Vital Signs

Try a Little (Less) Tenderness

In February, a remarkable article appeared in the New York Times Magazine.  It was an account by Harriet McBryde Johnson of her debate with Princeton philosophy professor Peter Singer, whom Johnson noted is “often called—and not just by his book publicist—the most influential philosopher of our time.”  The subject of the debate was whether parents should be allowed to kill handicapped or retarded infants.  This was no mere academic debate for Johnson, who is severely handicapped.

The article was remarkable in part because the Times tirelessly propagandizes on behalf of abortion.  And Singer shares the Times’ passion.  In fact, he has already arrived at a point that it may take the Times’ editorial writers a few years to reach.  As Singer has written, the arguments assailing fetal personhood 

apply to the newborn baby as much as to the fetus. . . . [T]here are many non-human animals whose rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, capacity to feel pain, and so on, exceed that of a human baby a week, a month, or even a year old.  If the fetus does not have the same claim to life as a person, it appears that the newborn baby is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog or a chimpanzee.

Remarkably, the man advancing such arguments is met not with revulsion but with honors or, at worst,...

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