"An Argument Against Sex-Selective Abortion"

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For many years, Abortion has been the topic of discussion, as it is a very sensitive topic that involves taking a life of a human being. To be Pro-Life or Pro-choice is the hardest position to be in specially when the reasons suddenly starts to sway us from our initial position of understanding. Is the fetus a human being at conception? Or is there a point of time after which it can be said to be a human being? It's the biggest point of concern, which we will keep aside for this essay, granting the benefit of doubt to it being a human being at point of conception. In this essay, I’ll talk that “Abortion is a serious act of killing a human being, which must be provided with convincing enough reasons”. We have a woman in country X, who wants to abort the female fetus, because of how bad the position of a women is in that country. I will start by my exposition on a philosopher, Hursthouse, and how her theory of Virtue Ethics depicts the situation, and then try to raise an objection using the views of Marquis, and some of my own views.

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Hursthouse spends most of her time explaining what virtue ethics are, and how they can be used for action-guiding. The theory of virtue ethics states that “An action is right if and only if a virtuous agent would perform that action in those given circumstances” (Hursthouse 249). Here a virtuous agent is the one who acts in accordance with “virtue”, which is a characteristic trait that is necessary for a flourishing life. This can be further explained in her article, “Virtue theory and Abortion”. She then talks about how virtue theory uses 3 sub-questions to decide upon if abortion in the given case is morally permitted based on the main question, “In having an abortion in these circumstances, would the agent be acting virtuously, viciously, or neither”? Let's examine the answers to the sub question and see where would Hursthouse stand in our given case.

What are the relevant facts and how do they play a role in a person’s practical reasoning? The situation we have here states that the woman lives in a country where females are inferior to men, have no rights, and no say in the social and economic decisions based on them, no political and civil rights, and obtain minimal education. Thinking about the woman’s situation with the right attitude, we can conclude simply that the facts point towards an ugly state she is in, which is not a great situation for a female child to be born in. (2) what kind of life is the person leading? The woman is leading a life full of hardship and having no civil and political rights is analogues for her to be a prisoner, or simply a slave that is dominated by the order of men. If given a life especially to a female child, she won’t be able to nourish and grow her to a being of full potential, mainly because her life is not in order emotionally, and would not be able to meet the materialistic demand of a child. (3) What character traits does this person possess? She is thinking about her female child’s life based on the current condition of women in the country, she cares about her unborn child, and does not want her to lead a life of a mere puppet, who can be ordered around and would never reach her full potential. She is a self-confident, responsible woman who has decided that she needs to abort the female fetus. Based on the validity of all the answers to the questions stated by Hursthouse, it is ok to conclude that in this situation, virtue ethics theory points in the direction stating that it would be morally correct for the woman to abort the fetus. As it is what a virtuous agent would have done in the given situation.


Our first argument will be based on the “Future of Value” theory by Marquis. We all know that killing a human being is wrong, but why is it wrong matters more. He states, “What makes killing any adult human being prima facie seriously wrong is the loss of his or her future” (Marquis 190). A standard fetus holds a future full of experiences, projects, and activities like future of adult human being, which could be of value to the fetus or many other human beings. So, this implies if killing a human being is wrong, so is killing a fetus. In our given case, no doubt, the current situation is of the least value for/to women. It seems that if given birth to the female child, she would have a future of least value to herself or people around her.

But, as explained by Marquis, it does not matter what the present value is, what matters is what future it “could” have. A person who is suicidal currently might not value his/her life, but it would be of value to other people, or eventually he/she might start valuing it as they grow older and their values and capacities change. It is evident from the facts we are given in the question that the present condition of women is full of hardship and impossibility, but what if this child is the one who grows up to bring about a change? What if this is the child that brings about a revolution in the country granting equal rights to women? For long, African Americans have served as slaves in the United states, had no rights, had no political or social say, no education and hence were unequal. But today, they are a race, which are equal to all the other in this world. The country X might end up having similar development for women. What if this child could grow up to be the next Malala, who despite facing hatred for women to talk and stand for something in her country, has now become a life valued by thousands in the same country who is vastly dominated my men. It is unpredictable what future a fetus or a human ends up having and depriving them of their future is exactly why the very act of killing is wrong.

According to me, the reason that is provided here by the women is not sufficient enough for the act of abortion. For instance, if the reason is justified for the action she is taking, what if all the women of the country on realizing it’s a female fetus, thinking with the same reasoning, decide to get an abortion? They would end up in a country that has a sex ratio of 5 women to every 10 men. This would lead to an obvious male dominated country, which is based on just the difference in their number. Eventually, aborting a female fetus has lead her to the root of the real issue that she faced while thinking to abort her child and brought her a step closer to the reason of abortion. The reason is just a bigger and stronger one now. Whereas, if they do not abort, they may end up having a sex ratio higher than 1. It would then be easier to overpower men and claim women rights equal to men. The thought process of the woman in this case is simply not reasonable enough for killing a human being.


To conclude, even though virtue ethics is a strong theory that considers most of the situational reasons for abortion, the reason for abortion given by the mother is simply not good enough, as her entire argument rests upon this reason. Say after she gets aborted, suddenly women are given equal rights. She could end up committing an evil to regret her entire life. The woman is not getting aborted because of health reason, neither is it a case where the sex was not consensual. She had consensual heterosexual sex, which lead to the pregnancy, she waited to determine the gender of the fetus, and then based on that fact, she wants to get an abortion. This is in simple words, sex-selective abortion, which in many countries for instance, India is illegal. I am not someone with an extremist view, that no one shall abort, but according to me they must have a valid, sound and convincing enough reason to abort. After all, we are taking a human life and depriving a human of their future, and the reason in this context for the woman of country X does not appeal convincing enough to me.

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