By: Suzanne Ward
In nature, fish, insects, birds and some mammals at times have all been known to kill their young. When my children had their first fish tank, it was a difficult thing to explain. “Some of my fish are gone, Mommy. Where did they go?” they asked.
Infanticide, the intentional killing of a newborn child, has been widely studied over history and regrettably, is more common than one might think – and an even harder subject to discuss.
In 1978, anthropologist Laila Williamson concluded that infanticide “has been practiced on every continent and by people on every level of cultural complexity, from hunters and gatherers to high civilization, including our own ancestors.”
Throughout history, the primary reasons noted for infanticide were poverty and population control. Methods of infanticide included abandonment, leaving the infant to die of exposure, hunger, thirst or animal attack. In addition to abandonment, infanticide might have included suffocation, drowning, or even sacrifice.
Female infanticide is the intentional killing of baby girls. Female infanticide reflects an anti-female bias in many cultures and remains a concern even today in some areas. The problem of female infanticide is staggering and may have resulted in as many as 100 million lives lost over time.
In India, for example, because of Hindu beliefs and the rigid caste system, young girls were especially at risk. Females were considered to be only consumers and a serious financial burden to an already poor family. Statistics from the early nineteenth century found that some villages contained no female babies at all. A staggering thought to imagine that some of these concepts exist even today.
In his book, Practical Ethics, Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne, sadly attempts to legitimize infanticide. Says Singer, “A week-old baby is not a rational and self-aware being….” Further, Singer argues that newborns lack the essential characteristics of personhood—"rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness" so that killing a newborn baby is “never equivalent to killing a person.”
The fact that some may view infanticide as acceptable has its roots in abortion, legalized in the United States in 1973. To date, some 56 million lives have been lost. Worse yet may be sex selection abortion, the intentional murder of the preborn based solely on their gender. Sometimes called gendercide, it typically involves females.
Amniocentesis, developed in the 1970’s to help diagnose birth defects, quickly became a method of targeting preborn females for abortion in some cultures. Beginning in the 1980’s, ultrasound made sex selection abortion even more common and often, an extremely lucrative business. A report from Bombay, India in 1984, found that 7,999 out of 8,000 abortions were females. While not as dramatic, the rise of sex selection abortions in this country is reflected in the changing gender ratios of newborns, especially among certain ethic groups.
Peter Singer continues his tirade on abortion and life issues through interviews and publications. He calls pregnancy and birth a hardship for women who do not want it. He says forcing anyone to endure such a hardship is “contrary to our general belief in promoting individual freedom and choice.” As for sex selection abortion, Singer says he wouldn’t want to promote sex discrimination, but “if you already have two boys and you want a girl that could be enough reason for abortion.”
As an ultrasound expert for over 30 years, I have seen a mild curiosity about a preborn’s gender explode into a significant and frightening trend. Recently, a pregnant mother of a 2 year old little girl shared that she and her husband felt abortion was their best option, since they already had a little girl. At her 8 week ultrasound she told me point blank, “If you tell me today that this baby is a boy, I will not have the abortion.”
The difficult topics of infanticide, abortion and sex selection abortion are just the tip of the iceberg. Selective reduction abortion, abortion of the disabled, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and biotech issues all share one thing - a blatant disregard for the sanctity of life.
Try discussing that with your preschooler!