Here's an unique moral dilemma regarding woman and their bodily autonomy in childbirth and abortion.

Should women have bodily autonomy when it comes to child birth and abortion?

Well the answer seems obvious, ofcourse yes. It is their body and everyhuman is entitled to the autonomy of their body. A fetus cannot be considered as a fully developed human being.

But here's the objection for it.

  1. Can women selectively abort the fetuses based on their gender? As it has been done in many third world countries, many female fetuses were aborted, which eventually led to the banning of sex selective abortion. But this goes against absolute autonomy of women's bodies.

  2. Can conservative women, abort fetuses which have the more probability of being LGBTQ+. This, as of now, is a hypothetical moral thought experiment. If in future science advances to predict with reasonable certainty the orientation and trans status of a fetus, can the woman choose to abort it? Or can she take drugs and hormones to affect the orientation and trans status of the fetus?

Note: We have found no particular gene to influence orientation, there's some evidence for orientation being an epigenetic phenomenon. Transsexuality seems to be more genetic related and also related to prenatal testosterone exposure.

The question boils down to basically, do women have rights to bodily autonomy even when they want abort sex selectively or try to kill fetuses which may grow up to be LGBTQ? Is the ethic 'my body my choice' valid only till it doesn't create a systemic problem and if it does create a systemic problem can womens' bodily autonomy violated? Why? Why not?

P.S: This is not a Pro life vs Pro choice question. And this is cross platform question with philosophy stack exchange.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 10:06
  • I'm not even saying it's immoral. In philosophy "it's immoral" alone means nothing. Philosophers have proposed many moral frameworks and axioms and one always have to make clear which one is considered when positing a moral judgement. Otherwise we are just giving our opinion, which nobody cares about. I'm just saying, Kant would probably not like it. But Bentham would probably have no problem with it.
    – armand
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 10:07

3 Answers 3


There are two basic pro-choice arguments.

  1. Prior to some point in the pregnancy, the fetus does not have personhood, and so a pregnant person is doing no harm by ending their pregnancy.

  2. Regardless of whether a fetus is a person, no person has the right to use another person's body without their consent, and therefore a pregnant person has a right to end their pregnancy.

Neither of these two arguments are affected in any way by the motivation of the person seeking to end their pregnancy.

So the answer to your question is that a person's rights to bodily autonomy are not dependent on whether I agree with them or approve of their motives in exercising that autonomy. The reason is that their body belongs to them and does not belong to me, and therefore it is none of my business why they are doing the things they do.

  • Excellent answer. So you would be against ban on sex selective abortion in countries like India. Interesting.
    – user59631
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 13:54
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    @HariKumar Note that this can easily be mitigated by a prohibition of identifying the sex or disclosing genetic information up until a week where abortion is not allowed but in extreme cases (endangerment of the mother's life, extreme forms of medical statuses that preclude a normal life expectancy or independent leading of life) anymore. The problems can easily be handled without there being a dilemma at all.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 17:27
  • @PhilipKlöcking wrong. Her body her choice but she can't know what's growing inside her and get a sonography? Shouldn't it be between her and her doctor. They have bodily autonomy but they can't know their own body?? Ridiculous. Also this solution can be avoided, by artificial insemination of only male offspring causing sperm. We could fertilize the zygote in a petridish and do the same thing without abortion itself. On what moral grounds can you stop this? Their body their choice.
    – user59631
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 17:48
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    @JustSomeOldMan People do self-mutilate, and it is legal. I also support a person's right to end their own life for precisely the reason that they have bodily autonomy. And, yes, while I find sex-selective abortion to be truly and genuinely horrifying, my horror should not have the force of law.
    – philosodad
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 0:41
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    @JustSomeOldMan Further, no law or regulation requires anyone to get vaccinated. The only regulations proposed or existing (at least in the US), are about whether an unvaccinated person, who is a risk to others, should be allowed to perform certain jobs or attend state schools. That's not the same thing.
    – philosodad
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 0:47

I'll argue for a general "no" but conditional "yes" based on a "cautiously consequentialist" ethics.

Because it takes into account difficult balancing, it's mainly a legal ethics - but a personal ethics would be congruent with with some offset in the less permissive direction. With "Cautiously" i mean humility in anticipating what abortion policy actually results in in reality. "Consequentialist" meaning that the outcome of the policy is what matters and that this can be both good, desirable or bad, or even evil. The multitude of foreseeable consequences must be weighed against each other.

Under this ethics, basically any adverse consequence of a pregnancy would be a potentially legitimate reason. Every ethical abortion ground is associated with pregnancy stage, and various other weighted conditionals that take into consideration all reasonably foreseeable consequences (for the parents, any siblings,society, even for the future person).

Early in pregnacy, almost all grounds are legitimate, including wishes to not have a boy/girl for whatever reason. However under the societal condition that this isn't disrupting gender balance (like it did in China).

Even characteristics such as LGBTQ, in a situation where the parent wishes grandchildren is a conditionally legitimate reason. One such condition would be that this would be likely be the parents only child. Abnormally reducing "unusual" personality characterisics in society including LGBTQ is imo a big no-no. It's a social good with a lot of variety and so this consequence must carry weight.

Capability (economic, healthwise, etc) for the parent to take care of the child is another condition that affects when/if abortion is ethically permissible. The integrity and increasing personhood of the developing fetus and the desire to maintain sanctity for personhood, is reflected in letting the stage of pregnancy have weight.

This is just a sketch of this ethic, the devil being in the details, but i hope it gives the gist of it.

  • So the moment society can have negative effects we can take away women's bodily autonomy?
    – user59631
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 15:08
  • //"Abnormally" reducing "unusual" personality characterisics in society including LGBTQ is imo a big no-no" // So if a woman chooses to abort because the fetus is likely becomes LGBTQ, the state can stop it and take control over her body?
    – user59631
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 15:10
  • To your first question: Not necessarily - the woman can be acknowledged to have a quite high degree of autonomy under this ethic, very high even. It becomes just another one of these things to weigh in. As to the second: I don't know exactly how this ethics would be best enforced, but yes it could be deemed illegal to have/make such an abortion. Whatever the legal consequences is another ethical discussion, but i personally don't think women should be punished, the legal consequences should rather be that abortion clinics should be fined. Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 15:33
  • My problem is reconciling this view with Woman's basic ethic my body and my choice. Why should it be deemed illegal, it's her bkdy her choice. This is the dilemma I'm pointing at. Also why is the doctor a criminal? This sounds a lot like Jordan Peterson saying the doctor who operated on Elliot Paige is a criminal. The Doctor only did by the consent of an adult. The only possible solution I think is the accepted answer to the question. To give women total autonomy, they can do what ever they want with their body.
    – user59631
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 16:13
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    Ok, so obviously not all, including me, will think it's quite that easy and accept that presuppostion that it's woman's body, her choice to abort the devloping fetus/baby at any stage of the pregancy, for any reason whatsoever. But if you do, well yes then you certainly have to allow women to make the decision of abortion on grounds that fly in the face of political correctness. Either that or you're obviously not honoring the principle that you proclaim to stand above all other considerations. Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 16:44

You ask: "The question boils down to basically, do women have rights to bodily autonomy [...]?" The question conflates issues of morality with issues of legality.

Moral rights would be what, categorical imperatives? Not so much a right as an obligation. If you mean legal right, then the context of a jurisdiction is needed for a meaningful answer. Let's take the States, for instance.

Involuntary servitude is prohibited. 13th Amendment. You cannot force a woman to carry. And no, the unborn have no rights (14th Amendment, only the born). This is not a moral or religious issue; it is about women not being slaves.

  • Yes and the question is asking can women if they like choose the gender and orientation of the baby if they can?
    – user59631
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 13:54

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