At the Edge

Commentary on the Big Issues

Category: Society

Why I Oppose Jallikattu

With the four-day harvest festival of Pongal emerging in January, precisely one month ago, so did the debate about jallikattu, a 2000-year-old sport typically celebrated on the third day of Pongal, referred to as Mattu Pongal, in which individuals try to latch on to the humps and horns of bulls in an effort to tame them, with gifts of money and gold tied to the sharpened horns of the animal.

The sport of jallikattu was banned when bulls were added in 2011 to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act which restricted animals performing for entertainment under the fear of animal abuse. In 2014, the Supreme Court, presented with evidence from the Animal Welfare Board of India with regard to the “torture and cruelty” endured by bulls during jallikattu fights, upheld the ban. On January 8, 2016, the Ministry of the Environment revoked the order to add bulls to the PCA Act and, by extension, legalized jallikattu. However, the Supreme Court issued a stay on the order in response to a petition issued by the Animal Welfare Board of India and PETA India, leading to protests in January 2016 statewide, with the World Youth Organization demanding a ban on PETA.


Thousands of pro-jallikattu protesters at the Marina Beach. Credit: Gan13166 via Wikimedia Commons. 

By Gan13166 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

However, when the debate on jallikattu was reignited this Pongal, so too were the protests, with much greater intensity. It began when hundreds of jallikattu supporters organized a rally at Chennai’s Marina Beach protesting the ban on jallikattu and calling for immediate change. 220 pro-jallikattu protestors at Madurai were detained one week later. In response, many more students gathered at the Marina Beach to protest, and many volunteer groups and individuals began protesting, leading to a push for an ordinance by representatives of the Tamil Nadu state government to repeal the ban on jallikattu. Soon, in the push for the ordinance to be signed by the President of India, 2 million people gathered at the Marina Beach in what was termed “Occupy Marina.” Most organizations in Tamil Nadu shut down in solidarity with the protesters. On January 23, with protesters refusing to leave, forceful evictions occurred. In response, the protesters engaged in arson and stone-pelting, using “petroleum bombs,” and torching police stations. The Tamil Nadu State Assembly passed a uninanimous bill legalizing jallikattu in Tamil Nadu temporarily.

These protests require us to answer tough questions. Is it justified for the police to forcibly evict protesters? Is democracy on the streets, or on the ballot box? Those are questions that require abstract, philosophical answers: ones that are too vague and abstract for ordinary debate. What is up for debate, however, is whether it is justified, in such a scenario, to pursue a sport that engages in animal exploitation. In this post, I’m going to argue against jallikattu — specifically, I’m going to provide my arguments against it, and refute some common arguments in favor of it.

The Case Against Jallikattu

Animal Cruelty

The first reason I oppose jallikattu is direct: it harms the bulls. A common claim among supporters of jallikattu denies any harm to animals caused by jallikattu. Consider this article, which suggests that that jallikattu is a “fair sport” in which “both human and animal are aware of the game,” and that regulation is sufficient to end animal abuse. All of that is nonsense, and is provably false. The idea that animals are “aware of the game” is obviously false. Animals can’t “consent” to doing something like that when the people initiate it. The fear displayed by bulls also demonstrates clearly that the bull doesn’t consent.

Regulation is insufficient simply because jallikattu is fundamentally abusive. It may not be as harmful as Spanish bullfighting — which, for the record, organizations such as PETA do fight — but it’s still pretty abusive. Inspections jointly conducted by PETA and the Animal Welfare Board of India demonstrate that under regulated jallikattu, massive physical abuse takes place to incur the bulls to respond. In the arena, multiple people pounce on the bull, inducing massive psychological trauma, in which, according to PETA’s conclusions from the inspection, “the bulls become so frightened by the mob of men who participate that they slip, fall, run into barriers and traffic – and even jump off cliffs in their desperate attempts to escape – frequently leading to broken bones or death.”

Just a few days ago, three bulls fell into wells due to their fear. There’s also physical harm from the participants actually hitting the bulls, and even the weight of multiple participants together. Which means, even if abuse is “regulated,” the sport becomes fundamentally about harming the bull. Furthermore, the police themselves engage in abusing the bulls, which means they won’t enforce regulation — but they will enforce a blanket ban because it’s easy to prove that a jallikattu event happened. It’s hard to prove specific abuse.

The government should legislate to prevent animal cruelty. As I’ve already argued before, animals have rights. Since bulls are self-aware and are sentient, under a utilitarian framework, they ought to have rights. While it’s downright impossible to ban meat eating, for instance, and doing that would be demonstrably harmful to society, the only benefit from society is “entertainment.” Jallikattu is a directly harmful sport that should be illegal, as should other, similar sports, such as Kambala.

Edit 3/14/17: The claim that jallikattu as it is currently practiced does not follow the “real rules” of jallikattu — and that those real rules are humane — is ridiculous. First, that’s absolutely not the case, considering that these rural areas built the practice of jallikattu. Second, and more importantly, that doesn’t matter. Insofar as it involves even a single person holding on to the bull’s hump, the bull is going to panic. The sheer psychological trauma is what causes so many bulls to die in jallikattu games. Furthermore, these “real rules” aren’t going to be enforced, and I’ve already explained how a jallikattu ban solves.


Jallikattu is not merely a tradition that oppresses animals. It discriminates among humans as well — as alluded to in T. M. Krishna’s popular column on the issue. Jallikattu inadvertently perpetuates casteist and sexist marginalization. For instance, feminists have objected to the relegation of women to merely caregivers of bulls, while men are the only ones who actually “wrestle” the bulls — spreading notions of “masculinity” and sexism within rural communities.

Similarly, others have noted that jallikattu is casteist. Dalit activists decry jallikattu as divisive, because the sport is often exclusionary to members of “lower caste” individuals. The same article mentions that Tamil Nadu’s villages are often segregated on the basis of caste, and Dalit portions of villages, which are typically slums, have much more subdued jallikattu events. If there is an integrated event, Dalits are disproportionately pushed away to unpaid and less glamorous jobs, like “playing a percussion instrument to set the tone” and to “take care of the bulls” [quoted from the same article]. Other opinion articles have condemned jallikattu as sexist and casteist as well.

Rebuttal to Common Arguments

Proponents of jallikattu have consistently argued the same things: that jallikattu protects indigeneous breeds, that it is an integral part of Tamil culture, and that organizations such as PETA are somehow conspiracies to erode this culture. All of the arguments fail. I’ll address each of them here. Comment if you have anything else; I’ll respond to it.

Indigeneous Breeds

The argument that jallikattu protects indigeneous breeds is based on the idea that the bulls used for jallikattu are used to impregnate other cows, thus allowing for indigeneous breeds to be protected from extinction. This argument fails for three reasons.

Bos taurus indicus.jpg

Zebu (Bos taurus indicus), one of the breeds used in jallikattu. Credit: Scott Bauer, USDA ARS, via Wikimedia Commons.

First, this impregnation can happen anyway. Farmers won’t get rid of cows if jallikattu is prevented since there’s no monetary benefit from jallikattu. These bulls aren’t going to be sold to slaughter. Second, “preserving indigeneous breeds” doesn’t benefit the bulls. The members of these breeds are just going to suffer and die. The only supposed benefit is from the milk of the cattle — which is fundamentally and inherently tied to animal exploitation. Third, the idea that jallikattu is the only way to preserve indigeneous breeds is preposterous. Economic and market support for cattle farmers is possible. It just never happens. If preserving indigeneous breeds is the reason to support jallikattu, that’s much more effective.


Cultural norms are discontinued or reformed all the time, to make way for social progress. Sati (the practice of a widow ending her life on her husband’s death upon social pressure to do so) and child marriage — both barbaric practices — have been ended to make way for social progress. This isn’t a strong or compelling argument. As an article in The Diplomat explains:

The monolithic entity that Tamil culture seems to have become during the progression of the debate over Jallikattu has culminated in the proponent camp decrying any and all opposition of Jallikattu as inherently anti-Tamil.

The idea that jallikattu is intrinsically tied to ‘being Tamil’ isn’t necessarily true — because culture should not be about cruelty and oppression. It should be about inclusion.


Most conspiracies surrounding jallikattu are ridiculous. The idea that PETA is trying to “open the market for Western companies to advertise their cattle,” or, even more ridiculous, trying to “sell bull semen” is ridiculous. There’s no evidence whatsoever for these assertions, and none of it forms any offensive reason to allow jallikattu.


Jallikattu is a sport hinged upon marginalization and animal cruelty. However, it carries with it cultural intricacies most urban individuals won’t understand. The current practice of jallikattu, however, needs to be abolished — not merely by the government, but by rural community as a whole. The reinvention of the sport as something to truly uphold culture while spreading compassion without oppression is necessary.

Insofar as that is not amended, jallikattu is fundamentally the exploitation of animals for entertainment — something that Tamil culture should not be proud of. We should be ashamed of abuse of any form.

Note that none of this criticism is unique to jallikattu. It applies to all blood sports which involve animals. Spanish bullfighting, for instance, and things like dogfighting and cockfighting, are even more horrendous than such sports. Animal cruelty in the name of entertainment or culture is unjustified, because justice requires the recognition of animal rights. We ought to end cruelty for entertainment.

Anti-LGBT Laws

LGBT discrimination still exists today, even in the United States, despite the fact that Obergefell v. Hodges solved for a major portion of it. It’s disgusting and despicable, and with this (very brief) post, I hope to highlight a specific issue on LGBT rights: “religious freedom” laws. 

There are still 29 states in which individuals can get fired for being gay, or face similar abject discrimination just because of who they are. Take the case of Casey Stegall, a children’s social services worker who was fired just because of his sexual orientation. That’s the sort of thing that happens in America — progressive America. Why? The push from the Republican Party’s religious right, of course, in the form of bills such as the First Amendment Defense Act and Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

All of these bills claim to be for the “preservation” of religious freedom, but the real objective behind them is obvious — this is a push against the LGBT+ community. In other words, they want to give people the right to destroy other people’s lives — making them unemployed, denying them healthcare or education, etc. — simply because they’re against the “religious principles” of those people. And by “they are against,” I’m saying that their existence is against the reactionary religious beliefs of certain individuals (including this bunch of far-right politicians).

The classic example of this form of discrimination is the example of people refusing to bake the cakes of LGBT individuals. That is hardly the main focus here. The main focus is cases such as those when hospitals can turn away LGBT people even in cases of emergency, causing the deaths of individuals. It’s when huge corporations can exploit LGBT individuals because of their conservative inclinations, by firing individuals, and thus destroying their lives, because of their sexual orientation. This should be reason enough to reject such despicable laws: engineered to rid individuals that don’t fall into the far-right’s precepts of their lives.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. This is a vast threat to social justice that the conservative establishment wants. Because they don’t care about the people as much as they care about their pathetic principles. The way these laws form a crux of politics is despicable, and they should be rejected with the deepest fervor.

The Case Against Capital Punishment

Capital punishment is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the legally authorized killing of someone as punishment for a crime.” This does not include killing someone in action — it solely involves punishment, after trial and conviction of a crime, by execution. Of the 195 sovereign states that are members or observers of the United Nations, 102 states have fully abolished it for all crimes. Another 6 countries — Brazil, Chile, Peru, El Salvador, Kazakhstan, and Israel — have abolished it for all cases except exceptional circumstances such as war criminals. 50 countries retain capital punishment de jure, but have not used it for 50 years, so it is not used de facto. That leaves 37 countries — China, the United States, India, Iran, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand and 24 others — that actively practice capital punishment.

I am arguing, in this blog post, that the position of those 37 countries is deeply flawed — and that capital punishment is a primitive form of punishment that should be abolished. I am going to make the case for abolition of capital punishment.

I’ve polled a few friends of mine and a few people I know about their opinions on capital punishment. The immense amount of support for the death penalty is shocking. Indeed, only four of the thirty-or-so people I’ve asked have said they do not support capital punishment. When asked to justify their position, I have primarily received three justifications for this being the case: (1) some people deserve to die, and justice requires that retribution be done; (2) the death penalty will deter would-be criminals from committing those crimes, aiding society in the process; and (3) it takes a lot of money and resources to keep a person in life imprisonment, while death will significantly reduce the amount of resources. I will refute those arguments in today’s post, in addition to providing my own case against the death penalty.

So I’m first going to tear down all the arguments in favor of capital punishment, and then, in its place, erect a case against capital punishment, thus providing reasons to abolish the death penalty.

Let’s look to the first argument. That argument makes no sense — because it’s merely blind retribution, revenge, which is utterly pointless. There’s no doubt that retribution is a part of the criminal justice system because that’s what societal values ask for, but the harms created by the death penalty (listed below) far outweigh this one.

Next, the death penalty doesn’t deter crime at all. 88% of criminologists polled agree that the death penalty has no deterrent effect. The notion that the death penalty deters homicides relies on a certain econometric model called “rational choice theory.” Rational choice theory is a model that suggests that, in the demand-side and among the common populace, choices are taken based on analysis of costs and benefits. For instance, it would suggest that, if someone were to buy a sandwich, they would subconsciously weigh the costs and benefits of buying the same sandwich, both long term and short term. The same is applied to the death penalty, wherein people suppose that would-be murderers won’t commit crimes because of the fear of death awaiting them. And it is natural instinct for people to think that, because all of us fear death.

The problem is, that intuition is probably false. The death penalty is a long term consequence, but the reality (and, upon thinking through it, we all realize it) is that people typically consider short-term consequences when performing actions and fail to properly weigh the magnitude of those actions. For instance, when a person buys some French fries, that person only thinks of the short-term consequences (immediate pleasure and relief from hunger), failing to consider the fact that it could have potential, long-term adverse effects to their health. The same applies here. When someone commits a major crime, they only think of the short-term consequence, or act impulsively. Dr. Jonathan Groner explains,

“The psychological mind-set of the criminal is such that they are not able to consider consequences at the time of the crime. Most crimes are crimes of passion that are done in situations involving intense excitement or concern. People who commit these crimes are not in a normal state of mind — they do not consider the consequences in a logical way.”

 The American Civil Liberties Union confirms that the majority of homicides are murders of passion, committed under the heat of the moment, and even pre-planned murders tend to be based solely on short-term consequences. To whatever extent that the death penalty deters homicides, other forms of imprisonment serve as an equal deterrent. Indeed, there’s no statistically significant correlation between the death penalty and reduction in crime rates either. Murder rates in states that have the death penalty are not significantly different — or are even higher — in states that don’t have the death penalty. A study by John Donohue and Justin Wolfers finds that there is no correlation that suggests deterrence.

The third argument fails too. In fact, the death penalty costs more than other forms of punishment. Why? Two reasons: (1) liberal judges that oppose the death penalty always try their best to not give it as punishment, which requires significantly more lawyers and resources in the court; and (2) when it comes to the death penalty, there needs to be some level of certainty as to whether a person is guilty (though even that isn’t successful in determining accuracy, often), so a lot of resources are spent. A study by Sherod Thaxton found that a single capital case (i.e. a case where the death penalty is being considered) costs $2 million more than any non-capital case. Indeed, even the resources spent on life without parole are less than the resources used up by the death penalty. Research finds that, since 1978, $4 billion taxpayer dollars have been spent on the death penalty in the state of California alone. That’s $308 million per execution. Indeed, the cost of (a) a capital case, combined with (b) the cost of keeping a prisoner on death row, is greater than the total cost/resources spent on life imprisonment.

Thus, the arguments usually presented in favor of a death penalty are unsound. Now, let’s move on to my own case against the death penalty: why the death penalty should be abolished.

First, capital punishment causes psychological damage. The death penalty causes significant psychological harms to people other than those convicted of the crime in question. The first people affected by capital punishment are the executioners — people who are responsible for carrying out the execution. Executions require a team of executioners to oversee what’s going out and to carry out the execution itself — no machine can accomplish this on its own. But the experience of killing another human being is incredibly traumatic. Jerry Givens, a former executioner from Virginia, explains:

“I performed the execution. So you might suffer a little. I’m going to suffer a lot, because I performed the job.”

Empirical research shows that executioners can suffer from paranoia and clinical depression as a direct effect of executions. Because carrying out an execution is painful.

The psychological trauma faced by the family of the executed is also immense. While, generally, there is collateral damage caused by any punishment, the level of damage caused by an execution is far beyond that. Children whose parents have been executed face severe psychological harm and are often socially ostracized as a result. Researchers Robert Cushing and Susannah Sheffer found that the family of the majority of executed inmates faced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Second, the application of the death penalty is inhumane to people who’re executed as well. It’s definitely worse than life in prison. People on death row often face severe psychological distress and experience suicidal tendencies, in what is called “death row syndrome.” Conditions on death row are terrible. Methods of execution are also often grossly inhumane or torturous. India uses hanging — a form of execution which fractures the spinal column and leads to death by slow, painful asphyxiation. While the method of hanging used — the measured long drop — is more humane than others, it still can lead to botched executions. Indeed, in the United States alone, there have been 43 botched executions since 1982… and the United States uses more humane methods than India does. So, quite simply, the death penalty is immoral.

The problem extends beyond this. It being “immoral” might not be sufficient reason to abolish it for some people. The problem lies in concentration of power in what seems to be an oligarchy. How much power do we wish to give to societal structures and the state which consists of a small group of people that most of us haven’t even met? In a democracy, power is spread evenly, and exists at the grassroots level. We shouldn’t give the power to torture people to death to a power structure consisting of officials we haven’t even met.

Third, the death penalty causes the deaths of innocent people — men and women who were merely at the wrong place in the wrong time, and, as a result, had to face the brutality described above under the power of the public’s own elected government. According to the National Academy of Sciences, globally, 4.1% of those on death row are innocent of their crimes. And, from the start of the 20th century, 0.5% of all those executed were innocent. Take the case of Jesse Tasero — an innocent man executed for a crime he didn’t commit, in what inmates reported to be a torturous electrocution.

The issue of erroneous application of the death penalty is one that has been seen in India as well. Led by ex-Supreme Court judge P.B. Sawant, 14 former judges sent separate letters to the President of India pointing out that in 15 years (from 1996 to 2012), the death penalty had been erroneously given to fifteen people, of whom two were hanged.

So keeping the death penalty is allowing an entity of officials most of us haven’t even met to possibly cause the death of innocent people. It gives the power over life and death to a group of faraway elected officials. That’s not a world we should live in.

Lady Justice seated at the entrance of the Palace of Justice, Rome, Italy. Public Domain. Source: Wikipedia.

As such, I have proven that (1) the commonly presented arguments in favor of capital punishment are unsound; and (2) capital punishment has serious harms that justify its abolition. In the words of St. Augustine, “An unjust law is no law at all.” Since the death penalty is such an unjust law, as proven above, it is no law at all, and should be abolished.

Recommended Reading: 

  • Christopher Hitchens. “Staking a Life.” Lapham’s Quarterly. Web. Retrieved 28 July, 2016.

Marriage Equality

In the landmark decision Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that it was unconstitutional to impose restrictions on same-sex marriages. Yet it seems that — with such a conservative social attitude — India will never achieve such an objective. Most people don’t know much, or care, about the rights of same-sex couples. With this post, I’m going to try to change that, and to destroy the homophobia inherent within Indian society.

Same-sex marriages are not recognized in India. The matter of SSMs is a complicated one, because it’s very tough to determine whether — or not — SSMs are constitutional. The Indian Constitution defines marriage as a civil partnership between two people that gives socioeconomic benefits. There is no explicit allowance or rejection of same-sex couples. However, most legal experts agree that it is implicitly rejected. The laws have “heteronormative underpinnings,” and have been interpreted to not accept same-sex unions. It doesn’t seem like the future is going to be positive for same-sex couples either. 

And India’s attitude towards same-sex marriage is also hardly positive. There’s very little knowledge from anyone on the issue, and Indian society is scattered with homophobia. Most Indians are uncomfortable talking about the issue, and conservatives take this as acceptance of their homophobic position. People are often opposed to SSM because of religious reasons. Multiple religious leaders have expressed their opposition to SSM. Religious organizations and leaders all stood against such unions. The Daily News and Analysis called itthe univocal unity of religious leaders in expressing their homophobic attitude. Usually divisive and almost always seen tearing down each other’s religious beliefs, leaders across sections came forward in decrying homosexuality and expressing their solidarity with the judgment.” 

But there are multiple reasons to disagree with the position that same-sex marriage should be illegal. There’s no rational reason to ban same-sex unions at all. India’s laws against same-sex couples have no proper rationale. Every restriction on civil liberties has to be properly justified, else it certainly is discrimination. The Constitution guarantess “equality” as a fundamental right. And treating same-sex couples differently from opposite-sex couples infringes on this equality.

People should be held accountable only for their actions, and their choices. We all have choices to make, and our choices define our worth. Not allowing same-sex marriage restricts the ability to substantiate equality. Legalizing SSMs allows for the recognition of true love in all its forms. Not allowing this causes psychological distress and creates mental health disparities due to lack of recognition. Research shows,

Psychological distress is lower among lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals who are legally married to a person of the same sex, compared with those not in legally recognized unions. [A] study . . . published in the American Journal of Public Health also has implications for understanding mental health disparities based on sexual orientation: There were no statistically significant differences in psychological distress between heterosexuals, and lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons in any type of legally recognized same-sex relationship. A large body of research has shown that lesbian, gay and bisexual people generally experience higher distress levels than heterosexuals due to social exclusion, stigma and other stressors. Research also shows that, on average, married heterosexuals experience better mental health outcomes than their unmarried counterparts. Since most lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are denied the opportunity to legally marry a same-sex partner, they are potentially denied the positive emotional benefits of the institution of marriage.

John Stuart Mill, the famed utilitarian philosophy, held that — in what he termed the “harm principle” — the only purpose for which control can be exercised over someone is to prevent harm. Not following those conditions infringes on individual liberty. Therefore, governments ought to legislate using the harm principle. If they don’t, bans on using utensils to eat or singing songs could be justified — leading only to the dictatorships that challenge the principle of democracy on which India is built.

There are no real harms to same-sex marriage. All the arguments raised against it are easily refuted. I’ll try to address some of those below.

First, many people argue that homosexual feelings are “unnatural,” and therefore it should be illegal. Most importantly, this logic is bad. Just because something is unnatural doesn’t mean it should be illegal. Computers, televisions, and the progress of technology is unnatural. They aren legal. Let me phrase this in reductio ad absurdum form:

A. Anything that is unnatural is illegal under Indian law, therefore so should SSMs (assumption)

1: Computers are legal under Indian law

2: Televisions are legal under Indian law

3: Anything that is unnatural is illegal (follows from A)

4: Computers and televisions are unnatural (since they are man-made)

C. 3 contradicts 1,2,4, therefore A is false

Furthermore, being gay is not unnatural. Epi-marks, the genetic switches that regulate how genes express themselves, trigger such attraction. The superachasmiatic nucleus of a homosexual is twice the size of that of a heterosexual. Homosexual attraction has also been observed in non-human species.

Second, there is a common philosophical objection to same-sex marriages that suggests that legalizing such a form of marriage corrupts the definition of marriage — setting a precedent to legalize polygamy, child marriage, et cetera. But that is a “slippery slope” — there is no reason to believe such an impact results or such a precedent is set.

If the government justifies the legalization with the harm principle, the only precedent set is to legislate based on it. Thus, since child marriage and polygamy can bring harm, this precedent will only encourage their ban.

Some people also claim that same-sex parents aren’t as good as opposite-sex parents. That is objectively false. The majority of scientific research has consistently shown that gay parenting is, on balance, a positive for children. Children raised by same-sex couples are psychologically and socially as well-adjusted as those raised by heterosexual couples. The only proper study that suggested that same-sex couples have worse parenting is one by the NFSS, led by sociologist Mark Regnerus, that suggested children adopted by same-sex couples had some psycological harm. But that study has been thoroughly refuted for all these reasons.

The study by Regnerus focuses on children who watched short, unsuccessful, non-comittal relationships between their parents, so the impacts are similar to those children raised by divorced couples. Regnerus concedes that only two same-sex couples in his study had committed relationships, and in both cases, the children were raised as well as a committed heterosexual relationship. Gay parents, like any other adoptive parents, choose parenthood — so they are arguably better than biological parents, who have kids by accident. They actually really want to be parents. Outside of the two exceptions mentioned above, all the other same-sex couples in Regnerus’s study were adopted after birth and a year or so in foster care. The foster care system is quite bad in the locations which the study in question concerned, and, as such, the children were already affected by foster care. Furthermore, the vast majority of research contradicts Regnerus’s study, and the scientific consensus is against that position.

The White House illuminated in rainbow colors on the eve of the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. Public Domain.

There’s no reason to be against same-sex marriage. And every reason to be for it. India should embrace #MarriageEquality.


Why Abortion Should Be Legal

Induced abortion has become a major debate within society and politics, in multiple countries. Conservative viewpoints question the morality of abortion, and argue that a fetus has a right to life. Liberals say that the right to bodily autonomy of women outweighs the right to life of the fetus, and hold fully developed humans to be morally superior to fetuses. I tend to lean towards a liberal view of abortion, and intend to defend the status quo in the United States, India, and multiple other countries in this post.

For clarification, I will define abortion. I will use the definition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which says:

“[Abortion is] the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus, as . . . the induced expulsion of the human fetus.”

My first argument is that abortion has significant utilitarian harms. Government policy is decided on the basis of “utilitarianism,” i.e. in an attempt to maximize net benefit to the citizens, and to minimize harm to them. The government lacks any legitimacy unless it seeks to do that. And adopting a ban on abortion won’t maximize benefit, for one main reason. A ban would be ineffective, except in increasing danger. The fact remains that people will seek abortions regardless of whether it’s legal. Abortion is inevitable, and the illegality of such a practice will fail to deter people from aborting.

Elisabeth Rosenthal writes,

“A comprehensive global study of abortion has concluded that abortion rates are similar in countries where it is legal and those where it is not, suggesting that outlawing the procedure does little to deter women seeking it. Moreover, the researchers found that abortion was safe in countries where it was legal, but dangerous in countries where it was outlawed and performed clandestinely. Globally, abortion accounts for 13 percent of women’s deaths during pregnancy.”

There is more harm than benefit here. Women simply seek back-alley abortions, which are extremely dangerous. There is thus no utilitarian benefit to banning abortion, but there are harms.

Furthermore, the fetus is not subject to moral consideration. This is because a fetus is completely inanimate and non-sentient until around the 20th week of pregnancy. A fetus can’t feel pain until the 24th week of pregnancy. Utilitarian calculations of morality are based on positive and negative mental states. Utilitarianism is ideal for normative ethics, because it holds what is desirable. A moral obligation itself is an “ought,” which indicates desirability. What is desirable? Something that maximizes positive mental states and minimizes negative ones. So maximizing desirability is an ideal framework for normative ethics; that’s utilitarianism. The fetus lacks mental states, therefore isn’t subject to moral consideration; a fetus is equal to a chair, except with potentiality.

That’s why abortion should not be banned. Thanks for reading this post.

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