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Widespread poverty and political unrest throughout Europe resulted in high infant mortality rates.Legislation in France demanded the death penalty for mothers convicted of this crime.According to early Jewish law, an infant was not deemed viable until it was thirty days old.During the 1950s the chief rabbi of Israel, Ben Zion Uziel, said that if an infant who was not yet thirty days old was killed, the killer could not be executed because the infant's life was still in doubt.In Japan, a child was not considered to be a human being until it released its first cry, a sign that the spirit entered its body.Scientists and ethicists continue to disagree about when life begins, fueling the moral debate surrounding abortion and infanticide.However, if a mother killed her child she would be punished by death.
Infanticide in general usage is defined as "the homicide of a person older than one week but less than one year of age." Filicide is defined as "the homicide of a child (less than eighteen years of age) by his or her parent or stepparent." For the purposes of this entry, the term infanticide will be used to describe the act of child murder by the child's parent(s) regardless of the age of the victim.
Symbolic acts such as these afforded the child protection in the event that the child became an economic or emotional burden.
Until the fourth century, infanticide was neither illegal nor immoral.
However, as a result of hard times and a high illegitimacy rate, infanticide was the most common crime in Western Europe from the Middle Ages to the end of the eighteenth century.
During the Renaissance period, the criminal justice system took a strong position against infanticide.
The twenty-first-century moral philosopher Michael Tooley contends that neonates are not persons and as such neonaticide should not be classified as murder.