The Times’ Response to the Mehta Abortion Case

In the space of the two days after their initial response (which I labeled Intellectual Cowardice), The Times of India has come out with some articles whose substance helps explain their initial response. There could have been two principled stands to take.

a) A woman has an absolute right to her body and no one else may properly interfere with it for any purposes whatsoever.

b) A fetus has an absolute right to life and no one may properly take any action that violates it, irrespective of any risk to the mother or the potential child.

The Times does not take any of these stands. In fact, in the world of moral relativism that it inhabits (and has helped create), it would not even understand any of these stands. It does not think of anything as absolute, not even the right to life. In its world view, everything must be judged within a context and invariably the means of judgement is “a democratic consensus” and the context is “good of the society”. Both the stands above would be termed dogmatic, impractical and dangerous.

As evidence consider:

“There are valid concerns that in a country like India where female foeticide is a real problem, any further relaxation of abortion laws could be misused. However, that argument must not hold reasonable reforms to the MTP Act to ransom. There is a separate law — the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Tests Act — to address the issue of female foeticide. Its enforcement is poor; government would do well to get its act together in that area.”

“Ethicists, social scientists, lawmakers and medical specialists should discuss such issues on a common platform until a consensus is reached. A new and liberal abortion law is urgently required but we need to be careful as it may be abused to perform female foeticide. The medical profession in the past has refused to accept collective responsibility for this genocide and has a poor record in ensuring ethical conduct of doctors. It does not have any credibility and has failed to self-regulate. All future laws must be transparent and have built-in checks and mechanisms to curb female foeticide, while accommodating late abortions of grossly abnormal foetuses.”

“It [The current law] allows termination of the pregnancy even beyond the 20th week, if there is a threat to the mother’s life. However, it does not extend that provision to cases where the child’s health after birth might be under adverse risk. It was this lacuna that the Mehtas were challenging as their unborn child runs the risk of being born with congenital heart ailments.”

(emphasis mine)

In the world view that The Times exemplifies, laws and rights are optimization parameters, that are to be continuously tweaked to achieve the common good. This case then was only a sad but inevitable occurrence that highlighted the need for some more tweaking. Their initial reponse was not intellectual cowardice. It was not intellectual at all. It arose from a rejection of principles as being applicable to life. Since principles are derived by an application of the intellect, it showed a rejection of the intellect, an abdication of the role that a newspaper is expected to play in public discourse.

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