long after the original event.

    Of course, moment happiness has no value as remembered happiness and death reduces remembered happiness to zero. The only way happiness is meaningful is if moment happiness that is crucial, not remembered happiness.

    Remembered happiness pays great dividends, but I don't see a lack of ability to form memories as indicative of a difference in kind between people and the types of experiences they have.

  4. My comment was getting far too long so I ended up just deleting it. lol

    Have you read "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion" by Mary Anne Warren though? She talks about this very issue. It's long, but very good IMO.

  5. The only thing that has stuck in my head from your essay is that you seem to think that
    "it is ok to kill babies beacuse they have no souls"

    CMON!!!, Atheism means the rejection of supenatural, spiritual and incorporeal parts of human beliefs. I thought being Atheist means that you believe that there is no other part of life beyond what is here and seen, that all spiritualism and immaterialism was not to play a part in shaping how you veiw the world.

    I say that you are wrong, that there is no soul, there is nothing but what we have here with us in our lives on earth. As such, i think that the laws of humanity with respect to life should shun infantcide since the line between fetus and living being is the only real line or distinction that people are able to make between the conception stage and the inception stage of life

  6. The Random Commenter2/03/2011 2:45 PM

    Infanticide is wrong. It's murder. Let's say you fell into a coma. Literally with no hopes of coming out. You're brain dead. No "soul" as you said. We can kill you by your standards. That shouldn't be allowed.

    But seriously where do you draw the line? Do you go around killing retards because they don't have souls? Do you go around killing gingers because they don't have souls?

    Abortion is fine in my book, if before the line of about 22 weeks, which is the youngest that a person can be born. After that brain function is established and the fetus is truly living. Yes, no thoughts or memory, but just because you can't remember that does not mean you are not alive. Abortion should be supported, because as you said it reduces infanticide and allows babies that are going to have a messed up life not have it.

    But once they have life, you don't take it away. That's fucked up. An unborn fetus I can say is not alive. But if someone is so irresponsible to let the baby be fricking born to decide to get rid of then they should be punished by the full force of the law for harming that baby. They brought it in to the world. They have to take care of it.

  7. All interesting comments, and the fact that I lost one follower is an indication this post did it's job.

    Regarding specific comments:

    Brian: I want some of whatever you're on, because that comment is both interesting and completely out of left field. Not insulting you, just saying... way to stay off topic. I like that in a commenter, no sarcasm implied.

    Alana: I read the article, and it's interesting, but I can do what the article claims to be unable to do, which is to morally justify abortion without seeing the fetus as a human being.

    Humans are not obliged to do anything for anyone, either morally or legally. Even your child is not your true reponsibility, as shown by the fact that you can simply give it up for adoption. Because no one is forced to do something for others (even if it would keep them alive), we cannot call up random people and demand they donate a kidney or other organ simply because they could be a match for someone who needs that organ to live.

    A woman's body is not a thing to be hijacked and used by anyone, be they a person who is born or unborn. I can acknoeldge full well that a fetus is a "human being," in the genetic sense that it has all the necessary chromosomes (or should, because I'm not implying that someone with less or too many chromosomes is non-human).

    Maybe that isn't sufficient for some, but it's more than enough reason for me.

    LeadFeet: I can imagine what I said can be misread and misinterpretted to mean the ridiculousness that you're talking about. I want to point out that I don't believe in souls, I believe in consciousness (which I think does not persist after brain death or once one has joined a religion... joking on the latter, of course). What I am trying to say in this muddled and poorly written post is that I don't see the "tragedy" in killing a newborn. Yes, it's a tragedy when a baby someone loved dies, but I don't think it's the same thing as when a baby is born, unwanted, and would otherwise be abused or neglected.

    At this point, I want to kind of restate my ulterior motive for "holding" this belief, which is a classic negotiation tactic called "highballing/lowballing." I think liberals need to come to the table demanding more than they actually want, because conservatives are usually demanding something so obscenely ludicrous that in order to "meet them in the middle," we end up making gross concessions (like preventing women from getting abortions after some arbitrary point of gestation).

    The idea is, we as liberals are already monsters in the eyes of conservatives, so what's the difference between being called baby killers for supporting abortion rights and simply supporting the killing of babies? Let's be honest: I think the responses have shown we're not going to decide as a society to actually legalize infanticide, but to argue in favor of it in opposition to those who oppose abortion rights can ensure we have the bargaining chips necessary to protect legitimate rights of a woman to control any and everything that goes on in her body, at all times.

    An interesting experiement in liberal psychology, there. While conservatives are willing to go balls-to-the-wall crazy with their propositions ("Everyone should be forced to own a gun," for example), liberals seem to be unable to overcome their desire to be right in order to win a debate. It's almost noble... almost. I think it would be more noble to do anything that will work in order to maintain what is right, but I guess that's why I'm not a sniveling Democrat.

    Cheers to everyone for commenting, and keep them coming if you still want to rant at me for my barbarism.

  8. I'll try to be more off topic in the future but I don't think people are strongly associable with memories instead of their moment of experience so personhood starts at latest from when we form memories, but probably much much earlier.

    "Everyone should be forced to own a gun," for example.

    Imagine if the most draconian laws actually enacted from 1900-2011 actually applied to gun ownership everywhere, but only for males. On top of that, imagine all non-felon females over 25 and under 65 were obligated to learn to shoot and carry a concealed gun with no more or less than 6-10 rounds.

    Creating a society where by definition only criminals can have guns is a bad idea. On the other hand, with a little profiling we can easily identify people who almost certainly won't commit violent crime.

  9. What this really comes down to is when you think life begins. It's a silly arguement and one that will never be resolved by politicians or the courts. Anti-Abortionists like me think life begins at conception, others at birth and still others, as you appear to be doing base their definition of human life at the point of self-awareness.

    It reminds me of the star-trek TNG episode where they debate whether or not the android Data is a sentient being.

    If you are basing your definition of sentience on self-awareness then you are correct that life doesn't begin until around age two or three but then you have to resolve the fact that self-aware or not, the child is still breathing, eating and "living" in some way well prior to that even while still in the womb and therefore has the potential for self-awareness.

    By killing the child you might not be destroying a fully formed human life but you are certainly snuffing out the potential for one, is that some how different? I don't think so.

    To be honest, I don't understand why people would be more concerned with infanticide then they are abortion. Whether it is a fully formed life or only the potential for one, stoping the process at any point is a death no matter how you look at it.

    I also don't feel this needs to be a religious debate. If you removed religion from the arguement I bet you would still have a strong divide on this one. Practically everyone agrees it's wrong to kill people, the debate of what constitutes life therefore trancends mere religion.

  10. "Anti-Abortionists like me think life begins at conception."

    That's not interesting, what's interesting is the belief that there is something discretely a moment of conception.

    "Whether it is a fully formed life or only the potential for one, stoping the process at any point is a death no matter how you look at it."

    All cells with DNA are potential life. Ever scratch yourself?

    "Practically everyone agrees it's wrong to kill people, the debate of what constitutes life therefore trancends mere religion."

    Words have no magic power. If A says "Don't murder," and B says "Don't murder," and C says "Don't murder," they don't necessarily agree on anything. A could think all killing is murder, B could think killing is only murder if it's not fun, and C could be saying "The cactus has spines," in an Indian language.

    The world is comprised of subatomic particles at the most, not "life" and "non-life". Reality does not care if people want to semantically bifurcate the world, it promises no cooperation with that goal.

  11. The most objectionable parts of your position in favor of infanticide include a warm embrace of some of the most objectionable aspects of theism. You begin with an appeal to tradition by claiming it's not "off the wall" and note ancient precedent. Then you raise your own BELIEF about an age which a supposed soul supposedly "enters" a human being.

    The rest of your opinion is likewise muddled and poorly reasoned. I think anti-choice people don't see any difference at all between a first trimester fetus and a fully-developed six month-old infant -- this is one of the reasons they object to abortion in the first place and seek to put fetal rights on the same plane as (or, perhaps, even higher than) the reproductive rights of women. When you get beyond the first or second trimester, you find many pro-choice people draw firmer lines because of fetal viability; thus, otherwise staunch defenders of abortion rights are more willing to support legislation banning certain rare procedures (so-called "partial birth" abortions). Not many pro-choice advocates would support infanticide as brazenly as you do -- it goes far beyond "stomping the rights of women" and stomps on the rights of living human beings.

    And you reason that's acceptable on the basis of (a) tradition and (b) age at which a soul enters their bodies? Please. You're a garden variety misanthrope and an embarrassment to atheism.

  12. But Mary Anne Warren's whole point is that while fetuses are biologically human, they aren't person's. So she basically made a more sophisticated argument for the point you're trying to make.

  13. chucky-texas: Your comment rocks.

    Oh and it doesn't necessarily matter when you think life starts. Judith Thomson (the one with the violinist thought experiment that Warren mentions) is one example of a philosopher who claims that even while assuming life starts at conception the mother's rights still outweigh the fetuses.

  14. I'll just put my two cents in. I am not a theist and I support the rights of women. I just don't have any reason to assume that a fetus is not a human life and as such does not deserve a chance at life like anyone human being, regardless of what another person thinks a "worthwile" life is. I am therefore anti abortion (but I don't necessarily believe in laws preventing abortion as I believe that wouldn't help), unless there are extreme circumstances, such as the life of the mother being threatened, since I don't think in this circcumstance that the right of a single person is of greater importance than the right to life of another person who.

  15. I think my statement was poorly stated.

    Just in case; I am anti abortion, with the exception of certain cases like endangering the life of the mother and rape, in which case I support abortions.

    I am anti abortion in gerneral because I don't believe that the right to have an abortion of a person is of greater importance than the right of another person to live.

  16. Replies
    1. Glad to see that people smarter than myself got eaten alive for even suggesting this...

      Challenge accepted. New infanticide post on the way, after I read this article a few times.


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