Anti-Abortion Hype: 'Pro-Choicers' Want to Kill 'Newborns and Toddlers'

03/04/2015 02:06 pm ET | Updated May 04, 2015

Infanticide is rare in America and has few advocates, yet anti-choice activists are leveling an accusation that more and more "pro-choicers" favor this form of murder.

American Right to Life, a national anti-choice organization, is stepping up a campaign accusing pro-choice activists of favoring the killing of "newborns and toddlers."

"An increasing number of well-known leaders and organizations who are pro-choice are also coming out publicly in favor of killing children, not only before they are born, but also after they are born," Bob Enyart, board member and spokesman for American Right to Life, told me via email.

American Right to Life is promoting an online document titled "Pro-Choicers Who Want to Legalize Infanticide." It's a list of about 10 articles and videos, some of which date back a decade or longer, that contain statements favoring infanticide.

The people cited on American Right to Life's website are not leaders of pro-choice organizations, and they aren't obviously linked with the pro-choice movement at all.

One article on the list is authored by a Michael Tooley, a University of Colorado philosophy professor.

Enyart, who is a also a Denver talk-radio host, has been trying to focus media attention on Tooley for years, but he says his organization has never confronted the professor directly, though Enyart has staged protests at the Boulder campus.

Tooley's 1972 paper titled "Abortion and Infanticide" argues that "an organism possesses a serious right to life only if it possesses the concept of a self as a continuing subject of experiences and other mental states."

"This is obviously a matter for detailed psychological investigation, but everyday observation makes it perfectly clear, I think that newborn baby does not possess the concept of a continuing self, any more than a newborn kitten possesses such a concept," wrote Tooley. "If so, infanticide during the time interval shortly after birth must be morally acceptable."

Tooley, a Princeton-educated atheist, did not respond to multiple email and phone messages seeking comment over the past several months. He doesn't seem to hide from public questioning, though, as he debated the existence of God, for example, at a Veritas Forum at CU Boulder in 2013. I could find no statement in recent years from Tooley about infanticide.

But Tooley's silence on the matter hasn't stopped Enyart, who's also the spokesman for Colorado Right to Life. As part of his campaign to pass a personhood amendment in Colorado, Enyart narrated a radio spot citing Tooley's article and accusing pro-choice activists of favoring infanticide.

In the ad Enyart says, without evidence, that support for killing newborns "is widespread and even taints the White House." On its website American Right to Life urges the public to notify it of the "godless effort to expand abortion services to newborns and toddlers."

Asked to comment on Enyart's accusation, NARAL Pro-Choice America Director Karen Middleton said via email:

Anti-choice extremists are repeatedly losing at the ballot box because Colorado voters believe women have a right to make their own personal, private medical decisions. I can only think such increasingly bizarre, out-there statements from Mr. Enyart stems from his frustration at the fact Coloradans believe the argument is over and No Means No. Voters don't agree with him. Respect them, get over it, and stop yelling.

Personhood measures, which would effectively ban abortion by granting legal rights to zygotes (fertilized eggs), have been rejected so many times in Colorado, among other states, that personhood advocates have suggested a more localized approach to pushing through the extreme anti-choice policy.

The murder rate for infants is low in America. Key risk factors include mental illness afflicting the parents, lack of prenatal care, teenage pregnancy, and paternal care giving.

In some campaigns to limit abortion, anti-choice activists associate the term "infanticide" with abortion procedures, including "dilation and extraction," which is used for abortion after 14 weeks.

The anti-choice group's focus on infanticide comes in the wake of a national report showing that a wave of anti-choice laws has "emboldened" abortion-clinic protesters, and that threats of violence against clinics have doubled since 2010.