The Only Way to Guard Against Infanticide is Protecting Life From Conception

Gauging human value based on the ability to communicate opens quite the can of worms.

By Liberty McArtor Published on January 8, 2018

You may have heard about the student at the University of Tennessee who approved killing children up to age two. Why? Because he can’t communicate with two-year-olds. 

“The fact of the matter is without communication, we have no way of knowing of you are sentient or not,” the student said, his disturbing thought process captured on video. “It’s no different than this tree. It’s alive, but is it sentient? I don’t know. I cannot communicate with it.”

“Can the two year old talk to me?” he continued. In some cases yes, “but generally speaking the child still has the inability to communicate. And until we determine that as such at what point does sentience become an issue.”

This student’s opinion is vile. But it’s not that far-fetched — if you accept abortion as moral. Because the next logical step after abortion is infanticide.

Yes, Babies Can Communicate

First, let’s help this student out with a few facts. He claims two-year-olds can’t communicate. Anyone who’s known a toddler knows that they communicate quite well.

And communication is possible at far earlier ages. Babies as young as six months old can begin learning basic sign language. Even though they haven’t developed the ability to speak yet, simple signs can give babies the ability to convey needs and desires. 

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This student says he doesn’t know if the children are sentient. Let’s remind him that babies can feel pain as early as 20 weeks gestational age — unlike the trees he compares them to.

Obviously, a baby or a toddler think differently than an adult or even an older child. Does that mean they have no value?

Of course not. And that’s what’s wrong with his argument. Gauging human value based on the ability to communicate or be completely conscious opens quite the can of worms.

Basing Human Value on Communication and Sentience 

Let’s say the cut-off age for this so-called “after birth abortion” is two. By the time they turn two, most toddlers can say simple words expressing needs or desires. “Dada.” “Mama.” “Bite.” “No!” As the months go by, they learn more words and start speaking in complete sentences.

Many may not be able to enter into complex conversations with you, even by the age of three or four. Sure, they can tell you that their tummy hurts. But can they explain why? Is it a sharp pain? A dull pain? Do they feel gassy? Are they constipated? Do they feel like they are about to throw up? They don’t know. So you could argue that by simply whining, “Mommy, my tummy hurts,” they aren’t really communicating

We’re always changing. But the fact that we are human never changes. From conception to deathbed, we’re living human beings.

In fact, depending on where you set the bar for “communicate,” they might not be able to “communicate” with you for several years to come. At what age do you consider their conversational abilities adequate enough for them to earn the title of human being with value

And what of sentience? The three-year-old who whimpers “my tummy hurts” may have no real awareness of anything besides her present discomfort. Another three-year-old, however, may be quite aware herself in relation to the world she knows. Who gets to decide what level of sentience warrants continued existence?

And what about people with mental disabilities? Adults unable to communicate? Has their life no worth? 

Always Human

Of course it has. And this is the problem with abortion. It ignores the science of when life begins and therefore has value. It lets others determine when a life has value, based on arbitrary factors such as “sentience,” convenience, health and whether the parents want that life.

From the moment of conception, human beings constantly change. But the fact that we are human never changes. From conception to deathbed, we’re living human beings.

Many abortion advocates tell us a baby isn’t really a baby until she’s met some criterion besides being human. That she’s made it out of the womb, for example. Life doesn’t really begin until it’s no longer housed inside a mother’s body.

If you start coming up with arbitrary rules about when life begins or when it matters, eventually you’ll start sliding the bar, so that fewer and fewer people will have a right to live. You’ll say that aborting a baby who could survive outside the womb is okay. You’ll argue that killing the baby after it’s born is okay. 

Then you’ll start arguing that it’s okay to kill any born person who is disabled or mentally ill. Or any elderly person displaying mental or physical decay.

The only safe, right way to value human life is to value it at all stages in all forms, starting at conception. Otherwise, we start down a slippery slope to a brutal world of euthanasia, eugenics and the selfish taking of innocent life. In fact, we’re basically there. 

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  • Paul

    Liberty, what do you think about the elderly using legal medical directives so they can die without intervention to keep them alive?

    • ImaginaryDomain

      There’s no problem here – what you describe is simply dying a natural death.

    • Nobody Specific

      I am curious how liberty will weigh in on this. There is a bright line for me between non-intervention and assistants suicide for example. When it’s your time it’s your time. Our modern medical treatments really do put people on a position where they have to choose between invasive treatments that could extend life and quality of life. The elderly often do have to decide if they want to fight for every last moment or be allowed pass when the moment comes.

      I think in the end the principle must all be that all life is a gift from our creator and should be treated that way. Maybe it’s better enjoyed and well used out in the world with others than in a lonely room receiving one more miserable dose of chemo, that much I think is for the individual to decide or to listen to their calling. What we must never do is treat life as unimportant and never forget that it’s the among most precious and valuable gifts we get while on earth. It deserves to be treated with reverence at all times.

      • Paul

        I appreciate your comments, these are difficult ethical waters to navigate. It is easy to think of scenarios that challenge most any position in this regards. My parents have experienced multiple medical chalenges that if untreated by modern medicine each would be fatal or seriously disabling. Heart attack, massive stroke, cancers, infections, trauma. Each of which after a recovery period extended an otherwise relatively normal life. Each treatment posed risks and some were plainly uncertain in the outcome with modest success rates. Would my parents be unappreciative of their own lives if they had declined any of the treatments and simply said it is time? Is there a point at which declining treatment simply looks like suicide? And it gets more murky when we’re talking about parents care (or lack thereof) of their children. Can a parent decline medical treatment for their child? If so is there a point where it looks like abuse or worse? These are difficult ethical waters to navigate and I do appreciate thoughtful dialog on the topic.

        • Nobody Specific

          I agree these are not simple questions. I think there there has to be an element of what does treatment mean. If it means being tied to hospital bed; that might not be right of thing for some depending on what they want to do with their lives. I think there is a bright line between doing nothing other than letting things happen and taking steps to shorten life.

          When it comes to making these decisions for others who are unable to decide for themselves, I am not sure there is any better answer than to put ourselves in their position and try and be as honest as possible about what we would want if we were them and always to err on the side of a longer life.

    • Liberty McArtor

      I’m not sure I understand the question. But if what you’re asking is, for instance, whether someone with cancer who chooses not to undergo chemo (even though it’s the only thing likely to save their life) is the same as someone choosing assisted suicide, then no. They are vastly different.

      • Paul

        Does your perspective shift with the ailment? How about a heart attack or pneumonia infection? And if the ailment matters, why so?

        • Liberty McArtor

          In general, there is a difference between someone choosing to abstain from medication that may prolong life, and someone who chooses to actively put something into their body that will certainly cause death. It’s ludicrous to say that declining to explore every single treatment option available for a particular ailment counts as suicide. The definition of suicide is actively or intentionally taking away ones own life.

          • Paul

            OK, but that didn’t address my question regarding a heart attack or pneumonia.

          • Liberty McArtor

            I said “in general,” because the difference between lack of medication and suicide applies across all illnesses, I believe.

            If you want to get technical, it is a little unfair to compare something like heart attacks to cancer though, since heart attacks happen quickly and cancer is a disease that harms the body over time.

            When it comes to my loved ones, I hope that when there is a sickness or ailment, no matter what kind, they seek all treatment options available. I also believe, though I’m not sure, that when it comes to certain situations, medical professionals are obliged by law to go ahead and treat patients (like a patient rushed to the ER during a heart attack). In other instances, like a long-term illness such as cancer, doctors cannot force a patient to undergo treatment.

            I’ve known cancer patients who choose to go a natural route, or not receive any treatment at all. They see it as leaving it up to God to determine whether to heal them, or whether to call them home. So regardless of a person’s ailment, if that is their perspective, it is not the same as suicide. They are leaving their life span up to God, in their eyes. It’s the absence of an action. Both medication and suicide are actions. Suicide=wrong action.

            I appreciate the dialogue, and there are definitely many interesting ethical debates regarding medical practice. For now though I’m going to bow out. I think I’ve made my point pretty clear: there is a stark difference between declining to medicate (regardless of the ailment) and choosing to take your own life. Euthanasia refers to suicide. It’s the act of taking one’s own life (or directing a medical professional to do so). Thanks for reading!

          • Paul

            Thanks, I appreciate the dialog. You’re right that med professionals have certain legal obligations (Which changes based on their locstion), that’s where medical directives come into play. If you haven’t personally been through the process it is quite thought provoking. I couldn’t avoid seeing that at some level I was taking a legal action to choose the physical death for myself at some point. And with such directives the distinction you’re trying to make between heart attack and cancer can become moot. The instruction to not resuscitate or allow natural death might not distinguish between causes.

            At any rate Thanks again for the dialog, I enjoy wrestling with the fringes of these topics to get better clarity of the boundaries.

  • jgmusgrove

    If we accept this fool’s argument, then the whole species will be gone in one generation, since there will be no persons allowed to live and to follow those already older than two.

  • JP

    Its interesting that at the Globe awards many were rightfully upset about women being taken advantage of sexually yet these same women say nothing about the millions of babies that have been murdered via abortion.

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