Nevertheless, she states that the capabilities are related in various ways. By specifically including reproductive health in capability 2, and choice in matters of reproduction in capability 3, Nussbaum draws our attention to the centrality of reproductive rights to female and human rights.6 The current situation in developing countries is so frequently defended on a moral basis by religious figures (whether clerics or laymen, the latter particularly including politicians) that it is worth dissecting through the lens of feminist virtue ethics. The current situation leads to:
– The denial of female agency—women are effectively unable to choose whether or not, or when, to be mothers. If choice in one’s own affairs is assumed as a positive, then promoting that choice is a virtue, and denying it unethical.
– The denial of female opportunity—women who do not have children are considerably less burdened in pursuing their own goals. These include professional endeavours and educational opportunities. If being able to pursue one’s choice of future is a virtue, then limiting that choice (whether intentionally or otherwise) is discriminatory and unethical.
– The encouragement of misogynistic ideals—if less able to pursue careers and opportunities, women become increasingly confined to private space. This may in practice bar them from public space; if female advancement is contingent on men, men may deny them that advancement. If public space is overwhelmingly dominated by men, women may feel unwilling to enter it. And without women performing tasks, both men and women may feel women unable to perform them (and men unable to perform family care duties/ childcare responsibilities/ important household administration). The promotion of policies which lead to women being seen as unequal are unethical. Despite the International Conference on Population and Development resolving as early as 1994 that ‘people…have the capability to reproduce, and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so’, this statement of intent reflects neither the reality across the developing world, nor the unanimous effort of the First World in providing aid.