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Abortion: Group of experts risk outrage by condoning killing newborn babies

A group of experts in medical ethics have risked the wrath of many by claiming that parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed.

The group, with ties to prestigious Oxford University, says that newborn babies are "morally irrelevant" and that ending their lives is therefore no different from a legal abortion.

The group published an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, a forum for controversial views on all sides of medical ethical debate. In their article they claim that a newborn baby cannot be an "actual person" and that therefore they cannot possess a "moral right to life".

The academics go on to argue that if a parent were to discover a serious handicap in their newborn baby then they should be allowed to have it killed.

The controversial article has already stirred up very strong opposition, with the authors receiving death threats in response to their views.

The journal's editor is Professor Julian Savulescu, who is Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at Oxford University. He said the threats were from "fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society".

Defending the decision to publish the article, he said: "The goal of the Journal of Medical Ethics is not to present the Truth or promote one moral view. It is to present well-reasoned argument based on widely accepted premises."

He went on to add that the reverse of the argument could be to say that if killing a newborn is no different from killing a foetus, then both should be made illegal.

Dr Trevor Stammers, director of medical ethics at St Mary's University College was keen to point out that the article was really nothing new: "What these young colleagues are spelling out is what would be the inevitable end point of a road that ethical philosophers in the United States and Australia have all been treading for a long time and that is certainly nothing new," he said.

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Telegraph)

What is the law on abortion? (FindLaw)

Find solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)