Abortion as a Symptom of Misogyny in the Developing World

[Today’s guest post by Roger McCormack is part of our paid blogging program.]

The developing world, often a bastion of religious dogma and
radical fundamentalism, reveals a fascinating omission of free inquiry among
abortion rights supporters. Amartya Sen, a famed Indian economist, in relation
to the recent outrage over endemic rape in India, wrote:

One of
the positive consequences of the agitation following the barbaric incident of
December 16 [in which a woman was brutally gang raped and died of her injuries] has been to
draw attention both to the prevalence of sexual brutality and rape in India,
and to the failure of the media to report on it seriously, thereby limiting
public discussion and the likelihood of social change.

goes on to illustrate the manifestations of India’s entrenched misogyny, taking
forms that call into dispute the orthodox idea that abortion rights activists are aligned with women’s interests. For example, Sen documents a rise in gender
selected abortion, accounting for “numbers of selective abortions of female
fetuses, offsetting the gains in declining difference in mortality rates.”
avowedly found their principles on gender egalitarianism and secular values,
making Sen’s observations all the more disturbing to a defender of abortion
rights. Society in India is rigidly hierarchical (a residuum of Hindu’s caste
system), and is also dominated by religious traditional values. Sex trafficking, discrimination
based on wealth or social status, and a widespread failure to report rapes, are all connected to this religious fanaticism and traditional culture. One
can expect much of the same to continue in India for years to come—unless, as Sen hopes, there is a sea change in cultural attitudes.
and patriarchal prejudices infect innumerable levels of Indian society, from a
corrupt police and judiciary favoring rapists over victims, to a cowing of
feminist resistance, as most women have been rendered submissive by unabashedly
violent male-dominated structures. But as globalization and porous borders expose Indians to humanist values, and increase women’s access to education, the free-thinking women of India may perhaps come to view abortion in a different light than most Western

The ease with which abortion (in this
case explicitly prejudiced in favor of men) coheres with religious chauvinism, and is procured in a religious society that is deeply connected to bigotry, sexual trafficking, and rape, belies the notion that abortion is a
sacred feminist tenet. The developing world (particularly India and China) accounts for a
marked disparity in genders, with some statistics showing that as many as 160
million sex-selective abortions have been carried out. 

Rational pro-lifers
should focus on statistics such as these. We must take a clear stand, based on secular, humanist values, to condemn abortion as a practice that is far
from promoting women’s health, safety, and well-being.

36 thoughts on “Abortion as a Symptom of Misogyny in the Developing World”

  1. Careful with generalizations. I'm Uruguayan (a "developing country") and we're way a more secular society or non-religious than many "developed countries". Sadly, that wasn't enough to grant the least respect for the lives of our unborn fellow Uruguayans and the rights of us women. We're a mysoginist culture in many senses (being legal abortion one of them) not because of religion, but because of a lack of respect to women, their health, their needs and the life of our most vulnerable fellow citizens.

    Based on clearly false statistics and obeying foreign interests, a small majority of our congressmen and congresswomen legislated for the legalization of abortion in our contry – there was literally a difference of ONE VOTE in that session. One vote determined that we no longer recognize equal rights for every human being (not just some human beings) and that we'd rather look to the other side instead of doing something about the terrible situation of our many women who seek an abortion out of despair.

  2. The point of being pro-choice is giving women the responsibility to decide whether to have a baby. They shouldn't be coerced into having an abortion for any reason or forced to undergo pregnancy and childbirth against their will.
    That's the way it should be, in any society that truly values women.

  3. And if Indian women are not coerced, but decide to abort their daughters because their culture has taught them to value sons more highly– you're okay with that?

  4. Right, none of us are against choice. We are simply against the ending of another human being's life being characterized as a choice.

  5. And where did I ever say that, Vita? I don't presume to know where life begins, since that's a philosophical question, not a scientific one. As far as a first-trimester fetus goes, I trust the woman carrying it to make the right decision for her and her family.

  6. I think you are a troll. If you aren't:

    That's really not how it works at all. Women perhaps become more valuable in a monetary sense, but they are not respected and honored as human beings – they are, as your analogy blithely puts it, make into commodities.

    In both China and India, cases of gang rape, and the kidnapping of young women, especially in rural areas, is a direct result of the gender imbalance.
    Women are rare, so as a commodity, the monetary value outweighs the risk of being caught and punished for committing the crime of rape or kidnapping. This makes families want to have girls even less, since they know they will be bringing girls into a work that will likely rape or kidnap her. Any expectation that men without enough women will try to change a system to preclude rape and violence is absurd. It's that age class of men who are usually doing the raping and kidnapping.

    Child brides are also directly correlated with the imbalance. There aren't enough women around in any given age group, so suddenly a 50 year old is willing to hand over large sums of money to impoverished parents for their 10 year old. This doesn't make those parents want to have more girls. It doesn't make them abort their boys. It is a reactionary move for survival. And the result is those little girls being trapped in the cycle of poverty and disenfranchisement, often wanting to avoid having daughters suffer their fate.

    And this whole time, we've been speaking as if women are chattel, because that is exactly what happens when you have these huge imbalances! If that is your goal, go in a corner elsewhere. Nobody wants to talk to you.

  7. You said that "preventing someone from being born is different from ending someone's life." That assumes that a life is not ended for if preventing someone from being born does end their life than "preventing someone from being born" and "ending someone's life" mean the same thing.

    When life begins is a biological not a philosophical question. Whether the ending of that life is morally wrong is a philosophical not a biological question. When life begins is covered by embryology textbooks one such textbook states: “Fertilization – the fusion of gametes to produce a new
    organism – is the culmination of a multitude of intricately regulated
    cellular processes.” Philosophically can we justify the ending of a human life? That is the question. The crux of the justification really comes down to bodily autonomy. In a situation where a mother did not have to sacrifice some amount of her freedom to give birth to her child, there is no reason for abortion (except perhaps eugenic considerations).

    Source courtesy of ClinicQuotes: Marcello et al., Fertilization, ADV. EXP. BIOL. 757:321 (2013).

  8. You're asserting an opinion rather than a fact. To say that when life begins is philosophical not scientific is idiotic and erroneous to say the least. Talk with ANY embryologist and they'll say life begins at conception, that is a scientific fact. Anyone can harbour an extreme philosophical view, claiming that the beginning of human life is telling of your grasp of science and fact and your willingness to hold to an extree view/opinion rather than fact.

  9. Briefly on bodily autonomy once we have established that their are two lives present a mother and her offspring. The argument that an unwanted pregnancy can be ended is based on the mother's freedom being impeded. This is a bad thing. Therefore removing this "impediment" (a genetically unique human life) is erroneously viewed as being a good thing by those who are for the continued legalization of abortion. When in reality abortion ends the life of the child while simultaneously violating that child's right to bodily autonomy. It is not more pro-choice to be for legalization of abortion, because when the choice to end someone else's life is present then the choice of the person dying is not considered.

  10. Now we're getting somewhere. Now we're having the discussion on when life is considered worthwhile and valuable. Under the premise of aborting a child for the sake of the mother's choice you wouldn't abort a post birth child because he/she is unwanted. Is it safe to assume you don't agree with late term abortions (third trimester) when the viability of life is almost certain. Sounds like you're discriminating against an unborn child simply on the basis of stage of development and age. Nothing else differs, it has human parents, it has all the genetic characteristics for it's entire life not withstanding third party intervention. It has it's own unique DNA and genetic makeup like no other human that ever existed. All it needs is time to develop and an environment to do so. Which leads me to the "environment" aspect of the right to bodily autonomy of the woman. The best refutation to this argument have been used in refuting the "unplugging the violinist" argument whereas the uterus has one purpose and that is to house and protect and nurture the life of another not the host.

  11. You reaaallly need to actually look up the science instead of just acting like you know it. Science says all over the place that even zygotes are individual human beings.

    "Fertilization is the epic story of a single sperm facing incredible odds to unite with an egg, and form a new human life. It is the story of all of us." "The two sets of chromosomes join together, completing the process of fertilization. At this moment, a unique genetic code arises, instantly determining gender, hair color, eye color, and hundreds of other characteristics. This new single cell, the zygote, is the beginning of a new human being."

    "The two cells gradually and gracefully become one. This is the moment of conception, when an individual's unique set of DNA is created, a human signature that never existed before and will never be repeated."

    "Biologically speaking, fertilization (or conception) is the beginning of human development…Fertilization begins with the spermatozoon contacting the cells surrounding the oocyte and ends with the mixing of the 23 male and 23 female chromosomes. The result is a single-cell embryo called a zygote, meaning "yoked or joined together," and it is the first cell of the human body. The zygote, like the oocyte, is encased by its protective covering, the zona pellucida, and contains 46 unique chromosomes with the entire genetic blueprint of a new individual."


    "Although life is a continuous process, fertilization… is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte."

    "Human Development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoo developmentn) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual."
    "A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo)."

    "[The zygote], fomed by the union of an oocyte and a sperm, is the beginning of a new human being."

    "Although human development is usually divided into prenatal (before birth) and postnatal (after birth) periods, development is a continuum that begins at fertilization (conception). Birth is a dramatic event during development, resulting in change in environment.
    Development does not stop at birth; important developmental changes occur after birth– development of teeth and female breasts, for example."

  12. All it needs is time to develop and an environment to do so.

    The woman is more than just an environment. If you pro-lifers ever wonder why people think you don't care about the adult females you'd force to undergo pregnancy and childbirth against their will, it's because you talk about them like they're nothing more than inanimate housing for a fetus.

  13. You reaaallly need to actually look up the science instead of just acting like you know it.

    Right back atcha. The quotes you posted all said fertilization was the beginning of human development. No one's disputing that. But only extremists say (like Virginia did just above) that aborting a zygote is the same as killing a child.

  14. That is a LIE. There is no evidence whatsoever that "intrinsic value" exists for anything in the entire Universe. All Valuations Are Both Subjective And Relative.

    But humans like to lie to themselves, about themselves, just to stroke their egos. Tsk, tsk!

  15. Actually no, and you need to understand the process. It is the same. No one is saying whether or not it is right or wrong to kill it, but to act like it is different from killing a child is to be unaware of the process. They didn't mean it was the beginning as in we all become more and more human being as time goes by, they were just answering the question, "When does the life of an organism begin?" We are all just as alive and just as human being as each other, from conception until death, no matter what stage of development we are in. Life is a continuum, and that means that we are all human beings, it's just that we continue to develop, but that same process of development inside the womb happens outside of the womb as well. I seriously doubt you'd say killing a child is different than killing an adult, for instance. You know better because you realize that age, development, size, and level of dependency does not make someone more or less alive or human being than someone else. Scientifically that would be very incorrect. Mind you, no one is saying it is right or wrong, it just isn't true to act like they aren't human beings or they differ from other human beings, other than being less developed of course, but we are all less developed than those who are older than us.

  16. Did I say the woman is the environment or the uterus is the environment. But since you brought up the well being of the mother have you looked at the statistics of mental harm and distress caused by the unnatural termination of a pregnancy. I care a great deal about the well being of humans not one specific gender/age/race

  17. to act like it is different from killing a child is to be unaware of the process.

    Yeah, the process of demonizing and intimidating sexually active women. This is a sick crusade, no matter how virtuous it makes you feel.

  18. Did I say the woman is the environment or the uterus is the environment
    You never mentioned a woman, you only characterize her using inanimate terms like uterus and environment and host.
    I'll admit I prefer denying that a zygote, or a fetus that can't feel pain, is human rather than dehumanizing a full-grown woman. But I guess you've probably forgotten you were ever supposed to have qualms about doing that.

  19. "All Valuations Are Both Subjective And Relative." If everything is subjective and relative how could my claim be a lie? The word lie assumes an objective meaning.

    If everything is subjective (as you objectively claim) there is no such thing as an objective truth, and if there is no such thing as an objective truth then there is no standard by which you can judge my claim to have deviated from the truth. So it is impossible not only for my statement to be a lie. It is impossible for anything to have a truth value as their is no standard for truth. So you could say my claim is not true because if we assume that everything is relative no claim is true including the claim that everything is relative.

  20. It is my understanding that the gender imbalance is much greater now than it has ever been. THAT is what I expect to, ultimately, make a difference in the long run. But you, just like plenty other abortion opponents, are not interested in the long run. That's why the bunch of you qualify as "genocidal maniacs", working to cause the death of most of the whole human species in a Malthusian Catastrophe, by insisting that more mouths-to-feed must be born, without doing anything to ensure they can be fed..

  21. Do not confuse Facts with Truth. Sometimes they are the same, and sometimes they are not. A Lie can be a statement that denies Fact. That makes it entirely Objective, not subjective. In this case, the Fact is that there is no such thing as intrinsic value. Therefore, to say that there is such a thing is to deny the fact, thus to lie. Very Simple!

  22. How is it possible to confuse the facts with truth? Facts are simply statements that are true. As for lies a lie is a false statement that someone makes when that person knows the statement they are making is a false statement. I can assure you I believe that every human life has intrinsic value so even if that were to be incorrect I would not be a liar.

    Getting back to the original point if humans are not intrinsically valuable than from where does our value stem? How would you describe the value of a human life from what extrinsic source gives it any value at all? Or is human life something that completely lacks value?

  23. Seriously, I specifically said twice I was not saying at all whether or not it is right or wrong. I was not talking about women who get abortions. If you think science telling you what it actually is is a "sick crusade" that's your own conscience coming out, buddy.

  24. science telling you what it actually is

    Kristin's game of Science Says is sort of like Simon Says, only not nearly as much fun.

  25. How is it possible to confuse the facts with truth?


    In Mathematics it is possible to make statements that are True but which have not been proved to be true. It took something like 300 years for Fermat's Last Theorem to become proved and thus Factual. Truth is not always a Fact, therefore. And, because it is not always a Fact, it can sometimes be disputed. Meanwhile, much the same can be said for other fields than Mathematics (but math offers the most explicit examples).


    Facts are simply statements that are true. As for lies a lie is a false statement that someone makes when that person knows the statement they are making is a false statement.


    AGREED. However….


    I can assure you I believe that every human life has intrinsic value so even if that were to be incorrect I would not be a liar.


    On what basis should I consider your assurances to be anything other than more lies? There is an absolute quagmire of associations, such that it can be very difficult to prove you are just a dupe, instead of a liar.


    Getting back to the original point if humans are not intrinsically valuable than from where does our value stem?


    WE ARBITRARILY DECLARE OURSELVES TO BE VALUABLE. I'm pretty sure I said something much like that in a previous post. We make that arbitrary claim just like we arbitrarily decide that other things have values, too. Any time someone commits murder to obtain one of those "other things", that person is basically claiming that the human life of the victim was less valuable than the other thing.

    So, suppose I turn your question back at you: If humans actually had intrinsic value, why isn't that value universally recognized? Does a man-eating tiger recognize value in human life? NO, the tiger recognizes "meat value" in human corpses!

    Basically, the fact that "intrinsic value" is NOT universally recognized proves that valuations are inherently Subjective, not Objective.

    How would you describe the value of a human life, from what extrinsic source does it derive value? Or is human life something that completely lacks value?


    OBJECTIVELY speaking, nothing has any value whatsoever, including human life. Ask any tornado, if you don't understand what I mean by that. However, humans discovered through a long and difficult process that they basically need to get along with each other. This leads to agreements such as, "I will recognize your claim to having a right to life, so long as you also recognize my claim to having a right to life." The process of making such agreements can quite adequately explain the origin of valuations for humans, BY humans.

    But then the Law of Supply and Demand came along to modify those valuations. In places like China, heavily populated for many centuries, human life was NOT valued to the same extent to which it was valued in, say, the European Middle Ages. Suicide was considered to be a sin in the West, but an honorable thing to do in the East. In china a peasant who encountered a social superior, even if just a bureaucrat, was expected to refer to self as "this worthless person", while in Europe peasants occasionally obtained audiences with kings –and the kings tended to pay attention.

    So, a fundamental error is exposed in the philosophy of abortion opponents. They CLAIM human life is valuable, but they are working to DECREASE that value, by making it even more COMMON than it already is! Tsk, tsk!

    Note that to deny the Real Effect of Law of Supply and Demand upon Human Valuations is ALSO to lie….

  26. Firstly I will forgive your attacks on my person, for two reasons, firstly because they are amusing to me, and secondly because they are irrelevant to the discussion.

    I asked you the following question: "If humans are not intrinsically valuable than from where does our value stem?" This how you begin your response: "WE ARBITRARILY DECLARE OURSELVES TO BE VALUABLE." I gave you a perfect opportunity to enlighten me on your thoughts and you respond by yelling you are wrong. I simply asked you to explain from where value derives. However eventually I think you do make your point: "Any time someone commits murder to obtain one of those "other things",
    that person is basically claiming that the human life of the victim was
    less valuable than the other thing." Yes you are correct. That is what a murdered is saying. My question to you is this: Do you agree with the murderer? It seems like you do. Not necessarily because you believe that human life is less valuable than the reason the murderer killed them, but because you believe that human life is not more valuable than anything else. Eventually you make it clear that you have no ethical problem with murder. That claim is after all how you make the following statement: "So, a fundamental error is exposed in the philosophy of abortion opponents. They CLAIM human life is valuable, but they are working to DECREASE that value, by making it even more COMMON than it already is! Tsk, tsk!" For someone who believes in subjective ethics you sure like to ridicule (subjectively I am sure) those with a different (subjective of coarse) opinion on ethics.

    But wait you do believe in objective morality as defined by your creed (you do notice how dogmatic it is don't you?): "Note that to deny the Real Effect of Law of Supply and Demand upon Human Valuations is ALSO to lie…." Or to restate your claim: it is blasphemy to speak against the sacred dogma of the Real Effect of Law of Supply and Demand upon Human Valuations to do so would be to speak against (subjective moral) truth.

    The law of supply and demand is an economic principle. People contribute to economies but to try to say that we are only as valuable as an economic commodity. You deny this yourself. First you claim that nothing has value, however you then claim the opposite, you claim that the law of supply and demand when applied to people gives them a/n (objective) value, however this is not possible if nothing objectively gives people value.

  27. Ok, let's discuss this logic you are using. would you considering someone born with or due to paralysis that suffers from congenital insensitivity to pain less human than someone that feels pain. Secondly, let me concede the use of the word and classification of fetus for the purpose of proving a point. There is a developmental difference between an adult, teenager, child, toddler, infant, baby, fetus, and a zygote. Not one of these stages of life is less or more valuable than the other, they are all equally as important. To discriminate on a human being (because basic embryology states that it is a human life not a zebra) simply on the basis of it's stage of development is wrong and is killing a member of the human species. If you deny that, than you deny scientific fact, the only basis you have is the perceived burden on the mother.


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