On 29 October 2014, conservative college blog The College Fix posted an article claiming “anecdotal evidence” of a “trend seen by pro-life activists” indicated a growing number of college students support what the site dubbed “post-birth abortion”:
Example: [Collected via Twitter, October 2014]
WOW! New study says college students r starting to support POST-BIRTH #abortion until 5 yrs old cuz they don’t have self awareness #justsick
The article veered immediately into “friend of a friend” territory, citing word-of-mouth claims made by anti-abortion activists who frequently demonstrate on campuses. The claims were quickly picked up by other blogs; and in the course of their travels the anecdotes morphed into the results of a “study” about a worrisome moral decay on campuses nationwide.
The article stated:
“Anecdotal evidence by leaders of pro-life groups such as Created Equal and Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust said in interviews that not only do they see more college students willing to say they support post-birth abortion, but some students even suggest children up to 4 or 5-years-old can also be killed, because they are not yet “self aware.”She cites the testimony of Mark Harrington, the director of Created Equal. Harrington said, “We encounter people who think it is morally acceptable to kill babies after birth on a regular basis at almost every campus we visit. While this viewpoint is still seen as shocking by most people, it is becoming increasingly popular.”
The article lacks a number of key credibility markers. Among crucial corroborating information missing is on which campuses purported polling might have occurred, the number of respondents espousing this shocking viewpoint, the number of college students polled, what specifically constitutes “regularly,” and the most crucially relevant portion: what specific language was used to extract this specific admission from college students asked about their support of abortion or reproductive law?
Harrington himself pointed to a single individual as evidence of this alarming “trend” favoring infanticide, and the claim relied solely on his assertion such a conversation occurred:
This is the whole problem with devaluing human life at any stage — it will naturally grow to include other groups of humans; in this case, born humans as well as preborn humans,” Harrington said. “[I] talked with one young man at the University of Minnesota who thought it was alright to kill children if they were under the age of 5 years old, as he did not consider them persons until that age.”
Even if Harrington did speak with one young man at one campus who believed children up to the age of five were not “persons,” there is no evidence of any large-scale support for similar beliefs. The site also quotes anti-abortion activist Kristina Garza, who similarly claims “a common [age] going around is 4 years old” in this purported new trend of post-birth abortion support. Garza points to 35 year old literature as the culprit inspiring college kids to embrace the philosophy:
As for the trend, Garza said there’s an explanation for it. For one, the arguments put forth by Peter Singer and other philosophers who support infanticide are given as reading assignments to college students.Singer wrote in 1979 that “human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons … [therefore] the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.”
Garza did not elaborate on why a philosophy more than three decades old would suddenly be sweeping college campuses.
The article’s claims echo a 2013 media kerfuffle over students at George Mason University signing a petition to legalize “fourth trimester abortion.” Pregnancy consists of three trimesters, with the bulk of abortions occurring in the first trimester. The controversy that ensued appeared to stem from intended confusion among those polled about the fictional “fourth trimester,” and did not actually indicate widespread support for infanticide:
You might think that college students, a group that typically lives their lives based on a trimester calendar system, might figure out that this was a bogus petition or that “aborting” a 4th trimester baby would mean murdering a child after it had been born. But many of them were fooled by the question.It should also be noted that, as with all petitions, some people will just sign anything to appease the petitioner. [The petitioner] also asked people to sign the petition in a very humorous, yet also deceptive, way by misrepresenting himself as an abortion supporter. But it’s still a really fun video to watch.
While the 2013 “fourth trimester” abortion controversy stemmed from a deliberately misleading set of questions designed to make a political point, the article from 29 October 2014 is even less credible. No evidence is presented to support the claim that college students favor “post-birth abortions,” and no public opinion polls reflect the increase of such a sentiment.