(By Andrew MacKie-Mason)
Robert George is back to the culture war, with a post about two relatively obscure Australian ethicists (Alberto Guibilini and Francesca Minerva) who published a short sketch of an argument for why infanticide ought to be allowed under any moral and legal regime that allows abortion. George sees these two new voices as evidence of a liberal trend towards supporting infanticide, and takes the opportunity to for some cheap partisan shots: "Who will raise their voices against this madness? Plenty of conservatives will, of course. Will liberal voices be raised? I hope so." (The deliberately closed comments on his post suggest that he's not actually interested in the answer to that latter question or in anything that might resemble, say, academic debate.)
But on the charitable assumption that you're going for something more valuable than a few extra votes for Republicans this November, George: yes, I'm a supporter of the right to legal abortion and I oppose Guibilini and Minerva's stance on infanticide. Their foundation of the right to life on the self-value a being has for itself is unsupportable. In addition, the right to life isn't the only reason to ban abortion or infanticide. I reject Guibilini and Minerva's conclusion that there is nothing balancing against a right to abortion or infanticide, and I base the right to legal abortion on considerations that do not apply after birth. In addition, the Guibilini and Minerva paper has some gaping holes (who gets to decide on infanticide? The mother, as some of their language suggests? But why? And why should the harm to the parents of putting a child up for adoption be allowed to trump the social harms of adoption, even if we posit no right to life for the newborn?) There's a lot to be criticized in the paper.
But what's most disappointing about George's post isn't his par-for-the-course dirty partisan fighting, or his typical out-of-proportion expansion of a single short (3 pages, folks) paper by two individuals into evidence for the coming moral degeneracy of a large segment of society. No, what's most disappointing is the moral closed-mindedness evidenced by George in his suggestion that a commitment to legal abortion necessarily implies a commitment to legal infanticide. George has fallen into that all-too-typical trap of the hyper-partisan: he sees one weak argument in support of a position which he despises, and assumes it's the justification used by everyone with whom he disagrees. The fact that a few individuals who support abortion have found that their specific reasons for doing so lead them to a support for infanticide doesn't mean at all that that progression is the natural outcome of all reasons for supporting legal abortion.
In other words, contra George, if supporters of legal abortion suddenly awoke from our haze of irrationality and rose to the levels of rational understanding that he occupies, we wouldn't necessarily find that our beliefs force us to support infanticide.
(Of course, George's failure to acknowledge more than a single path through the forest might be deliberate: a tactical move to best secure victory for his particular moral views. But even though he sees this as a war, I'll be charitable and presume ineptitude over disingenuity.)
UPDATE: Since I wrote this, but before I published it, other writers at the same blog have also published commentary on the article. Most of the same criticisms above apply to those posts also, though some moreso than others. Here are the links: Robert Hockett and again, another by Robert George (demonstrating a love of questions which he doesn't want to hear answers to), and Mike Scaperlanda (the only one to actually open comments).
UPDATE 2: Another post by Robert Hockett that I missed. This one goes into a much more substantial discussion, and avoids many of the above issues, though he still overstates the importance of "personhood" arguments to the abortion right. But still, and even though the post is a bit rambly, it's worth reading over. I don't think I buy his quasi-Platonic reliance on forms of life which are instantiated in individual beings (and the discussion of the 'value' of the lives at issue is basically irrelevant to my views on legal access to abortion), but it is intriguing.