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Updated: June 12, 2011 01:51 IST

It's murder, pure and simple

Dr. Ronald Carey
Comment (9)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
The Hindu

A massive genocide has been unearthed with the 2011 Indian census. It shows a drop in the numbers of girls per 1,000 boys up to the age of six to 914, from 927 a decade ago. Indiscriminate abortion of female foetuses is the reason for this skewed ratio. Naturally, if abortions were not done, there would be about 952 girls born for every 1000 boys. The exact number of abortions done in India, for obvious reasons, is not known.

Had an equal number of male foetuses also been killed, this genocide would have not have been known. It is doubtful whether the issue would have come to the limelight, in case the exact number of abortions was known and their numbers were equal. It is a regrettable fact that when there are people to fight for women's rights and animal rights, there are not many who uphold the sanctity of human life. Different reasons have been cited for the widespread female foeticide including ineffective implementation of the Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex-Section) Act, illegal promotion of ultrasound machines by business giants, greedy radiologists and gynaecologists who comply with people for abortions and the patriarchal system of society. While there are elements of truth in some of these and none in others, the overarching, real reason is quite deep.

A qualified doctor in India who does an abortion for wrong reasons is unlikely to get caught. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, which could rightly be called, ‘The Guardian Demon,' is such that one can do an abortion for whatever reason and still remain free. It allows a doctor to do an abortion if he ‘feels' that there is a grave risk to the mental health of the mother upon continuance of the pregnancy. Since this is very subjective, when stated as a reason, a doctor is free from any hassles. Contraceptive failure like the failure of condoms which cannot be ascertained by the doctor by any means, as a reason for which any couple can seek an abortion, is another highlight of this Act. The MTP Act, by its nature being very liberal, allows both doctors and clients to do abortions for the wrong reasons.

A growing disregard for the sanctity of human life has led to the liberalisation of abortion laws world over. In developing countries, a common view is that liberal abortion laws bring down maternal mortality. However, it should be noted that maternal mortality had improved considerably in western countries even before abortion laws were liberalised. Countries like Ireland which have stricter abortion laws record one of the best maternal mortality figures in the world. There are many humane ways of bringing down maternal mortality, and legalised killing of foetuses may not be the right one. In the West, while it is promiscuity that leads to unwanted pregnancies, the solution is found in killing foetuses and not in decrying promiscuity.

Abortion, though sounds milder, is nothing but taking a person's life. Our lives come into existence by a process which is too beautiful to describe, as if by a sculptor who makes his artwork fearfully and wonderfully, who takes pain to make every detail of it very artistic and without blemish. Anyone who has held a newborn baby would know this fact. This process starts right on day one of conception, in the wombs of our mothers. Therefore, taking someone body's life, even one's own child before he or she is born, for reasons such as greed for a male child, want of money, avoiding social embarrassment and unwillingness to take the responsibility of bringing up children, amount to murder. This heinous act should be abhorred at all costs.

A society has to kill its conscience before it kills its children. In the West, while the killing happens to maintain its sexual freedom, in the East it happens to satisfy its greed for having male babies. In this heinous crime, whether it is the greedy gynaecologist or the radiologist, or the greedy family which asks for the abortion, the conscience is killed first before the baby is killed. Foeticide is nothing but infanticide happening in a much earlier state. It appears as if education has not done much to arrest the moral degradation of people. This is proved by the fact that abortion practices are higher among the educated lot. A hardened conscience and disregard for the sanctity of life is the reason for widespread abortion, and female foeticide in particular.

“What's wrong with the world,” a famous author said: “I am.” It is true that every evil act by a human being ultimately has its source in the heart of the person. Our hearts are deceitful above all things and no one understands it really well. In the light of this, we, the human beings, who were foetuses to start with, whether lawmakers or doctors or the common man, should make all our decisions, especially when it comes to abortion, with a clear conscience and should refrain from flouting the sanctity of human life.

(The author is on the faculty of a private medical college. His email id is

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Thank you for this well-written article. It puts into perspective the whole female foeticide issue with the bigger issue of abortion. It is important to approach sensitive issues like this with minimal rancour and agitation. There will always be opposing arguments and the only response to individual situations can be one of love. However, there is always a right and wrong however much we try to make things sound ambiguous and 'grey'. And to me, it seems wrong to take life, at whatever stage, for whatever reason. And this does not necessarily come from a right wing fundamentalistic viewpoint!!

from:  Arpit Mathew
Posted on: Jun 26, 2011 at 00:59 IST

Strongly disagree! The author has taken the right wing fundamentalist's view, super-imposed it on another and very real issue of female foeticide in India and equated them. I wish he would have the intellectual integrity to put two things separately and discuss his personal proclivities clearly. An attempt to coat-tail women's right to live and prosper (in a poor nation like India where women are still treated like commodities) to befuddle the real reason behind this article(I suspect a christian viewpoint)is dishonest to say the least.

from:  Pradeep
Posted on: Jun 16, 2011 at 00:20 IST

It is very interesting to see a liberal in US would argue for pro-choice which is the woman's right to abort - as a women's right issue. Contrarily in India, the anti-abortion is seen as a liberal view and a woman's right issue. Kind of makes sense, because the most basic right that women need is the right to be born. Once we get over that hump, we can look into letting her take more rights like choosing to abort a baby SHE doesn't want.

from:  Anand
Posted on: Jun 15, 2011 at 01:20 IST

I am a pro-choice person, simply because it is better not to have a child than have one which the parents don't want. Also, sometimes the parents don't want to have the child at all, irrespective of the gender due to other constraints like finance etc. In such cases, the mother should be allowed to make the choice of whether she wants the baby or not. We are already at 1.2 billion and struggling for resources. There are many children in our country who do not know what a parent's affection is. Instead of only relating abortion to female foeticide, this study should try and find out as to how many abortions were done AFTER the gender was determined. Then we will know for sure if the abortion was done only because it was a female child. Also, parents wanting an abortion should not be told the gender of the child.

from:  Nitya
Posted on: Jun 14, 2011 at 01:33 IST

I agree with the author's view but, when he says 'abortion is nothing but taking a person's life,' I'd like to point out that it also depends on the circumstances in which a mother wants to abort her child. The topic is very subjective. Also, I like the way how the author has brought out the vagueness of The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act in India. The article on whole is a good read.

from:  Tejaswini P
Posted on: Jun 13, 2011 at 23:20 IST

I completely agree with the author's views. I believe that there is much to be done both from the government's side in enacting a strict law and educating people and our society itself that needs to grow out of nonsense of patriarchy. Lack of respect for other's life and views is clearly an issue in our society which has surfaced showing many facets from honour killings to female foeticide. I suppose some strict laws can curb such issues over time like the recent one from Supreme Court of 'death' for honour killing.

from:  Rajiv
Posted on: Jun 13, 2011 at 21:42 IST

I didn't need to go too far in the article to find out that the author is advocating a Pro-Life stance. This has little to do with female infanticide. Medical Termination of Pregnancy in India was legalized primarily to aid in measures to control population growth. Regardless of the reasons behind this important piece of legislation, India has upheld the rights of women, by and large, to have an abortion, under certain restricted circumstances. This is a far more progressive stance that the one the author is advocating.
I think it is important that present laws on abortion not be touched in order to uphold this important piece of legislation that guarantees women at least some degree of control over this body, unless of course if it be to make abortions more easily available. But more crucially, I hope we don't get sucked into the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice debate that has been the centerpiece of a fair amount of the political discourse in America. The debate here needs to focus on the reasons behind female foeticide, rather than the ethics of abortion. Putting further restrictions on abortion would only be another impediment to women's rights in this country.

from:  Dhruv
Posted on: Jun 13, 2011 at 11:37 IST

This is a well written piece and should be an eye-opener. We live in a time and age where we speak up for everything from monkeys to laboratory mice (probably warranted too, I agree) but are silent about the right of an unborn child! Should we not speak up for the unborn child as well? It is strange that society will blame a mother for abandoning a child after he is born but find no trouble with the same woman aborting her child before birth! Foeticide is no different from infanticide - just a few months ahead that's all! Those who argue for the woman's choice must insist that the choice is made BEFORE conception not after!

from:  Santosh
Posted on: Jun 12, 2011 at 22:30 IST

I agree with most of the author's views. However, I do have to express my feeling that The Hindu would probably not have published this 'pro-life' piece that argues that life begins at conception if it were not aimed at female foeticide in India. It would be heartening if 'The Hindu' would support advancing similar arguments when it comes to the abortion (baby's life v/s mother's choice) debate. This argument has to hold the same merit when it is advanced in either debate.

from:  Rahul
Posted on: Jun 12, 2011 at 02:58 IST
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