NRL News

Making Infanticide Respectable

by | Jul 3, 2014


By Wesley J. Smith

NEJM-HeaderIf the physician presumes to take into consideration in his work whether a life has value or not, the consequences are boundless and the physician becomes the most dangerous man in the state. — Christopher Willhelm Hufeland (1762-1836)

They kill babies don’t they? I am not talking about abortion. I am not just referencing the Kermit Gosnell atrocities. I am talking about the systematic, advocated–and in some countries, already accepted—homicide of newborns babies.

Such atrocities don’t “just happen.” To borrow lyrics from an old South Pacific show tune:

You’ve got to be taught from year to year,

It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

The “teachers” come from the highest level of the academy and the medical intelligentsia. Sad but true: We live in a time in which killing babies is preached in the most “respectable” places. Here is just a bare, tip-of-the-iceberg, sampling:

The New England Journal of Medicine

Infanticide is technically murder under Dutch law. Not that its illegality matters. As a natural consequence of Netherlander acceptance of euthanasia, doctors there kill babies born with serious disabilities or terminal conditions in their cribs. Indeed, according to a study published in The Lancet in 1997, 8% of all infants who die in the Netherlands are killed by doctors. An astonishing 45% of neonatologists who answered study surveys, admitted to killing babies.

Infanticide is so accepted in the Netherlands, that death doctors at the University of Groningen published a bureaucratic guide to determining which babies doctors can lethally inject. Known as the Groningen Protocol, it should be deemed a profound human rights violation. Instead, it has been respectfully discussed at the highest levels of the medical intelligentsia. Indeed, it was published with all due respect and dearth of criticism in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Hastings Center Report

The Hastings Center Report is to bioethics what the New England Journal of Medicine is to medicine: It is the most prestigious and respected journal in the field. Given the growing regard within bioethics for killing babies, we should not be surprised that advocacy for the propriety of such homicides has appeared in that vaunted publication.

In “Ending the Life of a Newborn,” the Hastings Center Report, the most important bioethics journal in the world, published another pro-Groningen Protocol article, granting even greater support for Dutch infanticide among the bioethics intelligentsia.

The authors, a Dutch and an American bioethicist, not only support lethally injecting dying babies, but also those who are disabled. The authors wrote, “Critics charge that the protocol does not successfully identify which babies will die. But it is precisely those babies who could continue to live, but whose lives would be wretched in the extreme, who stand in most need of the interventions for which the protocol offers guidance.”

The Journal of Medical Ethics

Perhaps the most notorious pro-infanticide articles of recent times was published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, which is co-owned by the venerable British Medical Journal. What made, “After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?” so notable was not that it promoted the noxious notion that killing babies could be acceptable. It wasn’t even that the justification for killing babies was based on the supposed “non-personhood” of infants (because they haven’t developed certain cognitive capacities).

No, it was that the non personhood of babies justified the killing of healthy and non-disabled infants—a step even beyond the eugenics Holocaust in Germany in which doctors—not Nazis!—killed disabled babies as a “healing treatment.” Thus, the authors write:

On the other hand, not only [personal] aims but also well-developed plans are concepts that certainly apply to those people (parents, siblings, society) who could be negatively or positively affected by the birth of that child. Therefore, the rights and interests of the actual people involved should represent the prevailing consideration in a decision about abortion and after-birth abortion.

In other words, babies are not people too.

It is tempting to dwell on these shocking views—many more could be listed—and thereby miss the bigger picture. The promotion of infanticide is merely the latest example of bioethical argument wielded as the sharp point of the spear in an all-out philosophical war waged among the intelligentsia against Judeo/Christian morality based in human exceptionalism and adherence to universal human rights. As we have learned in the post-Roe era, it would not be just babies who fall to the culture of death, but our elders, disabled brothers and sisters, indeed anyone who can be denigrated as less than human—or for causing society to suffer—because they lack a sufficient “quality of life.”

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. He also consults for the Patients Rights Council and the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His “Human Exceptionalism” blog can be found at

Categories: Infanticide