NZ Herald – NICKY PARK – Mar 2, 2012
The authors of the paper After-birth abortion: why should the baby live? argue that foetuses and babies that are hours old don’t have the same “moral status as actual persons”.
Dr Minerva says there are characteristics that define a person: “The ability to attribute a certain value to your own life, the ability to make plans for the future, the ability to appreciate and value that you are actually alive.”
“These are things that can occur very early in life. We don’t deny this, but that’s why we talk about the very few days after birth. And that’s the difference from infanticide – because an infant is different from a newborn.”
The paper reads: “Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the foetus’ health.
“By showing that (1) both foetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.” Go to story
Doctors Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva argue that although fetuses and newborns are human beings and certainly living, they are not persons. That is to say, they have not sufficiently developed consciousness. Then the doctors go on to say that although they “are not persons, they are potential persons because they can develop, thanks to their own biological mechanisms, those properties which will make them ‘persons’ in the sense of ‘subjects of a moral right to life’.”
It’s a slippery business, coming up with an arbitrary definition of a person. The doctors actually haven’t stated what is the precise defining point of development in consciousness that confers personhood on a living being. Instead, they dedicate several paragraphs in support of their idea that it does no harm to the fetus or newborn to kill it and deny its potential to develop.
Bhagavad-gita, on the other hand, gives authoritative, scientific and unequivocal definition that every living entity is a person, however conscious or unconscious. Bhagavad-gita further differentiates the living entity from the body. It is the soul, or spark of living force, that animates the body, and when the soul has passed out from the body, the body is a lifeless vehicle. The living entity enters different bodies, one after another, and thus experiences different states of consciousness. And according to Srimad-Bhagavatam, there are 8,400,000 species or forms which the living entities can inhabit, and the human form is attained after having evolved from all the lower forms. It is in the human form that the living entity can develop higher consciousness, and therefore the rare human birth is so valuable.
Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Three, Chapter 31, describes in detail the moment of conception, how the living entity enters into a particle of male semen, which then combines with the female ovum and emulsifies and proceeds to develop the human body. The living entity vacillates from conscious to unconscious, mostly unconscious up until the seventh month, when he wakes up to his predicament. Then the trauma of being forced out through the narrow passageway of the vagina causes him to forget everything, and he is helpless to communicate his needs and desires. He cannot refuse whatever is given to him or whatever situation he is put into, and he has to learn how to adapt to the condition of that particular body, how to operate his senses and interpret sensory input. Throughout his life, from infancy to childhood, from childhood to youth, from youth to adulthood, from adulthood right into old age and up to the moment of death, the living entity struggles to master his senses and acquire knowledge and skills just suited to that body, and indeed, he identifies himself with that body, believing himself to be the body, and interacts with others, believing them to be their bodies also. This is called false ego, or ahankara. In that condition, the living entity is not truly self aware or able to appreciate the value of his own life as eternal spirit soul, and all his plans are constructed on the false premise that he is his body—subject to termination, and consequently he suffers frustration and disappointment at every turn.
So much for the doctors’ breakdown of the characteristics of a person (“the ability to attribute a certain value to your own life, the ability to make plans for the future, the ability to appreciate and value that you are actually alive”).
No one makes it through life unscathed, not even those who are born into loving, well-providing circumstances. Then there are those who are afflicted by mental retardation, autism, physical defects or debilitating disease. No matter what kind of body one gets, it is still one’s indispensable vehicle. Who can claim the right to determine whether someone else’s life is worth living? Who can claim the right to determine whether someone else’s life is going to be too much burden on parents, family and society? This opens the door wide to eugenics.
It is human life especially that gives the opportunity to wake up and understand that “I am not this body, but I am spirit soul occupying a human body, and now is the time to ask questions.” Animals cannot do so. But human beings are supposed to have a higher level of consciousness, and therefore there are books like Bhagavad-gita, and teachers like His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, who is the embodiment of the principles of Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. In the beginning of life, our consciousness may be very much covered by maya, or illusion, but the potential is there, that with proper training, we can come to realize who and what we are, what is our purpose, and progress accordingly.
Atheists have persuaded people to believe that religion is make-believe, that there is no God, there is no afterlife, there is no judgment, and that science has the answers to everything, including the origin of life and the universe. Yet no scientist has been able to put a stop to birth and death or to the miseries of existence. Attempts have been made to eliminate diseases, but disease has not been eradicated. Attempts have been made to harness nature, but they cannot prevent earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, droughts, cyclones and volcanoes. They blame environmental problems and food and water shortages on overpopulation, but they do not recommend voluntary sexual restraint; rather, they have given us contraception and abortion. And “persons” like Doctors Giubilini and Minerva justify killing of children in or out of the womb, saying that they are non-persons who are not entitled to live because they jeopardize the quality of life for others. Just see how science has improved our lives!
The atheists’ adamant disbelief in the existence of God and the soul is as ignorant as the belief of religious fanatics, and just as dangerous, because they are misleading human society, entangling people in activities that cause terrible consequences for themselves and others, for the whole planet. Abortion, for instance, or killing of children in the womb or outside the womb.
Here, below, is what Srila Prabhupada has said about abortion.
Kill and be killed
Everyone is practically aware that how sex life is followed by so many miserable condition of life. Everyone knows it. Either illicit or legal. The world is going on. Because there is no Krishna consciousness, now they are creating so many sinful life, killing the child openly. The doctors, the medical men, the scientists, advise, “If you like, you can kill your child.” And to kill a child means how much sinful activities, they do not know, but they are inducing. He has to become a child and he will be killed by somebody else. And again as many times he has killed children he will have to live within the womb and be killed. Bahu-duhkha-bhajah. It will be followed by so many miserable condition of life. But now they are advertising, “One, two, three—no more children.” But “one, two, three” means balance children, you kill. This is going on. Then why not stop sex life? Oh, that is not possible. Bahu-duhkha-bhajah. Not only in this life but in the next life, next life, because there is no… Mudha nabhijanati mam ebhyah param avyayam. These rascals… This rascal civilization is so dangerous, mudha, full of rascals.
No right to kill
excerpt from lecture on SB 6.1.7, Honolulu, June 15, 1975:
Even if we kill one mosquito, we are responsible. It is not man-made law, that “If you kill a human being, then you are punished, and if you kill another animal, you are not punished.” This is man-made law, according to our convenience. “We have to eat the animal; therefore there is no punishment for animal killing.” But God is for everyone the same. Every living entity is part and parcel of God. So they have been given an opportunity to undergo the punishment or enjoyment. You cannot disturb him. You cannot disturb him. Just like you are living in an apartment according to your position, but if I forcibly I ask you, “Go out of this apartment,” then I will be punishable by the law. I have no right to get you out from that apartment. Similarly, every living entity by the laws of nature, all laws of nature, is imprisoned or allowed under certain apartment, either in the body of a tree or a human being or demigod or cat or dog. These are all ordained. So you cannot get out the living entity, soul, by force from that body. Then you will be punishable. The living entity is never killed, but you have no right to get him out from that body. That is sinful. If you argue that “What is the harm if I kill one animal, because it is said, na hanyate hanyamane sharire: [Bg. 2.20] ‘The living entity, soul, is never killed even after the annihilation of this body’?” that is all right. But you cannot force him. Just like if you get one person, by force, get out from his apartment—he is not dying, of course, but still, it is criminal because you are forcing to go out of the apartment. So that is the law of nature. You cannot force anyone to get out of the body. Then you are punishable.
Driven to another body
excerpt from Slideshow discussions, Washington D.C., July 3, 1976:
DEVOTEE (1): Srila Prabhupada, what happens to the soul when you have an abortion, though? Where does it go?
PRABHUPADA: Goes to another body. Dehantara. Tatha dehantara-praptih [Bg. 2.13]. If you do not allow him to this body, he goes to another body. Just like if you drive me from this apartment, I must go somewhere. I must find out another apartment. It is not that I am finished. You force me to go out of this apartment. So I go to a friend’s house or anywhere, I must go.
DEVOTEE (1): Would that also be due to that soul’s karma, that he has gone from being aborted on to another body?
PRABHUPADA: Not necessarily, but you create a karma. You are responsible for that.
HARI-SAURI: So it’s not necessarily that he’s receiving some sinful reaction from past work that he’s not allowed to enter.
PRABHUPADA: That may be, but you are responsible for that. Because you are driving me from this apartment by force. Actually, in a higher sense, that is accepted, that he was to be driven away. But because you are driving, you are responsible for that.