Abortion – Pro Choice and Sex Selective Abortion

My previous post on abortion and the right of women to choose turned up some interesting issues. Here is one:

Women’s rights activists have spent decades trying to give women the power to choose the fate of her own body. Abortion now is and should be entirely at the discretion of the woman. No one should be forced to bear a child to term against their will. The is the essence of the “pro choice” side of the argument. It stresses on the fact that a woman’s desire to have an abortion shouldn’t be questioned. Her reasons are her own. She may not be ready psychologically, not ready financially, or perhaps just bored. All reasons are valid since it’s her body and her choice.

An exception to a woman's right to choose?

An exception to a woman’s right to choose?

So why is sex selective abortion illegal in India?

This is a very tricky issue especially when it comes to women’s rights. If a woman desires an abortion because the fetus growing inside her is female, shouldn’t she have the right via the above logic to abort? And yet most people I know in India – men and women – support the ban on sex selective abortion. This can be made into an emotive issue calling it the “murder of little girls”, but a fetus before a certain age is not a person and doesn’t have the rights of a person. Besides, that should be true for all abortions not just female fetuses. If we’re ok with abortion in general, we shouldn’t have a special problem with the abortion of female fetuses.

We all know that the sex ratio in many parts of India is skewed. The principled way to fix this is by educating people and correcting the mindsets of people in this generation, and the next, and the next. By creating a law banning abortions in case of a female fetus, we are carving out an exception to a woman’s right to control over her own body. If a woman simply does not want to give birth to a girl, the law is essentially forcing her to carry it to term. And this is precisely what women’s groups have been fighting for. The right of a woman to control her own destiny and her own body.

Consider that abortions can be performed for any reason. It’s even ok if a woman says “I’m just not ready”. Or “I made a mistake”. All of these are valid reasons and no one will question them. So how come if the woman says “I don’t want a girl” or “I don’t want a boy”, there’s suddenly an uproar? Do her rights suddenly cease to exist? Is she now merely a vessel for bringing another body into the world that she doesn’t want? In essence, the government has hijacked her body for promoting its own social agenda.

Does anyone other than me find this disturbing?

Two things before I wrap up:

1. I’m obviously not saying that sex selective abortion is a good thing. I think it’s a horrible choice to make. I just don’t feel it should override a woman’s decision to take control over her own body.

2. Many say that it’s not really the woman’s choice. I say bollocks. Unless she’s drugged or taken kicking and screaming to the hospital and forcibly put under anesthesia, it is her choice as an adult. If she’s above 18, we have to treat her as an adult. If she’s chosen to listen to her relatives that doesn’t mean her choice is being taken away.

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Comments

  1. AnjaliSingh says:

    your arguments holds no viability in Indian context…maybe right for other country but certainly not for India.If given a choice between male or female child,maximum people will go for the male child…
    sex selective abortion cannot be justified…its merely a discrimination based on gender.
    we all happen to read about female feticide and female infanticide qite often…but when was the last time you heard anything about any male feticide because the mother wanted a female child??? probably never.
    Every sex selective abortion is yet another example of culpable homicide.

    • bhagwad says:

      I strongly believe that laws should be the same for all human beings. Right and wrong do not change from country to country and from civilization to civilization.
      How can any abortion be murder when a fetus is not even a person?

  2. Purple Cloud says:

    So now we should expect you to come out in strong support of things like polygamy, adultery and incest ? As according to your logic, these issues are also examples of the state forcing morality on people.

    • bhagwad says:

      Of course. If you mean “support” to imply approval, then you’re wrong. But I support people’s right to do those things even though I myself wouldn’t do them.

      Btw adultery is not illegal. It would be absurd if it was.

      • Purple Cloud says:

        So do you mean all these things should be legal ? In fact, if you see it as a ‘right’ it automatically implies that you see them as legal. By the way, please check up laws against adultery. It is in fact illegal in many parts of the world except most of Europe.

        You said, you support people’s right to do those things but you yourself wouldn’t do them. I’m just curious to know your reasons for saying you wouldn’t do them. Not that I’m judging you or anything, but is it due to moral or ethical reasons or because of the law ?

      • bhagwad says:

        Only backward countries regulate who has sex with who. It’s not illegal in the US either. In all civilized countries that respect human rights, adultery is not a crime. Why should it be a crime? Who is it a crime against?

        As for why I wouldn’t do them…come on. I don’t have to do something just because I can! I wouldn’t want to be married to more than one person, I don’t feel like cheating on my wife, and I don’t have a sister – even if I did, I probably wouldn’t want to have sex with her.

        You see? I don’t do these things not because they’re “immoral” or because they’re illegal. I don’t do them because I don’t want to.

      • Purple Cloud says:

        To ‘want’ or ‘not want’ is based on predetermined principles in the mind. There has to be a specific basis for it. You may not want to have a cup of tea at a given time. But it doesn’t mean you never would want to have tea. That ‘want’ is a temporary decision based on your mood. You may never want to eat meat. But the basis for that would be your being a vegetarian. In other words, you would be a vegetarian because you wouldn’t want to kill an animal. But you wouldn’t want to kill an animal because you BELIEVE its wrong. If you ‘do not want’ to do something ever in your life, you already know that you will NEVER ‘want to’ or ‘feel like’ doing it. And for that there has to be some basis.

        If you say that you don’t ‘feel like’ cheating on your wife, it is not about your mood. You know and believe that you would never ‘feel like’ cheating on your wife. Not ‘wanting’ to indulge in polygamy, adultery or incest is not based on mood. It is based on a belief. So, you may not accept it, but unconsciously, even your ‘wants’ are based on morals.

      • bhagwad says:

        “But it doesn’t mean you never would want to have tea.”

        What if I don’t like the taste of tea? I can be 100% sure that I will never drink it then :) Where is it either moral or immoral to not like tea?

        Sorry boss, your “logic” is way too convoluted. Not everyone likes everything. Some people enjoy cheating. Others don’t. There’s no morals or ethics here. I don’t claim to be a good person just because I don’t like to do something.

        I also dislike the smell of feces in the same way I dislike the idea of cheating on my wife. No need for morals.

        P.S: I wouldn’t mind having sex with my sister if I had one and I wanted to do so. Or my mother for that matter. But the thought of sex with my mother repulses me – there’s nothing noble or “moral” here.

      • Purple Cloud says:

        “What if I don’t like the taste of tea? I can be 100% sure that I will never drink it then”

        Exactly. The taste of tea would be the reason for your decision to never drink it.

        “Some people enjoy cheating.”

        Exactly. Enjoyment or the displeasure are the reason for liking or disliking something which leads to wanting or not wanting to do it.

        My point is that there has to be a reason for liking (or not liking) something. Which ultimately forms your decisions to ‘want’ or ‘not want’ to do it.

        The smell of something repulsive is a physical stimulation which your brain dislikes. For your every decision to like or dislike something, it is your brain which processes an input (compares it with pre-stored information) and provides an output in the form of like or dislike.

        For example, a person who likes milk may occasionally not want to have milk. Such a dislike may be without reason (usually attributed to mood). But permanent preferences (usually dislikes) can never be without reason. In case of such preferences, the brain compares the input with pre-existing information and then decides whether it is likeable or not.

        When you say you dislike the idea of cheating on your wife, it is not a temporary mood. It is a constant belief that you don’t like the idea. Each time you will consider it, your brain will give a negative response leading to your dislike to the idea. Which means that your brain already has some stored information which says such an idea is always negative.

        A person who has normal sex with his wife may be repulsed at the thought of having sex with his sister. Does that mean that there is something wrong with his sister ? No. But the person’s mind is pre-programmed to tell him that sex with his sister is wrong. Otherwise, if there is nothing wrong with the sister physically as a person, then why would he be repulsed at such an idea ? There is a reason for every repulsion or dislike.

        Your idea of ‘wanting’ or ‘not wanting’ for no reason may hold true if at any point of time you actually would want to smell something repulsive in spite of disliking it.

        Taste or smell are types of physical stimulation which are easier to like or dislike. They don’t involve morals. But acts like adultery and incest involve sex which is usually pleasant physical act which is accompanied by an emotional component which may or may not be pleasant according to the psychological bearings of the person involved and hence these acts are governed by morals. Otherwise, if one is repulsed by the thought of having sex with his sister, would he also be repulsed with the thought of shaking hands with his sister ? If not, then there HAS to be a reason for sex being repulsive.

      • bhagwad says:

        I disagree. There need not be a reason for wanting or not wanting to do something. No need to bring morals into this.

        But the person’s mind is pre-programmed to tell him that sex with his sister is wrong.

        Nothing to do with programming or morals. It’s probably an evolutionary distaste for most people. Again – no ethics involved here and no deeper meaning.

        “When you say you dislike the idea of cheating on your wife, it is not a temporary mood. It is a constant belief that you don’t like the idea.”

        It’s not a belief. It’s a distaste. Just like me not liking milk. Someone else might enjoy it. Good for them! The government cannot get into the business of telling people what to do and what not to do.

        Also remember that incest and polygamy are victimless. No one is getting hurt.

  3. Purple Cloud says:

    I agree with you that polygamy and incest are victimless if everyone involved is doing so by consent. That’s why I raised these issues in the first place.

    Taste or smell if taken by their literal meanings are simple physical perceptions. There is no use of morals in those. But when you talk of taste as an adjective, it becomes different. Like you may have a taste or distaste for a certain type of music. But then again, it is due to the physical perception of sound that you hear.

    But adultery, polygamy and incest are not just simple physical perceptions. They carry intense emotional components with them. Like I said, one may not feel anything while shaking hands with a sister. But if one feels repulsive about having sex with a sister, what makes it different from shaking hands ? It’s the emotional component. And emotions are developed after conditioning. A human who grows up all by himself in a jungle will not show emotions to conditions if he is brought into a civilized society.

    My point is, if shaking hands with a sister is not repulsive, then what makes having sex with her repulsive if there is no physical reason involved. And I think it is because of a pre-programmed sense of right and wrong that decides such a repulsion.

    Or take another scenario where a person’s sister is separated from him soon after birth. He meets her years later not knowing that she is his sister. Will he still feel repulsive at the thought of having sex with her ? In fact, there are movies that are based on this concept.

    There’s a movie ‘Say it isn’t so’ where a young girl and boy meet and fall in love. They have sex and enjoy it too. But due to some confusions, the couple are told that they are long lost siblings. They are absolutely repulsed as they hear that information. Now why should something turn suddenly so repulsive if it was extremely enjoyable moments ago ?

    • bhagwad says:

      Like I said, sex with a sibling has the same physical distaste as smelling feces. It’s biologically programmed into us to limit inbreeding. It’s got nothing to do with morals or ethics.

      It’s called the Westermarck effect: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westermarck_effect

    • Purple Cloud says:

      In one of my earlier comments I wrote :- “But the person’s mind is pre-programmed to tell him that sex with his sister is wrong.”

      To that you replied :- “Nothing to do with programming or morals.”

      Now you say :- “It’s biologically programmed into us to limit inbreeding.”

      So finally, you agree on one thing that there is some sort of programming.

      But I doubt if the programming is biological. It is actually psychological. The article you mentioned says in the very first line :- “The Westermarck effect, or reverse sexual imprinting, is a hypothetical psychological effect through which people who live in close domestic proximity during the first few years of their lives become desensitized to later sexual attraction.”

      So even though hypothetical, it is psychological and not biological because it further says :- “where a brother and sister are brought up separately, never meeting one another — they may find one another highly sexually attractive when they meet as adults, according to the hypothesis of genetic sexual attraction.”

      You are confusing physical perceptions (such as smell) with psychological preferences. And psychological preferences are decided by pre-programmed information which tells what is right or wrong. And that is developed through conditioning while growing up.

      • bhagwad says:

        Surely you see the difference between biological programming and cultural programming? If not, then we’re also biologically “programmed” to eat food, and dislike the smell of feces. In this context of morals and ethics, we’re only talking about cultural/societal/parental programming.

        And when I say “biological”, that includes many aspects of our psychology. For example, we are biologically programmed to feel jealous under specific circumstances. Though that is psychological, it is every bit as biological as our disgust for feces.

        In this context, sexual relations with siblings is a biological repulsion and not a moral one. It has nothing to do with morals. I don’t want to have sex with my mother not because anyone has ever told me it’s wrong (trust me, this never came up in our conversations!), but because I’m biologically coded to find the idea repulsive.

      • Purple Cloud says:

        If humans are biologically coded to find the idea (of incest) repulsive, then how do you explain a situation where – ‘a brother and sister are brought up separately, never meeting one another — they may find one another highly sexually attractive when they meet as adults’ ? What happens to the biological code in such a situation ? How would biological programming help in such a situation when a person doesn’t even know that the woman he is having sex with is actually his sister ? Does a person perceive any physical signs if he is having sex with his sister whom he doesn’t know ?

        Since you are talking about the difference between biological programming and cultural programming, biological programming is related to physical perceptions or acts, such as eating food and disliking certain smells. But how can biological programming determine a person’s psychology ?

        Like in the example I gave, would a human who has grown up all alone in a jungle show emotions like jealousy ? He should, if it was biologically programmed just like for eating food.

        A person incorporates repulsion to incest into his psychology by observing societal norms through his life. Otherwise there is nothing that can tell a person that the woman he is having sex with is actually his sister or mother if he doesn’t know that before. Normally humans are programmed to perceive sex as something enjoyable. And that would remain enjoyable with a sister or a mother until and unless he knows that his partner is his sister or mother.

        And a person needn’t be ‘told’ or ‘talked to’ about societal norms. They get imbibed into the person’s psyche by mere observation of the society over years. I don’t think everyone has to be ‘told’ about all ‘wrong’ things (either morally or legally) by someone or the other.

        By the way, we have completely ignored the issue of adultery in the present context. Since it is not related to having sex with a blood-relative, how do you explain the repulsion or dislike to adultery ? What sort of programming determines the dislike towards adultery ? Is it biologically coded too ?

      • bhagwad says:

        If humans are biologically coded to find the idea (of incest) repulsive, then how do you explain a situation where – ‘a brother and sister are brought up separately, never meeting one another — they may find one another highly sexually attractive when they meet as adults’ ?

        Come now, the answer is obvious. They need to be brought up and raised together for the repulsion to develop. This is hardly something worth debating over.

        “But how can biological programming determine a person’s psychology ?”

        It can very easily do so. I already gave the example of jealousy. There are many for examples of this.

        What sort of programming determines the dislike towards adultery?

        I never said there was any programming for adultery – biological or social. That was entirely your idea. With adultery it’s much like a taste for tea. Some like it and some don’t. The proof that incest and adultery are different lies in the fact that adultery is far far more common and incest is extremely rare around the world.

        Remember that god doesn’t exist and that we humans create all morals for ourselves. The government cannot go around telling people whom to have sex with and whom not to.

      • Purple Cloud says:

        “They need to be brought up and raised together for the repulsion to develop.”

        This statements dismisses your earlier statements that :- “sexual relations with siblings is a biological repulsion” and “I’m biologically coded to find the idea repulsive.” since bringing up and raising children has got nothing to do with biology but is about sociology.

        “I already gave the example of jealousy.”

        And I already countered that with the logic that a person who doesn’t grow up in a human society cannot feel jealous. There has to be a comparative presence of other people for someone to feel jealous.

        “The proof that incest and adultery are different lies in the fact that adultery is far far more common and incest is extremely rare around the world.”

        How can incidence of two acts be the basis of the qualitative difference between them ? But we are not discussing the difference between adultery and incest. We are discussing about the difference in preferences between the two.

        And once again you are confusing physical perceptions with psychological ones. The physical part of adultery is having sex. But the emotional aspect of it determines one’s like or dislike towards it. And that is based on one’s psychology.

        For someone who dislikes adultery, it is not that having sex with someone other than the spouse would be painful or uncomfortable. The dislike is due to psychological reasons. If the sexual act is itself painful or uncomfortable only then can it be compared to a dislike for the taste of tea. Because both are purely physical.

        My basic point in all this discussion is that there has to be a reason for any particular dislike for something. Either physical/physiological or psychological. And psychological dislikes are based upon how one is conditioned during growing up. You don’t dislike something for no reason.

      • bhagwad says:

        Not everything needs to be spelled out. How else will your brain know who is a sister and who isn’t? When I said sibling I obviously meant people your brain considers to be siblings!

        “There has to be a comparative presence of other people for someone to feel jealous.”

        Two things. One – infants can feel jealous of animals too. It’s a natural biological trait. Second, just because it requires other living creatures to bring it out doesn’t mean that it’s not an innate biological trait in everyone. You can hardly argue with this. Jealousy is a very good thing for a species to have from an evolutionary point of view.

        Even animals feel jealous thereby bearing out my point. It’s biological. No morals or ethics are needed to feel it.

        “How can incidence of two acts be the basis of the qualitative difference between them ?”

        Because the biological prohibition will be far more widespread compared to a mere preference or a social prohibition.

        “But the emotional aspect of it determines one’s like or dislike towards it. And that is based on one’s psychology.”

        And everyone’s psychology is different. Just like some people like tea and others do not. People’s brains are different you know. There are different personalities. Some preferences are physical like the taste of tea (though one can argue that even that is psychological) and some are psychological.

        “My basic point in all this discussion is that there has to be a reason for any particular dislike for something.”

        Actually the basic point is that the government should not involved in who sleeps with whom :)

      • Purple Cloud says:

        But do you think that a person’s personality OR his psychological preferences are biologically programmed ?

      • bhagwad says:

        It’s a mix. Some are biological. Some are influenced by the environment.

      • Purple Cloud says:

        Also, your comment clearly implies that biological coding/programming has no value by itself unless complimented with social programming :- “They need to be brought up and raised together for the repulsion to develop.”

        A person’s preference about issues like polygamy, adultery and incest develop through social programming. And though you will not accept it, but your own preferences about these issues are determined through social programming as you fail to provide a valid reason for your preferences. Because as I said, there HAS to be a reason behind a preference.

      • bhagwad says:

        I guarantee you that two siblings raised together alone on an island will still feel repulsion towards each other. It’s a biological preference and not a social one.

        Polygamy and adultery are different. They’re much more prevalent throughout the world and so obviously it’s not biological. You can tell if something is biological if it’s widespread across the world, across cultures, and genders.

        Incest passes the test. Adultery and polygamy do not.

        But in any case, this is irrelevant. The point is the government has no right to tell people whom they can and cannot have sex with.

  4. Sakshi Singh says:

    There couldn’t be a better write up on this subject than this very one.
    I agree. And honestly,I feel sick,and sad at the same time. No way I can think of,of how all this can just vanish.
    I mean,women today have reached every possible space of the world and conquered it. I wonder why,still.

    Thank you for giving me the link to this one. Would be a big regret if I couldn’t read the similar views like mine,presented so straight.

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