Abortion and Disability

Some ethicists dislike the argument that abortion should be allowed where the baby, if born, would suffer from physical or mental handicaps. They say that allowing this as a reason for abortion is offensive to disabled people; because it implies that they, and their lives, are less worthwhile than the lives of ‘normal’ people. And some people with disabilities that could be put forward as grounds for abortion argue that they would much rather be alive than have been killed in the womb.

It is easy for people, ethicists, to find fault and pick on almost any legislation. Abortion is not as simple and straightforward as the murder of a foetus; it involves the emotions of the parents. Whether or not the basis of abortion is the disabilities of the foetus or any personal reasons, I m certain to say that most parents have to undergo rounds and endless rounds of contemplation and frustration just to decide. It is unwise to consider such issues logically and systemically, like how some argued abortion of the disabled is demeaning them as inferior.

It is definitely not anyone’s intention to imply that. Parents may have likely considered the future of their children with mutated genes, and for some the agony and pain in witnessing the throbbing and difficult growth of most disabled kids. The probability of undermining the disabled is secondary and certainly unintentional, and ethics should not be given a role in decision making. Most parents are capable of deciding the fate of their children and should be given the right to do so, not the government or ethicists.

For societies, usually in backward regions, where patriarchy still prevails and ‘female foeticide’ plagues, parents are evidently ‘controlled’ by societal and cultural influences. They may appear to be unable to make wise decision with regard to the welfare or survival of their child, especially girls. Selective abortion for gender preference is illegal in India, but the low proportion of female births relative to male births, together with other evidence, makes it certain that female foeticide is practised on a large scale.

Besides to show the ineffectiveness of legislation on abortion, as people resort to other means (‘foeticide’) to achieve their desired results, it suggests how laws and ethics are relatively insignificant to the culture and environment of people that shape their mindset and resolve. This may then render them as making illegal, cruel and unethical decisions for their children, but I believe it will just be another unfair statement. Ethics will not apply to those whom view ethics as secondary in their life.

Laws that can be employed to reinforce ethics may also prove to be futile. And it is unethical of us to conclude that as unethical. In the different societies that we reside in, there are various set of beliefs and moral ethics that one may uphold. We have to recognise that ethics cannot be universal and applied unanimously throughout. In societies like India, survival is their main concern everyday as they struggle to make ends meet. Most of the parents gave up their daughters because of the fixed, low societal value of females which they cannot break free from.

Given a choice, given affluence, given freedom from such cultural constraints, the patriarchy is unlikely to survive till this day. We need sensitivity and flexibility, not firm and fixed ethics codes to rule our lives. Social issues like abortion and euthanasia have been much debated from a seemingly objective perspective with ethics as a strong support. I believe what we need is not impartiality and dead moral values; it is to put oneself in the shoes of the parties involved and then decide with no biasness, what then one might choose.

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