Dr. Peter Singer, in his own words, on infanticide and parents deciding the fate of their already-born children with disabilities (unfortunately, the audio and video get out of synch):
We should not quickly dismiss this man or his adherents. He is an intelligent, well-spoken person, highly regarded for his philosophical integrity and his passionate commitment to animals. He holds an important chair at Princeton, is widely sought out as a speaker, and frequently writes for influential publications like The New Times.
And in this short clip he is laying out a way of thinking that is very dangerous, most directly to children with disabilities but also to their families.
Under the guise of parental rights (who could be against that?), he allows parents and doctors together to make the best decision they can for a child with disabilities and their families. He even believes they should go out and consult with other families raising children with similar disabilities. It all sounds very reasonable, even humane.
But he is articulating an important and potentially deadly switch in how to think about children.
He is suggesting that parents will need to justify the existence of their child with disabilities AFTER the child is born.
There is no inherent dignity or personhood granted to this helpless, living baby – only if the parents choose to grant it, and really, only as long as whoever is powerful allows the parents to grant it.
And for those parents who choose to let their child live? Society no longer has a responsibility for one of its members; it is left entirely to the family.
Sentimental arguments about the benefits we experience as parents of children with significant disabilities will not carry this day. Dr. Singer has introduced the idea that everything is simply in the world of options and choices, with the powerful left to make those choices freely unencumbered by larger ideas or ideals of responsibility to the weaker. If you choose to keep your child because of some perceived gain in happiness or satisfaction, other parents can equally decide to kill that child for the same reasons. Every choice has equal standing, rather than every little human member, who has no standing until it is granted by some other human being.
Society is already training us in what we should do with a pre-born child when a disability is discovered. With abortion rates as high as they are for children with certain kinds of disabilities, we know this includes couples who would call themselves Christians.
Parents are already finding they must justify their decision to let their child live when abortion was still an option. Dr. Singer’s thinking about who gets to make important decisions about other human beings is winning in our culture, even if his specific ideas about infanticide are still considered abhorrent today.
Yesterday I quoted from Psalm 127 in which the Psalmist speaks of children as a reward. Psalm 139 points to God’s sovereign work in ‘knitting together’ these children in the womb. God himself shows us how to think about the most vulnerable amongst us.
So let us engage the right arguments for those who would kill these precious ones. Peter Singer’s appeal to prideful, arrogant indulgence of the powerful against the weak is the real battleground. Only Jesus will ultimately win that war. That applies to my own heart as well as all its manifestations in society.
Let us not win a battle against infanticide only to lose the war against our children’s inherent dignity granted by a sovereign, loving God.