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Last Updated: Monday, 26 January, 2004, 09:45 GMT
Adviser sparks infanticide debate
Pro-life activists are horrified at Professor Harris' comments
A medical ethics adviser has provoked controversy by comparing the morality of abortion with that of infanticide.

Professor John Harris said it was not "plausible to think there is any moral change that occurs during the journey down the birth canal".

He questioned whether there was any moral difference between infanticide and a late abortion in the event of severe brain damage.

Pro-life activists called the BMA adviser's comments "horrifying".

Professor Harris, a member of the British Medical Association's ethics committee, made his comments in a debate at the Commons Science and Technology Committee and they were reported in the Sunday Telegraph.

The adviser emphasised he was making his remarks to widen the debate on the ethics of the law on human reproduction as the government considered a review.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I am not advocating infanticide nor am I proposing any changes in the law... I was trying to provoke a new debate.

"The geographical location of the developing human, whether it is inside the womb or not, is not the sort of thing that can make a moral difference."


Richard Nicholson, editor of the Bulletin of Medical Ethics, said Professor Harris's views were dangerous and that the ethicist had indulged in "a philosopher's mind game".

"He is wrong in saying there is no moral change that occurs in the process of birth.

"That is a change that is recognised in the law. Most parents would recognise their views about their newborn baby are considerably different than their views about the foetus in the mother a day earlier."

Julia Millington, political director of the ProLife Party, whose question prompted Professor Harris's remarks, told the Sunday Telegraph: "Infanticide is murder and is against the law."

She told the paper it was "frightening" to think university students were being educated by somebody with Prof Harris' views, and "equally worrying" to discover such a person was also a member of the ethics committee of the British Medical Association.

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19 Nov 03  |  Hereford/Worcs

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