Abortion in Different Cultures

I am very likely to regret raising this issue, in which case this thread will be made invisible. Nonetheless, there seems like an important teachable moment arising. Therefore this thread will be more strictly moderated: follow these rules closely:

  1. Stick to the scope of this OP.
  2. Do not spill the debate in this thread to other places.
  3. Contextualize and explain any strong ethical/political/moral claims to you, your cultural context, or your moral guides.
  4. Seek to understand and be understood.
  5. Stay away from politics.

Abortion is one of those issues even more charged than origins, for understandable reasons. It touches on the most intimate and important parts of lives and is particularly intwined with the bodies of women.

For those that are appalled by abortion, this is understandable. Help create a society where women would feel no need to have an abortion. For those that are appalled by the government intruding in this area, rest assured there is no government policy being advocated by me here. With that in mind, we will engage in a divisive debates about what is right or wrong here, or precisely what the government should or shouldn’t do.

A question worth understanding: how different are cultures are working through the goals of protecting women in the complexities of a broken world?

We have a unique opportunity to engage with this, as we are already practiced in engaging in contentious questions here. If we can pause for a moment, and try to understand a different culture, good can come of it. So let us give this a shot, following the rules as mapped out above.

I’ll move some posts from another thread here.

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Science and technology is solving famine around the world. Famine is way down even in India and China. In 1850, 4 of 10 children died before age 5, now in most of the world, child mortality is lowest in history. Humanity can solve humanities problems. No reason for Christians and atheist not working together to solve problems.


Unfortunately, atheists promote many anti-human practices.

As do many religious people. Enough blame to go around.


What! Totally disagree on this. Secular Humanism is working for human rights all over the world. What anti-human practices are you referring to?

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What anti-human practices do Christians promote?

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The main one is abortion.

Abortion is about a woman’s right to control her own body and her right of privacy. Answers these questions:

  1. Does a woman have the right to make reproductive decisions about her own body? Or does the State has the right to make decisions for the woman?
  2. Does a woman have the right to terminate a pregnancy if she was raped? Or does the State has the right to make that decision for her?
  3. Does a woman have the right to terminate a pregnancy if she may die in the process? Or does the State have the right to make that decision for her?
  4. Does a woman have the right to terminate a pregnancy if the fetus is non viable, severely malformed, with no chance at a life at birth? Or does the State have the right to make that decision for her?
  5. Does a woman have the right to reproduce when she wants, if she wants, and how she wants? Or does the State have the right to make those decisions for her?
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And has nothing to do with atheism.


What about the women’s duty to nurture the life growing in her. If she nurtures the baby, it will become a living person just as much as you or I are.

Is a deformed or malformed person less than a fully functional and healthy person?

A society that refuses to acknowledge it’s duty to nurture foetuses, babies and the helpless troubles me. It’s human wickedness. An absolute lack of love.
From the one person a baby can expect nurture. It’s mother.

In this country, a woman has no such duty. It is a woman’s choice how she takes care of herself and the fetus growing inside her. I do think that it is a human right to give her and her developing child the best healthcare possible.

That is not for the government to decide. It is a very difficult decision for a woman to decide what to do when she receives information that the fetus is deformed or malformed. Very difficult decision but not one where the government should be involved.

Too bad that it troubles you. Woman’s rights are human rights. A woman has full control over her body, when and if to reproduce. Universal healthcare and universal reproductive rights are human rights that should be provided to everyone despite their ability to pay for them.

I doubt abortion can be classified as the “best health care” for the foetus. Is that a tongue in cheek comment?
As to taking care of the baby created out of the sex act, both father and mother are responsible (atleast when it is voluntary). And there is a natural duty to nurture. In special cases such as rape, the state can help by stepping in to take care of the baby.
A duty exists. Societies can deny it… However that doesn’t change the fact.

True. However, carrying the child to term and nurturing it to adulthood would be an act of kindness and love. The law might not force this upon anyone, however acts of wickedness are a moral category, not necessarily a legal category.
When peoples sense of duty/love is lost, then even the most basic acts of humanity become a burden

The instrinsic assumption being that the foetus is not human and hence can have no right to live. I wonder how this conclusion was arrived at…

It’s murder, plain and simple. There is not much difference between a foetus and a new born baby. If a new born baby has a right to live/be cared for… then a foetus does too.


An interesting item on UK news today.

A feminist organisation is pushing to withdraw the right to have antenatal ultrasound sexing of fetuses, because some people (hint hint it’s the Asian community) will abort a perfectly normal baby if it’s a girl, and that’s against women’s rights.

“Of course,” said the spokeswoman, “we’re not saying the tests themselves should be banned, where there’s a good reason, for example to screen for Down Syndrome…”

The moral difference seems to be that privileged white women seldom want to abort babies based on gender, whereas they often want to do so based on disability.

The moral confusion is that discriminating against fetuses on gender grounds is a feminist issue that overrides the “right to control your own body”, whereas discriminating against fetuses simply because you want to isn’t.


This is a serious problem in India. So revealing the sex of the foetuses post ultrasound is a punishable offence.

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Abortion is not murder. You are trivializing serious healthcare issues that all woman face. It is you who is inhumane, intolerant, and unjust saying such a thing. Woman all over the world face real problems trying to reproduce. Your insensitivity makes the problems worse and does nothing to solve them.

In this country, feminist organizations are against FORCING woman to have antenatal ultrasound before an abortion. I am all for ultrasounds as part of a woman’s healthcare as long as it is not forced on her by the government.

In this country, the Government is trying to limit genetic testing because it could lead to the woman deciding to have an abortion. I am against limiting genetic testing and I am for free early genetic testing of all woman.

An why shouldn’t they? All woman should have free and easy access to early testing and early pregnancy termination, if that is what they chose to do.

There is no moral confusion. Religions and Governments should stay out of people’s reproductive choices.
Let each individual decide what is morally right for themselves.

Okay everyone (@Patrick, @Ashwin_s, @Dan_Eastwood, @jongarvey, @EricMH), please review the new OP, reorient, and engage if you wish.

This is not a debate about united states politics. There is a larger context here that is worth exploring. In particular, this is under appreciated, with an immense amount of data unknown to most western groups.

The same is true in China, and perhaps for good reason. The social context is complex, and we are lucky to have an Indian in India here, and the son of an Indian physician (me), and a retired physician. Rather than moralizing, let us try and understand more. This is not about policy per se, but about the complexities of human society.

Without a polemic goal, let’s give it a shot. Ignore the rules, and your post will be deleted. If everyone ignores the rules, we will end the conversation.

In India, abortion is restricted. It can be done by registered medical practitioners in case the pregnancy will cause serious mental or physical harm to the woman (pregnancy caused by rape is counted as possibly causing mental harm) and where the child may be born with serious mental or physical abnormalities.
It is also permitted in case of married couples where the pregnancy is caused by failure of contraceptives (a lot of weight is given to the discretion of the medical practitioner to take a call and a portion can be done only in government facilities).

The interesting part is that, when married couples were allowed to have a abortion in case of unplanned pregnancies, it led to a lot of couple using sex determination to kill off female foetuses.
So in 1994, a law was introduced which banned sex determination before pregnancy.

The Indian constitution does not acknowledge any “right to abort”.
This is a fairly uncontroversial law for the vast majority of the people.

What are the sex imbalances in births in India and China? How does this apportion by cities and rural areas?

I don’t know about China. However some states in India have a serious problem if sex imbalance. This is because of female infanticide (killing girl babies).

However the government and civil society has been working against this for a long time. Things have totally reversed ins one states. For example in Kerala (the state I am from), there are more females than men. And the sex ratio has been improving slowly … however there is a long way to go.