Dangerous Redefinitions

  It sounds like the baby shower from hell. As cake and punch are passed around, a doctor runs medical tests on a month-old baby. If he passes the tests, the guests welcome the child to the human community. But if the baby fails -- if he has, say, Down's syndrome, or cerebral palsy -- the parents bid him a sad farewell. And then, the doctor snuffs out his life. Believe it or not, a Princeton professor thinks parties like these would be a good idea. This is a tragic illustration that the killing of a month-old child -- once absolutely unthinkable -- has become a debatable moral question. In an article entitled "Killing Babies Isn't Always Wrong," philosopher Peter Singer writes: "Perhaps, like the ancient Greeks, we should have a ceremony a month after birth, at which the infant is admitted to the community. Before that time," he says, "infants would not be recognized as having the same right to life as older people." This means that if the child is considered "defective" in some way, the parents would presumably have a different kind of ceremony -- one that ends with child being admitted, not to the human community, but to a grave. This is morally acceptable, Singer says, because newborns, while indisputably human, are not really persons. They don't become persons, and acquire a right to life, until weeks or even months after birth because they lack "self-awareness." Extreme beliefs, yes, but Singer is hardly alone in espousing them. As far back as 1972, University of Colorado philosopher Michael Tooley was saying that fetuses and infants are non-persons who "do not have a right to life." American University philosopher Jeffrey Reiman agrees. He maintains that infants do not "possess in their own right a property that makes it wrong to kill them." I could go on and on. But suffice it to say that people who wish to destroy handicapped or just plain unwanted newborns have influential supporters. And they're getting more and more aggressive. Well, we can't say we weren't warned. In the 1960s, as the abortion movement gained momentum, critics warned that the logic of abortion would lead directly from the womb to the cradle: Babies already born would become the next targets. These critics have been proven right. Three decades after Roe v. Wade, influential voices are clamoring for out-and-out infanticide. The reasoning behind it -- that newborns are somehow less than human -- is already seeping into society. Witness the rash of "dumpster babies" -- newborns thrown out by their mothers. If this nation ever condones infanticide, we will be destroying the very principle that is at the heart of Judeo-Christian concepts of human rights and equality, namely, that it's always wrong to deliberately kill innocent human beings. Florida Congressman Charles Canady is among those trying to prevent this dangerous redefinition. He has introduced a bill called the "Born Alive Infants Protection Act." Now, I know the abortion issue has been around a long time, and people get weary of it. But I urge you to learn more about this bill, and you can do so by visiting our BreakPoint webpage ( A bill like this is a vital and important protection against those hideous "baby showers" that Peter Singer proposes -- celebrations that end only in death.


Chuck Colson


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