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Journal of Medical Ethics' Stands by Publication of 'After-Birth Abortions' Article

Journal of Medical Ethics' Stands by Publication of 'After-Birth Abortions' Article

"...it supports freedom of ethical expression."

Yesterday, The Blaze reported the logic of two ethicists who suggested that termination of a newborn -- a practice they called "after-birth abortion" -- should be allowable on the basis of newborns having the same status of that of fetuses. The article by Alberto Giubilini with Monash University in Melbourne and Francesca Minerva at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne was published in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

The Journal of Medical Ethics (JME) has since written a post on its blog stating that it has received several emails questioning its decision to publish such an article in a respected journal on ethics. JME stands by its decision. Here's what the journal's editor Julian Savulescu writes:

As Editor of the Journal, I would like to defend its publication. The arguments presented, in fact, are largely not new and have been presented repeatedly in the academic literature and public fora by the most eminent philosophers and bioethicists in the world, including Peter Singer, Michael Tooley and John Harris in defence of infanticide, which the authors call after-birth abortion.

The novel contribution of this paper is not an argument in favour of infanticide – the paper repeats the arguments made famous by Tooley and Singer – but rather their application in consideration of maternal and family interests. The paper also draws attention to the fact that infanticide is practised in the Netherlands.

Many people will and have disagreed with these arguments. However, the goal of the Journal of Medical Ethics is not to present the Truth or promote some one moral view. It is to present well reasoned argument based on widely accepted premises. The authors provocatively argue that there is no moral difference between a fetus and a newborn. Their capacities are relevantly similar. If abortion is permissible, infanticide should be permissible. The authors proceed logically from premises which many people accept to a conclusion that many of those people would reject.


The Journal does not specifically support substantive moral views, ideologies, theories, dogmas or moral outlooks, over others. It supports sound rational argument. Moreover, it supports freedom of ethical expression.

Savulescu also writes that those with opposing views to Giubilini and Minvera are welcome to write well-thought, "coherent" responses for consideration for publication in the journal.

Savulescu also responds to several "hostile, abusive, threatening responses" that were made in the comments section on the Blaze's post about the journal article. He writes that he considers many of the comments disturbing and as showing that "proper academic discussion and freedom are under threat from fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society."

The Blaze has full-time comment moderators who work as quickly as possible to remove comments that violate our comment policy or terms of use, which includes those that are considered "abusive, harassing, threatening or vulgar."

The Blaze story did generate close to 1,000 comments in the first 24 hours and registered over 7,000 "likes" on Facebook.

JME is a peer-reviewed journal owned by the Institute for Medical Ethics and BJM group. According to its website, it features stories on the "ethical aspects of health care, as well as case conferences, book reviews, editorials, correspondence, news and notes."

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