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Abortion & Woman's Right to Autonomy

Considering what is ethical and what is legal in terms of abortion can become very complex. When the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down by the Supreme Court in 1973, legalizing abortion, many believed that the Court's reasoning in reaching their decision could just as easily be used to justify infanticide, which is clearly against the law (Mortimer, 2003, 155). DR. C. Everett Koop, then Surgeon-in-Chief at Philadelphia's Children's Hospital and Professor of Pediatric Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, gave a commencement speech that year at Wheaton College, predicting that imperfect newborns would be at risk next because the Court "left the decision between feticide and infanticide very hazy by refusing to come to grips with the time life begins." Koop identified a philosophical shift from an ethic of equal human moral worth in which all patients are cared for to a hierarchical ethic where some are no longer equal, and neglect would be an acceptable treatment option for disabled newborns.

At the same time, Dr. James Watson, the co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA, was advocating infanticide as a choice (Mortimer, 2003, 155). If a child was not declared to be alive until three days after birth, this would give the parents time to decide whether to let the child live or die under the law. He was advocating the extension of the law, currently available only to a limited few, to everyone. Infanticide rarely comes before the law, yet is widespread in practice. Until recently it was shrouded in secrecy, but it widely discussed and written about today. In 1973, the New England Journal of Medicine first exposed the practice when it published data from Raymond S. Duff and G. M. Campbell regarding 43 cases of handicapped infants from whom care had been withheld at Yale-New haven Hospital. This led to a rash of articles form philosophers, psychologists, and other academics favoring eugenic infanticide. On...

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Abortion & Woman's Right to Autonomy. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:42, August 07, 2020, from