When Killing Baby Girls Is Not Wrong

What happens if Christianity is absent from a culture?

Baby Sheela was dying.

She was a sick eighteen month old living skeleton, and so weak that she couldn’t even cry.

Indian author Vishal Mangalwadi and his wife Ruth came across Baby Sheela when they moved into her family’s village. Sheela lived with her poor parents in a dingy house in rural India. Vishal and Ruth immediately took pity on baby Sheela, and offered to help in any way they could.

But Sheela’s parents weren’t keen.

No matter how much Ruth and Vishal offered to help – to take Sheela to hospital, to pay for the hospital bills, to care for baby Sheela – the offers were rejected.

Not surprisingly, baby Sheela soon died.

Which is what  Sheela’s parents wanted –  because they saw her as an unnecessary burden. [1]

Tragically, Sheela is not alone. The UN estimates that 200 million girls are ‘missing’ across Asia– killed through abortion and infanticide. The technical term for this is ‘gendercide‘.


We in the West hear about the baby Sheela’s of the world, and we’re not just perplexed – we’re outraged: How can any parent let their child die like that?!

The main reason is not poverty or social injustice (these still persist in the West, while infanticide has long been abolished). Rather, it’s because of  a differing worldview – a differing ‘take’ on reality.

And so this appalling story of parental neglect can teach us 2 important truths about our world:

1) The Radical Differences Between Worldviews

A different worldview leads to different ethics.

Mangalwadi explains why Sheela’s parents – and many others across India and China – could kill their baby daughter:

Ruth and I could not understand Sheela’s parents because our worldview was so different from theirs. They looked at children as assets or liabilities, conveniences or burdens. We looked at them as human beings with intrinsic worth. We believed God’s command, “You shall not murder,” gave to every human person a fundamental right to life…Thus our conflict was not merely over ethical principles; it was a clash of worldviews.‘ [2]

In particular, Sheela was killed in large part because her parents – traditional Hindu believers –   didn’t view her life as sacred:

[F]aith in reincarnation trivializes death as well as life. In the well-known Hindu scriptures, Bhagavad Gita, the god Krishna encourages Arjuna to kill his cousins and teachers because reincarnation means that death for a soul is like changing clothes.’ [3]

That’s not to say all Hindus kill their baby girls. But such beliefs devalue human life to the point where – given the right circumstances – infanticide becomes the rational thing to do.   Furthermore, lest we become judgemental, if we were part of their culture, believing the same things, we’d probably be just as capable of killing our baby girls. There but for the grace of God go us.

Of course, killing baby girls – or any baby – would be unthinkable here in the secular West, wouldn’t it?

Sadly not.

2) The Post Christian Western Elites Increasingly Devalue Human Life

Especially as the borrowed moral capital of Christianity leaves the West.

Thanks to technologies like the Ultrasound, more people – even some feminists – are starting to understand that babies are human beings even in the womb. Yet the Christian view that all life has inherent worth and dignity (e.g. Gen 9:5-6) is being eroded – certainly among the western elite.

Nothing illustrates this loosening grip of the Christian ‘take’ on Western morality more than a viral Salon.com article entitled: ‘So what if abortion ends life? I believe that life starts at conception. And it’s never stopped me from being pro-choice’.

The author, Mary Elizabeth Williams, writes these chilling words:

All life is not equala foetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.’ [Emphasis added]

Williams is so close to the Christian worldview (‘a foetus can be a human life’), and yet so tragically far (‘all life is not equal’).

Her view that ‘all life is not equal’ is embedded in cultures that practice infanticide, slavery, and any other human rights abuse. And if draconian pro-abortion laws like those in Victoria and Tasmania are anything to go by, this view of ‘all life is not equal’ is gaining ground in Australia as well.

The Challenge Ahead: Ensuring #EachLifeMatters

If modern secular post-Christian Australia ditches its inherited Christian view of the sanctity of all human life, then no amount of technology – ultrasound or otherwise – can protect against abortion, and ‘after-birth’ abortion.

As William Wilberforce wrote over 200 years ago,

[W]hen the…doctrines of Christianity went more and more out of sight…the moral system [of society] began to whither and decay, being robbed of that which should have supplied it with life and nutriment.’ [4]

Only the Bible – centred on the gospel of Jesus Christ –  has the comprehensive worldview that ‘nourishes’ the conviction that  #EachLifeMatters.

The soil of secularism can’t nourish that life-affirming conviction (at least not long term: it’s living off borrowed – and dwindling – moral capital). Nor can any other religion – at least not consistently.

And so here’s another reason why we need to keep preaching the gospel to a world that doesn’t want to hear it. For only the gospel is able to transform a culture in such a way that babies – especially baby girls – are protected.




[1]. This account is taken from Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created The Soul of Western Civilisation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011).

[2] Mangalwadi, The Book That Made Your World, 63. Emphasis added.

[3] Mangalwadi, The Book That Made Your World, 64-65.

[4] Quoted in Dan Strange, “Not Ashamed! The Sufficiency of Scripture for Public Theology,” Themelios 36.2 (2011): 238-260. Online at http://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/article/not-ashamed-the-sufficiency-of-scripture-for-public-theology


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2 thoughts on “When Killing Baby Girls Is Not Wrong

  1. When in India last year I cane across a sign at a Christian hospital ultrasound area which stated “it is against the law to provide information about the sex of your baby.” I was informed this was to prevent females being aborted as in some parts of India the male to female ratio is as high as 4:1.

    Further south I met two sisters involved in a soap making business who told me they were saving for the dowry for their daughters. THis in an area where gendercide of girls is practiced by inserting drops of a poisonous plant in the baby’s milk.