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Why appeals to the moral significance of birth are saddled with a dilemma
  1. Christopher A Bobier1,
  2. Adam Omelianchuk2
  1. 1 Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, Winona, Minnesota, USA
  2. 2 Center for Biomedical Ethics, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Christopher A Bobier, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, Winona, MN 55987, USA; cbobier{at}


In ‘Dilemma for Appeals to the Moral Significance of Birth’, we argued that a dilemma is faced by those who believe that birth is the event at which infanticide is ruled out. Those who reject the moral permissibility of infanticide by appeal to the moral significance of birth must either accept the moral permissibility of a late-term abortion for a non-therapeutic reason or not. If they accept it, they need to account for the strong intuition that her decision is wrong as well as deny the underlying normative principle that killing a viable fetus requires good reason, and not wanting to care for the child when the child could be easily placed for adoption is not a good enough reason to abort. If they reject the moral permissibility of the late-term abortion, they need to explain why her decision is wrong. Doing so, however, will undermine their own project of denying infanticide by appeal to birth. Walter Veit argues that the dilemma relies too much on intuition and does not live up to biological continuity. We explain why his criticisms are unconvincing.

  • infanticide
  • abortion
  • foetal viability

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  • Contributors Both authors contributed to the paper.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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