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Tuesday, November 04, 2003

I am sorry that I am unable to persuade Vivek about the danger of banning of selective aborting of foetuses. This may have something to do with the whole issue of abortion in general. I have come to conclude that positions on abortion are generally deeply ingrained prejudices and reason is pitifully inadequate to alter them. One holds on to one's opinions with religious tenacity. I will try once more, in vain perhaps, to restate my argument.

Vivek writes:

Atanu sets up a false choice. Infact aborting the female foetuses and the terrible fate are two sides of the same coin. You can't get rid of one without getting rid of the other. Does Atanu truly believe that aborting the female foetus will improve the lot of the girl child?

Technically, the two sides of a coin present a dichotomous choice. Therefore if one claims that two matters are akin to two sides of a coin, one is admitting that there is a dichotomy and therefore a choice is implied: you can either have a head or a tail, but not both. Therefore, one cannot accuse me of setting up a false choice while admitting that the issues are two sides of a coin.

Now about the matter of whether aborting the female foetus will improve the lot of the girl child? Clearly, if the neglected girl child is the one which is the result of the completion of an unwanted pregnancy, then the aborting of the foetus will not result of the girl child and therefore it is an improvement in that there will not be a girl child to be abused and neglected and sold to Jat farmers and so on.

My gripe with policy of banning selective abortion is this: it does nothing to address any of the causes of problem; it merely attempts to deal with the effect. It is dangerous to attempt to supress the effect. The effect is a signal that there is an underlying fundamental set of causes and that we must do something about that if we don't want the effect. By suppressing the effect (the signal), it is possible that we lose our drive to fix the cause. If I take a headache pill and supress the effect, I will have less of an incentive to inquire into the cause. Perhaps the headache is a signal of a growing tumor. Suppressing the headache could make me ignore the cause and hasten my demise.

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