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Abortion – Dharma, Law or Justice

Change - a fact of human life. We may not be aware of it in our day to day experience but it continues to affect us in one way or the other. A hundred and thousand years might be a moment in the life of rocks and mountains but in human society, changes take place in the course of merely a generation or two. Dharma, law and justice are constitutive of change and self-identity in India. A situation which may be coined as a ‘pluralism of ideologies.’ The focus is on the concept of law and justice with Dharma in Indian thought. - Justice, like just about everything else in ancient India, has been a much debated topic since time immemorial. Justice is positive and its realization depends on law; however justice is not the same as law. Law provides an exit out of relationships. - Dharma is the foundation of legal order in India. Often best translated as 'justice,' dharma also means law, rightness (as opposed to wrongness), religious ethics, and simply the way things ought to be or even the way things truly are. Dharma is different from law and legal ideologies – however there was a coexistence of all three.- Legal ideologies which have brought a new sense of selfhood to all communities in India, determine the meaning, content and goals of life in society; a basic factor in justice. Abortion is a thorny issue in the economically advanced western countries even today. In spite of a scientific outlook and 'modernity' there is no consensus. I myself, in the present time and culture, violently oppose abortion. If I were a law-maker in current times, and were to enter contemporary debates about abortion, one can imagine the sort of stance I would take.

- Can every woman choose whether or not to have an abortion? This would be relative, at least to the degree that it invokes different ideals for different individuals.
- No woman can have an abortion? This would be univocal. - Or both – ‘Every woman can choose whether or not to have an abortion’ and ‘No woman can have an abortion.’ This would be contradictory.

Would it be fine for a woman who already has three children and is over thirty to have an abortion, and not appropriate for a woman who has no children and is under thirty to have an abortion? I believe that any response would be influenced by the infinite varieties of the human conditions. Also, what about, a woman over thirty with no children or that of a woman under thirty with three children?

Despite the relativity of Dharma, it sensitively, however, paradoxically guards Indians from the dangers of true relativism. In any given circumstance, there is only one thing to do – Change.

* Vidhi Agarwal
Courtesy: Book - The Laws of Manu


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