Americans United for Life published “Studies in Law and Medicine” in the 1970s and 1980s, spotlighting issues pertaining to the human right to life across the bioethics spectrum. As Americans United for Life celebrates our 50th anniversary, we are making these issues available for the first time since their print publication.

Infanticide by Joseph R. Stanton, M.D.

“Infanticide” was first delivered as testimony by Joseph R. Stanton, M.D. before the Connecticut state legislature on November 13, 1981. 

At a large pediatric ethical conference in Sonoma, California in 1974, 17 of 20 participants agreed that the doctor could take direct action to end the life of a self-sustaining infant. I believe that infanticide is part of the evil fruit of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Its logic is expressed as follows: If you can kill before birth a perfectly normal healthy fetus as 20, 22, or 24 weeks by abortion simply because it is unwanted, why should you protect a handicapped child at birth?  

Now all of the push for infanticide is coming under the aegis of the quality of life and cost control. We should not really be surprised. Eleven years ago, a frank editorial in a major American medical journal said we should reach this point. The only real surprise is that we have reached it so quickly. The editorial, entitled “A New Ethic for Medicine and Society” speaks of medicine’s changing role in society “as the problems of birth control and birth selection are extended inevitably to death selection and death control whether by the individual by society.”  

The protection of the unborn child and the child born handicapped lies, then, in the consciences, and the dedication and actions of legislators and simple citizens. I call for perseverance in the defense of all life, for rededication to those noble impulses of the human spirit that reject killing actively or passively as an acceptable solution to what can be admittedly difficult problems.