Recent controversy over philosophical advocacy of infanticide (or the comically-styled euphemism ‘postnatal abortion’) reveals a surprisingly common premise uniting many of the opponents and supporters of the practice. This is the belief that the moral status of the early fetus or embryo with respect to a right to life is identical to that of a newly born or even very young baby. From this premise, infanticidists and strong anti-abortionists draw opposite conclusions, the former that the healthy newly born have no inherent right to life and the latter that minute embryos and the very early fetus have the same right to life as young babies. (Indeed strong anti-abortionists tend to regard this right to life as identical to that possessed by adult humans.) This paper argues that these opposed conclusions are both deeply implausible and that the implausibility resides in the common premise. The argument requires some attention to the structure of the philosophical case underpinning the supposed vice of speciesism that has been given intellectual currency by many philosophers, most notably Peter Singer, and also to the reasoning behind the strong anti-abortionist adoption of the common premise.
- Embryos and Fetuses