under consideration will also grow out of that context, as well as be determined by the contemporary Indian context. One cannot argue simplistically, as some moralists would have it, that only timeless rational (as opposed to more widely cultural) factors should be brought to bear in this matter. In any case, what counts for the cogency of purely rational reasons/arguments for any people/group is often itself culturally determined. The Hindu attitude to abortion and the unborn is the result of a rich cultural matrix. It will continue to be so determined in the present and the future and only as such can contribute distinctively to the discussion on the topic in the world at large. In this respect, the traditional Hindu stress on the wider social and moral obligations attaching to pregnancy (not excluding those to the child-to-be and the father), rather than the making of pregnancy a matter exclusively of individual rights (especially of the mother), must be noted. 74
Modern India, a secular democracy, permits abortion by law, under certain circumstances. No doubt this is a law availed of by some. Yet it is true to say that the issues relating to the moral status of the unborn and abortion have neither been aired nor even properly identified, in general, in Indian minds and literature. In public, the topic is by and large taboo. Illegal abortionists in the back street or the bush continue to ply their trade, often with dire consequences for their customers. To check exploitation of one kind or another in this matter, the issue must be thrown open.
In this chapter I have not sought to evaluate or to argue for or against any side. Rather, I have provided but a preliminary (and incomplete) historical and analytical study. Others are invited to continue the task.