On the first issue let's just clarify UK law on abortion. Basically an abortion is allowed if there is a significant risk of the baby being born disabled or if having the baby will adversley effect the women's, or existing children's, physical or mental well being. This last reason essentially means we have abortion on demend in our country. If a woman says that, at this stage in her life, she could not cope with a baby, then she can have an abortion.Why, then, the moral outrage expressed by some who support the above, but find the idea of gender selective abortions unacceptable? Is there any significant difference? In both cases an unwanted foetus is aborted.
There are clearly some instances when the reasons for abortions are obvious and well supported, such as in the case of pregnancy through rape, and many, but not all, would agree that there is a significant difference between this and a gender selective abortion.
However is it really right that a women who knowingly didn't use contraception and then gets an abortion on grounds that she couldn't cope with a baby can have abortion, when another women, say with 2 sons who really wants a girl, cannot have one if she finds out she is expecting another boy. It is hard to see how the behaviour of the woman in the first example is more morally acceptable than the behaviour of the woman in the second.
On the other hand there are Pro-Life groups who argue that all abortion is wrong; it is killing a human being and should never be done. While this view can be condemned for lacking compassion, especially when the pregnancy may be as a result of rape, it does not suffer from the moral ambiguities that our current abortion laws seem to allow.
The second issue seems even more contentious. Can anyone really be arguing that killing babies is acceptable?! Well the answer is yes, and here is why; the reason abortions are allowed is because the foetus is not a human person in the sense that it cannot survive independantly, it cannot communicate with any level of sophistication, it has very little in the way of rational abilities or self awareness. The trouble is that these things could also be said of a newborn baby - it can't survive independantly for any length of time; left alone it will die, and at this stage in life, it does not possess the communicative or rational abilities associated with being human. Therefore, the argument goes, if it's okay to abort a foetus for certain reasons, which many people say it is, then it is okay to kill a new born baby for the same reasons. This is actually not a new arguement and the likes of Peter Singer have been advocating it for years.
Interestingly enough it is also the view held by many Pro-Life supporters but for the opposite reason. They would say that as there is no real difference between an unborn and a new born child so it is therefore wrong to have an abortion, just as it is wrong to kill a baby.
These issues are very complex and contentious but they do highlight the importance of ethics in the real world.
For more on gender abortions click here.
For more on the infanticide issue click here.