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Burned Out at the Starting Line

Well, seemingly as I don't expect my grades to be reflective for the appreciation of my efforts put into putting together the hardest crap I've ever had to write, I'll just post it here as consolation to my really battered and worn out soul that has been going on 3 hours of sleep for 3 days to get this crap done within 5 days.

Note to self, I've been out of the debating scene for too long, I should probably get back to doing that. Secondly, I should probably ensure that I am well-versed in argument fallacies before writing a Philosophy essay. I know what I write is far from being an actually good dialectical essay, but I'm open to criticisms, feel free to leave comments to refute any of my arguments, I know they're dangerously flawed as I wrote them, but I hadn't had time to refine it much, I had a major quiz to study for (major, because I desperately needed all the marks I could get). I'd really appreciate comments. Who knows if I ever have to write something as hard as this in the future. Good God, I wonder how these people can major in Philosophy. This essay took away my soul over the course of the weekend. Alright, I have to get back to work now. Bye. 

Nurul Matkamil
Religious Studies 2C03
TA: Elham Beygie

Question: Is sex selection an adequate reason for abortion?

            Sex-selective abortion (SSA) is the termination of pregnancy due to the foetus’s sex. It is a controversial issue as it has influenced by government policies that have affected many lives, and the decisions they make. In this paper, I will argue for sex selection not being an adequate reason for abortion, and subsequently, for sex selection as an acceptable reason for abortion. Finally, I will conclude why sex selection should not be an adequate reason for abortion instead of the contrary.
            Considering the context of the decision and the consequence of the decision for SSA, I argue that sex selection is not an adequate reason for abortion because is not a strong justification for abortion when compared with other accepted reasons for abortion. Secondly, on the grounds that the nation’s interest is also an individual’s interest, an individual’s decision for SSA will not only affect himself negatively, but also the community.
            97% of the countries legalized abortion for ensuring a woman’s health, to save her life or because of rape or incest (“World”), but only 16% legalize abortion on request. This means the priority for abortion rests on whether or not if the pregnancy would cause direct harm to the mother herself. If we were to compare SSA with abortion to avoid foetal impairment, it is clearly not the same as sex is not impairment. A child’s gender does not directly cause harm to a woman’s health nor will directly cause harm to the foetus itself. Statistics also show that SSA is most pervasive in male-favouring cultures (Arnold). Some justify SSA in a way that due to the societal pressure subjected to the woman it can affect her mental health and that in some cultures the two genders has different economic values. Raising a child of one gender may be more financially consuming than the other, so the abortion should be allowed on economic grounds. In both these cases, gender is not the primary cause, but it is the society’s perception of gender itself that causes coercion into SSA. Legalizing SSA will only perpetuate sexist justifications for an unnecessary and avoidable abortion with a more neutral perspective of gender. However, there are also cases in which SSA is not motivated by sexism, in which the woman was genuinely distressed by the child’s gender due to psychological trauma (Williams). To suggest SSA is a solution to her personal issues is problematic because it does not tackle the problem at its roots, it merely addresses the symptoms. If the woman keeps getting the child of unfavourable gender that means that she will need to repeatedly undergo the operation. Undergoing multiple abortions is detrimental to women’s health. So, not only is her psychological ailment not addressed, but her health is also unnecessarily compromised with repeated SSA. In the past, when abortion was introduced in the United States, it became “laissez-faire” because everyone used abortion to limit number of children at whim (Gober). When anyone with a reason of self-preference could easily get an SSA, instead of being limited for health reasons, it became another form of “laissez-faire medicine” that tarnishes individual and societal values which makes SSA unjustifiable (Tong).
             “The idea that reality is socially constructed includes the perception that we are all part of a social construction.” (Thomson). This means as an individual, you are interconnected with the community. Changes to the community will affect you, and your decisions will affect the community. Studies show that an equal ratio of educated men and women is essential for national development as compared to an unequal ratio of male-to-female sex ratio (Inchani). With more educated women, they can also contribute to the household income instead of the man alone. This will ensure that the family unit is better supported and an increased participation in fuelling the nation’s economic development. There is also evidence that with an imbalanced sex ratio due to SSA, the deficit of one gender over the other will cause shortage of labour for labour-intensive jobs in cases of fewer men and pervasive social ills such as bride-trafficking in cases of fewer women (Hamilton, Junhong). China’s population’s reproductive preferences over the years have caused the government to implement and later revoke the one-child policy due to changing population dynamics (Junhong). However, if in light of an imbalanced sex ratio and the government advocates SSA to restore the balance, it would also be problematic because it is not possible to dictate a limit to how many girls or boys should be born in a year, and those exceeding the number must be terminated as it infringes individual rights of freedom of choice and it treats foetuses as commodities on which one can put a quota on. Simply allowing SSA would also not guarantee that there will be minimal demand for SSA or there won’t be an imbalanced demand for one gender over the other. If sex-selective abortion will pervasively cause an imbalanced sex ratio that will affect the nation’s development that will in turn affect the quality of life of every individual, then it should not be an acceptable reason for abortion. 
            On the contrary, sex selection is justifiable for abortion because each individual is a separate entity of which no other individual has control of his consciousness (Tuan) and when a decision is made by an autonomous being, the decision should be respected.  In light of this, abortion should be allowed for whatever possible reason and the society has no right to intervene and decide what the correct reasons for having an abortion are. In addition, prohibiting SSA will increase disutility as women desperate for SSA will seek out illegal and unsafe abortions which lead to higher mortality.
            Even though society is built on relationships, eventually, the individual himself is responsible for himself, because only he alone knows what’s best for him (Hinchman). A group of people may be experiencing the same event, but as to how or how much the consequence affects each individual differ. No matter how similar each of the experiences may be, there still has to be some degree of difference between each individual because each individual has his own set of emotions and thoughts. Arguably, an individual is capable of empathy. However, this capability is not total. Each individual has different levels of empathy based on his knowledge and experiences for him to put himself in another’s shoes, but even so, it cannot recreate the same experience. “Differences in the brain mean that, despite culture's push toward commonality, how human individuals organize experience and perceive the world is highly distinctive”(Tuan). Thus, any other individual cannot fully understand another person’s pains and the driving force behind one’s decision. So, it is unfair to dismiss a woman’s decision for SSA as not autonomous and irrelevant for the person to not deserve the operation. It is paternalistic to dictate a list of approved reasons for a person to abort a pregnancy. Respecting a person’s autonomy is not only about respecting the decision itself, but it also includes the person’s capability of rationalizing the decision (James). SSA should be made available for those who need it as it is not possible to foresee the possible reasons for a person to seek out SSA and generate different cases for when SSA should be permissible. If the option of SSA is also made available, then people would most likely address the question of whether or not it is appropriate to opt for SSA. With liberty, there is freedom of thought, and the community as a whole can make better decisions instead of being forced to accept what is morally acceptable (McCarthy).
            The inaccessibility to SSA will have negative consequences, as people turn to illegal medical providers, resorting to unsafe abortions. High rates of unsafe abortions will lead to a higher mortality rate. Illegal abortions are harder to monitor since they are unregistered and they mainly operate underground. SSA is a lucrative business (Arnold) and unlicensed abortion provider is quick to jump at this opportunity. When left with nowhere else to turn to because SSA is less accessible as compared to abortion for other reasons, desperate women will have no choice but risk their lives to get an illegal abortion. If SSA is legalized, then a more complete data of abortion service providers will be made available as all of them will be registered and licensed to ensure that they comply with safe abortion procedures. By allowing SSA, the survival rate of individuals who wants SSA is ensured.
            The first argument to address is of human beings are separate entities that are unfathomable by other individuals to justify non-interference. A study indicated that “self- and other-oriented emotional judgments commonly make use of regions implicated in emotion processing, and supports the idea that the imaginative transposing of oneself into the subjective world of another person taps neural circuits shared between people.” (Decety). It is not necessary or even possible to share experiences in totality as it would cause emotional distress. This would in turn compromise the individual’s capability to make a fair and rational decision as one would be too overwhelmed in the other individual’s emotions and will lead to bias. So, to suggest that a total internalization is needed to devise all possible conditions for which abortion should be allowed is logically flawed because it is not possible in reality. However, with the extent of a human’s capacity of emotional internalization is enough for an individual to make moral deliberation. (Carse). The argument also suggests a free-for-all system in which no longer values a foetus’s individual worth. It is treated like a commodity that can be disposed of whenever pleased (Mallik).           
            The second argument states legalizing sex-selective abortion will eliminate negative consequences that come from not legalizing SSA. However, this is made under the assumption that all the illegal abortion providers will definitely leave their current industry and pursue a legitimate one. Depending on the standard costs of abortion that is regulated among legal abortion providers, the illegal abortion provider can choose to set his own price. For women desperate to get a cheaper and faster means of abortion while maintaining anonymity to avoid social stigma will still seek out illegal abortion service providers (Ahman). Allowing SSA does not necessarily guarantee that illegal abortions wouldn’t still occur. Therefore, to attribute legalizing illegal SSA to the solution of social ills is not conclusive.
             In conclusion, arguments for sex-selection as an adequate reason for abortion on individualistic and consequentialist grounds is flawed due to its failure to recognize the importance of human relationships and foresight. Therefore, sex selection is not an appropriate reason for abortion because it is an unreasonable discrimination against gender that should not harm a woman’s wellbeing and it causes a community-wide negative impact on sex ratio imbalance. 

Word Count: 1795

Works Cited
Ahman Elisabeth et al. “Unsafe Abortions: Worldwide Estimates for 2000.” Reproductive            Health Matters. Vol. 10. No. 19 (May 2002): 13-17. JSTOR. Web. Nov 13 2012.
Arnold, Fred et al. “Sex-Selective Abortions in India”. Population and Development Review.        Vol. 28. No. 4. (Dec 2002): 759-785. JSTOR. Web. Nov 10 2012.
Carse, Alisa L. “The Moral Contours of Empathy.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice.     Vol. 8, No. ½ (April 2005): 169-195. JSTOR. Web. Nov 12 2012.
Decety, Jean et al. “A Social-Neuroscience Perspective on Empathy.” Current Directions in          Psychological Science. Vol. 15 No. 2 (April 2006): 54-58. JSTOR. Web.                Nov 13 2012.
Gober, Patricia. “Why Abortion Rates Vary: A Geographical Examination of the Supply of          and Demand for Abortion Services in the United States in 1988”. Annals of the         Association of American Geographers. Vol. 84. No. 2 (Jun 1994): 230-250. JSTOR.   Web. Nov 13 2012.
Hamilton, Lawrence C. et al. “Population, Sex Ratios and Development in Greenland.”     Arctic. Vol 63. No.1 (March 2010):43-52. JSTOR. Web. Nov 12 2012.
Hinchman, Lewis P. “The Idea of Individuality: Origins, Meaning and Political     Significance.” The Journal of Politics. Vol. 52. No. 3 (Aug 1990):759-781. JSTOR.           Web. Nov 12 2012.
Inchani, Lisa R. et al. “Association of Educational Level and Child Sex Ratio in Rural and           Urban India”. Social Indicators Research. Vol. 86. No. 1 (Mar, 2008): 69-81.JSTOR.        Web. Nov 12 2012
James, Edward W. “A Reasoned Ethical Incoherence ?” Ethics. Vol. 89. No.3                   (April 1979):240-253. JSTOR. Web. Nov 13 2012.
Junhong, Chu. “Prenatal Sex Determination and Sex-Selective Abortion in Rural China.” Population and Development Review. Vol. 27 No. 2 (June 2001):259-281. JSTOR. Web. Nov 10 2012.
            --- “Community, Society and the Individual.” Geographical Review. Vol. 92 No. 3            (Jul 2002):307-318. JSTOR. Web. Nov 12 2012.
Mallik, Rupsa. “Sex-Selection: A Gender-Based Preference for a Pregnancy.” Reproductive          Health Matters. Vol. 10. No. 19 (May 2002): 189-190. JSTOR. Web. Nov 13 2012.
McCarthy, David. “Why Sex-Selective Abortion Should Be Legal.” Journal of Medical    Ethics. Vol. 27: 302-307. JSTOR. Web. Nov 13 2012.
Thomson, Irene Taviss. “From Conflict to Embedment: The Individual-Society      Relationship.” Sociological Forum. Vol 12. No. 4(Dec 1997):631-658. JSTOR. Web.     Nov 12 2012.
Tong, Rosemarie, and Hilde Lindemann. "Beauty Under the Knife: A Feminist Appraisal of           Cosmetic Surgery in Cutting to the Core: Exploring the Ethics of Contested Surgeries,             Benatar, David (Ed), 183-193., 2006. Philosopher's Index. Web. 14 Nov. 2012.
Tuan, Yi-Fu. “Island Selves: Human Disconnectedness In A World of Interdependence.”             Geographical Review. Vol. 85. No.2 (April 1995): 229-239. JSTOR. Web.            Nov 11 2012.
Williams, Jeremy. “Sex-Selective Abortion: A Matter of Choice.” Law and Philosophy. Vol.         31 (2011):125-159. JSTOR. Web. Nov 10 2012.
World Abortion Policies 2011. United Nations, 2011. Web. Nov 13 2012


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