The Persistent Problem of Sex-Selective Abortion

24 Jun

My brilliant, wonderful father, who is my hero in so many things, is anti-choice. He’s also opposed to gay marriage; there are a number of social issues on which we disagree. Over breakfast the other day (an excellent time to discuss polarizing politics if ever there was one!) he brought up the problem of sex-selective abortion and asked me if, given that a severely disproportionate number of females are aborted over males, I would re-think my pro-choice stance. I said no.

The question everyone keeps asking and saying we need to address – the question of whether abortion, and the right to choose, is causing what the Economist identified last year as a “gendercide” – is, to my mind, absolutely the wrong question.

Parents in many countries are clearly deciding they do not want baby girls. Baby girls do not hold the same value as baby boys, and young girls and women do not have the value of the men those baby boys will grow up to be.

Let me be explicit: eliminating abortion access does not make this problem stop. It does not save women. When parents who are pregnant with a girl cannot abort but do not wish to keep her, they often kill or abandon her. And despite the extremely popular contrary opinion we hear so often on this blog, those of us in the pro-choice movement are not also pro-murder. Once a baby is born, it’s born. Once a baby is born, it is an independent, breathing, living being that deserves every support we as a society can offer it, and drowning it in a well or leaving it on the side of a road to die is murder. And we are against murder here! I repeat that point only because there frequently seems to be so much confusion.

So the real question is, why do parents feel the need to abort based solely on the child’s sex? I believe it is because every society in existence, at present, goes to great lengths to devalue women as a gender. We are objectified, patronized, controlled. People – generally men, with the support of a small handful of women with power and internalized sexism – decide what is best for us without our input. Women make up 51% of the population in America, and more than half of college graduates, but still comprise 10% or less of Congress. The Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy reported in May that women comprise 23% of federal and 27% of state-level judgeships (yes, they also claim “judgeships” is a word). This means in the courts, where an overwhelming number of questions on women’s rights stand to be decided in the near future, women themselves are desperately outnumbered at almost 5 to 1.

And then there’s that internalized bit I mentioned. When the women given the highest pedestals and the most attention in our nation are generally white, thin, apolitical reality TV stars, while politically conscious women are derided as bitches and “feminist” has become a four-letter word, it is hard for little girls to value themselves or want to make a difference. To hear people tell it, these days, they mostly want plastic surgery and a very large sweet sixteen party, ideally attended by Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt. And if we don’t value ourselves, why should men? Why should anyone listen to us if we’re afraid to speak because it will make us look bad, or if we’re never taught how, for largely the same reasons?

And that is just in America which, in my entirely biased opinion, actually is the most phenomenal place in the world to live (sorry, fellow Canadian bloggers). In poorer countries, where more of the population is rural, the problems are more numerous and considerably worse.

Ironically, the question of whether women should have access to abortion plays into the very same mentality that contributes to the sex-selective abortions so many concerned citizens seem to want to try and combat (and I do genuinely believe many people of the people expressing concern really do want to stop sex-selective abortions and not just control women’s reproductive choices – frankly the subject makes me want to give up, curl in a ball and cry). But that concern would be much more helpful if it were directed at the cause of gender-specific abortions – namely, the lack of value placed on women in so many societies – and perpetuating the idea that women aren’t capable of, or shouldn’t be allowed to, make their own reproductive choices only exacerbates that very problem.

When someone tells you parents abort female children more readily than male children in many countries, tell them this is not news. Ask them why they think parents value a boy more than a girl. And ask them if eliminating access to abortion and thereby once again demonstrating that women cannot be trusted to make reproductive choices for themselves but require the state to prescribe them will help address that problem of value. I am absolutely certain that it will not.

9 Responses to “The Persistent Problem of Sex-Selective Abortion”

  1. freewomyn June 24, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    Thanks for this post – you make a lot of good arguments, especially in pointing out that eliminating abortion leads to infanticide.

  2. Dee June 24, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    “eliminating abortion leads to infanticide.”

    I believe that Casey Anthony wanted an abortion, and her mother blocked/denied her access to it. We know how that turned out. I found it amusing that Life News had a post naming Casey Anthony as proof that the antichoice movement is right when in reality she’s the poster child for why choice is important. Even if you can make a woman give birth to a child, you can’t make her be a mother.

  3. Tenya June 24, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    I see no problem countering with how in many of these same countries, girls are given up for adoption at disproportionate rates, which I also find wrong because of the same de-valuing of girls and women, yet don’t think the solution is to forbid parents from giving up their children for adoption. The solution, wacky as this may sound, is to value girls and women. This will also decrease the sex-selective abortion rate, hoorah!

  4. Steph L June 24, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

    Excellent post. I once debated this issue with an anti, and I mentioned to him that a group I heard of in India that would patrol around a lake where parents were known to drown unwanted baby girls in. The group would find and urge these people to give their girls to them so they could put them in orphanages instead. I asked the anti if draining the lake would be a solution to the issue. He said no, and I pointed out the issue with his answer. The lake, like abortion, isn’t the problem, its how people were using it. Treating a symptom instead of the disease.

  5. Bertibus June 27, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    “The lake, like abortion, isn’t the problem, its how people were using it. Treating a symptom instead of the disease.”

    Would you make this same argument vis a vis gun control and the problem of gun violence? Rephrased in that context, it is the familiar “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” An argument I have often vehemently opposed!

  6. Kaitlyn June 27, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

    Bertibus,

    An abortion is not a weapon. It is an operation, performed by doctors, or a the result of taking medication. In wars, opposing armies often hack off the appendages of innocent civilians – should doctors stop performing amputations to save people’s lives as a result?

    I’m actually an avid gun enthusiast, but that’s a very different debate.

    Thanks,
    Kaitlyn

  7. Steph L June 28, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    @Bertibus

    I don’t have much of an opinion on gun control. And red herrings are a pretty poor debate tactic.

  8. Natural Male Formula October 13, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    Abortion is one’s own choice of things. But selective abortion is unfair – quite like selective killing of animals or pets. It’s to kill one if he/she is ill-timed or diseased, and the owner, parent is responsible for it – from the legal POV. It is an entirely different ball-game from the ethical POV though. thanks.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. This Week in Feminism | 06.27.11 | College Democrats at the University of Michigan - June 27, 2011

    [...] + The Persistent Problem of Sex-Selective Abortion | The problem isn’t abortion, it’s a lack of respect for the lives of girls and women. Let me be explicit: eliminating abortion access does not make this problem stop. It does not save women. When parents who are pregnant with a girl cannot abort but do not wish to keep her, they often kill or abandon her. And despite the extremely popular contrary opinion we hear so often on this blog, those of us in the pro-choice movement are not also pro-murder. Once a baby is born, it’s born. Once a baby is born, it is an independent, breathing, living being that deserves every support we as a society can offer it, and drowning it in a well or leaving it on the side of a road to die is murder. [...]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: