9.28.2012

the politics of sex-selective abortion: there shouldn't be any

Hard on the heels of the defeat of Motion 312 - on the mind-bending spectacle of the Minister of the Status of Women voting with the anti-choice contingent, on the sobering sight of de facto Deputy Prime Minister Jason Kenney voting the way a former U.S. anti-abortion activist could be expected to vote - we learn that the next chapter in Stephen "I Promise Not to Re-open the Abortion Date" Harper's latest reopening of the abortion debate involves sex-selective abortions.

Supposedly some women terminate pregnancies because a fetus is male or female. And supposedly this is bad, and wrong, and we should stop them. And supposedly some feminists agree. Or should I say "some supposed feminists" agree?

Here's the thing. A fetus is a fetus is a fetus. And choice is choice is choice.

At some future date, Canada's House of Commons will be asked to consider the following motion:
That the House condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.
Conservative MP Mark Warawa (Langley) follows contemporary anti-choice protocol and wraps his anti-abortion endeavors in the language of civil rights: we condemn discrimination. So you abortion-lovers on the other side of the aisle, you're voting for discrimination?

But you see, you can't discriminate against a fetus. Because a fetus is a fetus. A fetus is not a person.

Aborting a female fetus does not discriminate against girls, because a fetus is not a girl.

There are many people, including many women, whose gut reactions to sex-selective abortions is disgust, or revulsion, or anger. Similar to the people in the brilliant "How much time should she do?" videos, these folks need to stop, think, and extrapolate.

How shall we stop sex-selected abortions?

Shall we prevent women from knowing the sex of the fetus, so that doctors and technicians have information about a woman's pregnancy that is withheld from the patient herself? Will we withhold any other details about the woman's pregnancy from women? Is this sound medical practice? Would you consent to such a medical practice for any other conditions? Would you consent to such a practice for yourself?

Before a woman terminates a pregnancy, shall we give her a questionnaire, asking for her reasons? Who will approve the reasons, who will decide whether a woman's reproductive choices pass muster? Will there be a panel of doctors, or judges, or perhaps the woman's neighbours? Or maybe the Member of Parliament for her riding? What if the woman ticks "no" after "Are you choosing termination because of the sex of the fetus," but she's lying? How will we know? (I'm thinking dunking stool.)

Will all women be given these questionnaires, or only some women? Will any white, Christian women be suspected of sex-selective termination?

Hey, while we're at it, is anyone else disgusted by any other reasons for choosing abortion???

What's that you say, a slippery slope?

Since when do we need to approve of women's reasons for terminating?

Since never.

Perhaps you think sex-selective abortion reflects a belief that boys are better than girls, that women are not equal to men. And this offends you.

And this offense gives you some kind of right?

And you can assert that right over someone else's pregnancy?

I'm offended by men who beat their children. I want to know if a man is ever going to beat his children. And if he is, I want him to be sterilized, never allowed to have children, and never allowed to adopt. Cool?

* * * *

You want to live in a world where baby girls are valued as highly as baby boys? You can help create such a world. But first, check the mirror. Your cultural imperialism might be showing. There may be more than a little racism and xenophobia embedded in your revulsion for sex-selective abortion. Everyone knows it's "those people" who abort female fetuses. (How does everyone know this? Because that's what they hear. Why do they hear it? Because everyone knows it. Isn't that enough evidence for you?)

You want to live in a world where women and girls are valued as highly as men and boys? Help create that world. But not on the backs of other women's reproductive freedom.

If a woman wants to terminate a pregnancy because she doesn't want a boy or doesn't want a girl, that is not our business.

Women don't need to submit their reproductive choices for our - or anyone's - approval. Women can make their own choices. Whether you like them or not.

7 comments:

CanNurse said...

Theoretically & idiologically, I agree with your post, Laura. In practise as a nurse/midwife, I've seen women forced to have sex-sel'n abortions they did not in any way want, by their families, husbands being "the enforcers". This was before the CMA & CSOG made the rule that women are not told the gender of their fetus until after 12 weeks in Canada. I know there are objections on different levels to this. However, I haven't seen a single sex-selc'n abortion forced upon a woman since then. I have no answers, btw. I'm just sayin' what I've seen...

laura k said...

In practise as a nurse/midwife, I've seen women forced to have sex-sel'n abortions they did not in any way want, by their families, husbands being "the enforcers".

So the government is a better enforcer?

I have no answers, btw.

I have answers. You, me, and the government should mind our own businesses.

laura k said...

Here we have the alternative trope: women do bad things because men make them. The law must protect women from men who make them do bad things.

Dharma Seeker said...

So the government is a better enforcer?

Good point.

laura k said...

I don't want to sound flip about this. Coercing women to terminate a pregnancy is a horrible thing, no matter who is doing it. (The U.S. military is famous for this.) But I don't think legislation is the answer to that problem. Nor do I think the sponsors of this legislation give a crap about women and their rights and choices.

impudent strumpet said...

The more I think about this, the more I feel for the plight of any girls who would end up being born into families that would want to abort them for being a girl. Especially if, as CanNurse describes, the dynamic is such that the father bullies the mother into convincing her medical team that she wants an abortion that she actually doesn't.

When I put myself in the shoes of a girl growing up in that kind of context, I would very much want my parents to have the option of aborting me.

laura k said...

The anti's act like the worst thing in the world is to imagine not being born. "Imagine if your mother had aborted you!"

Leaving aside the obvious - that you wouldn't know - I can imagine many worse things that not being born. A brief look at the world with eyes wide open will reveal many many worse things that not being born.