In ancient Rome, a newborn baby unwanted because of disability or otherwise was legally allowed to be disposed of by exposure as res vacantes, an unwanted thing.
Often they were left in the Velabrum, a busy street in the middle of the oil and cheese markets or at the columna lactaria in the Forum Olitorium.
In modern Europe, of course, such things would never happen. Certainly not. Nowadays when we are exposing a child born after an abortion has failed to kill them, they are abandoned exposed in a hospital. Much more civilised.
In southern Italy, last month, an abortion was carried out on a mother, pregnant for the first time, after a prenatal scan suggested he might be disabled. The baby boy, born at 22 weeks, despite the abortion procedure, was left to die by the doctors in the Rossano Calabria Hospital.
He was found 20 hours later by the hospital chaplain still alive wrapped in a sheet, his umbilical cord still attached, still moving and breathing. The priest raised the alarm and the baby was moved to the intensive neonatal care unit in a nearby hospital, but died there the next day.
This is the second case in three years in Italy of a baby aborted at 22 weeks because of suspected disability who survived the abortion living for 3 days.
Italy’s abortion 1978 law allows abortion on demand for the first three months of pregnancy but allow it on the grounds of suspected disability in the second three months, but its infanticide law imposes a legal obligation on doctors to attempt to preserve the life of a child who survives abortion. In England, however, there is no time limit at all for abortions where disability is suspected. They can be aborted right up to birth.
Since the purpose of abortion is the deliberate and direct procuring of the destruction of the life of the baby, the doctors expose babies who survive so that they will die.
Since medical ethics require that a patient be informed about the nature of the procedure to which they are to be subjected and consent to it. Are women considering abortion on the grounds of suspected disability informed by their doctor that the abortion involves inducing the birth and that if their baby survives the doctors will be hiding it away and exposing it so that it will die for lack of due care. Are the mothers asked to consent to this protocol of exposure without care where a baby is born alive after an abortion?
The Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health, 2007 commissioned by the UK Government, found that 66 infants survived NHS termination attempts in hospitals in England and Wales during 2005.
Instead of dying during the abortion procedure as intended, they survived, able to breathe unaided. They were exposed without medical care, left to die, some living for half an hour, one for ten hours.
The only way to step back from this horror show is to reaffirm the first principle of medical ethics – primum non nocere – first do no harm. Do not deliberately destroy human life in the womb or after birth. Once we step away from that principle of respect for life we find ourselves sliding back down to the columna lactaria in the Forum Olitorium.