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Again, Giubilini and Minerva simply extend this logic beyond birth. Since the newborn isn't a person yet, its significance continues to hinge on its mother's decision. Neonates "might or might not become particular persons depending on our choice," the authors argue. Until then, the newborn imposes no obligations on us, "because we are not justified in taking it for granted that she will exist as a person in the future. Whether she will exist is exactly what our choice is about."
5. Discovery of a serious defect is grounds for termination. Fetal development can turn tragic at any point. Most people agree that abortion should be permitted when a grave defect is discovered at amniocentesis. In the partial-birth abortion debate, pro-choicers extended this rationale, arguing that abortions in the third trimester should be permitted when horrible defects were identified at that stage. Giubilini and Minerva take this argument to the next level, noting that defects often remain undiscovered until birth:
An examination of 18 European registries reveals that between 2005 and 2009 only the 64% of Down's syndrome cases were diagnosed through prenatal testing. This percentage indicates that, considering only the European areas under examination, about 1700 infants were born with Down's syndrome without parents being aware of it before birth. Once these children are born, there is no choice for the parents but to keep the child, which sometimes is exactly what they would not have done if the disease had been diagnosed before birth.
The authors conclude that "if a disease has not been detected during the pregnancy, if something went wrong during the delivery, or if economical, social or psychological circumstances change such that taking care of the offspring becomes an unbearable burden on someone, then people should be given the chance of not being forced to do something they cannot afford." And it isn't clear where the line against infanticide would be drawn. "We do not put forward any claim about the moment at which after-birth abortion would no longer be permissible," Giubilini and Minerva write. They doubt that "more than a few days would be necessary for doctors to detect any abnormality in the child." But critics are already noting that many defects are discovered later.
In sum, the authors argue:
If criteria such as the costs (social, psychological, economic) for the potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the fetus is healthy, if the moral status of the newborn is the same as that of the infant and if neither has any moral value by virtue of being a potential person, then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn.
I don't buy this argument, in part because I agree with Furedi that something profound changes at birth: The woman's bodily autonomy is no longer at stake. But I also think that the value of the unborn human increases throughout its development. Furedi rejects that view, and her rejection doesn't stop at birth. As she explained in our debate last fall, "There is nothing magical about passing through the birth canal that transforms it from a fetus into a person."
The challenge posed to Furedi and other pro-choice absolutists by "after-birth abortion" is this: How do they answer the argument, advanced by Giubilini and Minerva, that any maternal interest, such as the burden of raising a gravely defective newborn, trumps the value of that freshly delivered nonperson? What value does the newborn have? At what point did it acquire that value? And why should the law step in to protect that value against the judgment of a woman and her doctor?