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Disability as a Reason for Infanticide

Some historians have argued that children born with deformities are often targets of infanticide and sacrifice. In some respects, this is the case in modern society as well; severely disabled children, whose deformity might be detected in the early fetal stages, may often be prevented from being born through selective abortion. Archaeological evidence, however, does not always support the fact that deformed and disabled children were always candidates for infanticide. Even in the Middle Ages the disabled were accepted members of society. For example, special drinking pots adapted for child with cleft palates in the Middle Ages have been excavated recently. Additionally, in Chapter 2, I note the case in which a disabled child was buried, with care, with a typically-developed child, providing no evidence that there was differential burial treatment for those who were born with deformities. Even in ancient Rome, where many cases of infanticide have been uncovered, none of the supposed victims were revealed to have had deformities.7

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