Wednesday, November 4, 2009

China Not So Sensitive

In an overpopulated nation that has 1.6 billion people living in it, an advertisement for a quick and painless abortion is far from uncommon. China has a much higher population than any other country in the world. Abortion is widely accepted there, as it is seen as a way to reduce the strain of such a high population. However, there are many ethical issues surrounding the morality of unborn fetuses and abortion. In the article “Combating overpopulation…with Korea Style No Hurt 3-Minute Abortion” the author, Ben Ross, states that abortion in China “is not nearly as sensitive as it is in the Bible Belt of North America” (2007). Ross believes that we make abortion a bigger deal then it really is. The main issue is a demarcation problem to determine at what point does a fetus gains moral value rather then just being a ball of growing cells. The true conflict between different ethical views can be seen when the problem is examined through a consequentialist (utilitarian) and a non-consequentialist (deontologist) perspective. After close examination it is easily seen where Chinese society stands in regards to abortion.

The demarcation point is where you draw the line between science and morals. This is extremely complicated in regards to abortion. This is because different people have different definitions of when a fetus becomes a being, with rights of life. Some consider the point when the baby is conceived, while other believe it receives the right of life when it takes its first breathe. No matter which point in time a person believes it is morally wrong to kill an unborn fetus, there is always a strong argument against them: However in China they for the most part they accept that “Abortion…is not a controversial issue, nor is it a highly debated topic” (2007). They believe that abortion is morally ok, in order for their society to prosper; to the point that they advertise abortion on billboards.

A consequentialist is a person who looks at the consequences of their action rather than the action itself. An action could be frowned upon, but as long as the action leads you to the betterment of society then action is worth doing. This can be seen on Chinese society’s views on contraception:

“China just may be the most “pro-choice” country in the world, as abortion is not only 100% legal and unrestricted, but based on these advertisements, I’m assuming it’s not too difficult to get one either. Contraception is easily attainable as well. Condoms are sold at convenience stores, sex shops, and random dispensers in public places and birth control pills can be purchased for around 20 RMB (approx $1.60 USD) per month at any pharmacy, without a prescription.” (2007)

The society as a whole takes a consequentialist view; they see that the consequences of their actions will help them keep their population from growing further, and having even worse repercussions on the environment. Another view related to consequentialist is utilitarianism. A utilitarian believes people’s happiness is the most important thing to consider when planning your actions. An action is considered ethically correct if it benefits the majority of people. There are many benefits provided by safe and legal abortions. They allow women the freedom to live without the burden of a child they are not ready for, and they prevent children from being put up for adoption. “One reason behind the government’s stance on contraception and abortion is that China simply has too many people. Restricting abortions would make the problem even worse. While official estimates set the population at just over 1.3 billion, it is widely accepted that the actual population may be as high as 1.6 billion” (2007). The government believes that their people will be happier with this method of keeping the population at bay. Countries with dense populations are more susceptible to infectious diseases due to close living quarters, and also require an extremely large amount of effort to provide food, water and other necessities to everybody. If the strained large populations are reduced, many people will benefit and be happy because these negative effects will also be reduced. Therefore from a utilitarian perspective, on abortion is justified.

The opposing view to consequentialist is non-consequentialist; they believe is examining the action rather than only looking at the outcome. A non-consequentialist would view abortion as a terrible act because they look at the action of killing the unborn baby as a bad thing, even though the benefits outweigh the negatives. Here in North America “most public advertisements for abortion usually involved a yard full of crosses each representing a child who had been “murdered,” as a result of abortion” (2007). This is because in North America majority of people see abortion as murder, they look at the action rather than the outcome. The reason for this is because, the population crisis is virtually non-existent to an extent, and we have plenty of room, which is why our immigration rate is so high. Connected to non-consequentialism are deontologists who determine goodness and righteousness through a person’s actions. Abortion would never be accepted by a deontologist. They see the action of killing and reject the action immediately.

Unlike China, North Americans would not see the benefits, and would take a non-consequentialist view on abortion.It can be seen that different people will interpret situations differently, around the world. In China views on abortion are accepted, because of the extremely high population, while in North America it is highly frowned upon. Abortion can be looked at from many angles, and it can be debated a number of ways. At one side you look at the action of killing an unborn baby, while on the other hand you are aiding, in keeping an already exploding population under control. The question for the reader is: Do you look at the initial actions or the benefits at the end?

Ross, B. (2007, March 06). Combating overpopulation…with korea style no hurt 3-minute abortion. Retrieved from

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