Infanticide Chic?

By McFadden, Maria | The Human Life Review, Winter 1998 | Go to article overview

Infanticide Chic?


McFadden, Maria, The Human Life Review


The recent much-publicized cases of teenagers killing their newborns have invited a great deal of commentary; so, when I saw an article in the November 2 New York Times Magazine, "Why They Kill Their Newborns," I wasn't surprised. But what author Steven Pinker wrote was shocking, and made my blood run cold: Pinker introduces a new "choice" in killing, with a new name"neonaticide." He seeks to persuade us that the killing of newborns by their mothers is not so awful because, actually, it may be a product of "maternal wiring" left over from our days in hunter-gatherer societies.

While it is startling to read this in a mainstream newspaper, the debate about the "personhood" of infants is not new in academic circles. As Pinker mentions, Michael Tooley, a "moral" philosopher, has suggested that parents ought to have a set period of time after birth to decide whether their newborn should live or die. (Pinker is himself a professor of psychology at MIT.)

There has been no great reaction to Pinker's article-perhaps because many don't pay attention to the New York Times Magazine as they used to (see George McKenna's comments). But we bring you here some important responses.

James Nuechterlein, editor of First Things, deftly summarizes Pinker's piece for what it is: an "artful semantic evasion" of its own point-the promotion of infanticide. Michael Kelly also responded to Pinker (in the Washington Post, Nov. 6). His devastating column, "Arguing for Infanticide," is reprinted next.

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