Bioethics Blogs

Abortion on the grounds of sex

Apparently some UK doctors have been aborting babies because their parents don’t want a baby of that sex. In response the government is now planning to outlaw  abortion on the grounds of sex. It is already illegal, however, so we must wonder what the politicians are up to.  A question being ignored is whether it is even wrong to abort on the grounds of sex.

Officially, abortion in the UK is only available on medical grounds (see), specifically, that an abortion is less harmful to a woman’s health than the pregnancy. It is apparently obvious to the politicians that the sex of the baby is irrelevant to the mother’s health: but in that case abortion on grounds of sex is already illegal. Consequently there is no real reason to change the law and the politicians are probably just pandering to some or other faction to buy their votes.

Despite this,  I can think of one bizarre kind of case in which it might be legal: that because of a mother’s hatred of men (or her hatred of women) to bear a baby boy (or girl) would mentally unhinge her. The  immorality of her hatred would be irrelevant to whether it would be less harmful to her health to abort or continue the pregnancy: all that matters is the causal fact. This example challenges the plans to change the law to explicitly forbid abortion on the grounds of sex. If the basis of the law is truly and only the question of whether the abortion is less harmful to a woman’s health than the pregnancy, the woman of my bizarre case satisfies that criterion.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.