Although a preference for sons is reportedly a universal phenomenon, in some Asian societies daughters are considered financial and cultural liabilities. Increasing availability of ultrasonography and amniocentesis has led to widespread gender screening and selective abortion of normal female foetuses in many countries, including India. Feminists have taken widely divergent positions on the morality of this practice. Feminists from India have strongly opposed it, considering it as a further disenfranchisement of females in their patriarchal society, and have agitated successfully for legislative prohibitions. Libertarian feminists on the other hand, primarily from the United States, have argued that any prohibition of the use of this technology is a curtailment of a woman's reproductive choices and a violation of her right to make autonomous decisions regarding procreation.
Using India as an illustrative case, this paper argues that in the context of what prevails in some societies, an ethical argument that hinges on the principle of autonomy as understood in the West can be problematic. Furthermore, a liberal theoretical assumption that it is always better to have more rather than fewer choices may not hold up well against the realities of life for such women. Although feminists have little disagreement concerning substantive matters, it is in the area of strategy that differences of opinion have arisen, their moral reasoning and responses shaped by the culture, ethnicity, class and race to which they belong. A view that a single ‘orthodox’ feminism of any variety can embody the aspiration of all women reverts to the problematic issues in the evolution of the rationalistic, individualistic, ‘male’ ethics against which women have consistently raised objections.