sex selective abortion

2012: Monday, January 30th

[this post contains mentions of violations of women's individual rights, including intimate partner violence, domestic slavery, and forced abortion]

So. Sex selective abortion. The antis have been posting a lot about it lately. And I’ve yet to see many pro-choice responses, though I’d like to boost the ones that I have come across: Alexis Beckett at Girl on the Wing, Tara Paterson writing in to the Toronto Star, Pedgehog at Anti-Choice is Anti-Awesome, Johanna Westeson at IntLawGrrls, Dr. Dawg at Dawg’s Blawg. [UPDATE, January 31st, 2012: an open discussion hosted by Crommunist]

See the second section, below, for a parade of some of the “best” anti-choice SSA-related funnies out there.

This latest tactic of the antis is to try to deconstruct the pro-choice position, as if it were in the least self-contradictory: abortion ought to be made available on demand and without apology to every pregnant person; attempts to prevent sex selective abortions by withholding information from people about their own medical condition and/or by enforcing a litmus test on their beliefs or motives directly violate their individual rights and in fact contribute to the very kind of gender discrimination they are meant to prevent.

Where’s the contradiction? Let’s try another one: even though anti-choice rhetoric expresses and reinforces misogynistic and other discriminatory attitudes and is based neither on biological fact nor on sound reason, anti-choice individuals are perfectly within their rights to speak their minds freely.

To repeat. Access to abortion is a basic right for pregnant individuals. This access may be used with prejudice, yes, which does not make it unique among basic rights (see previous paragraph about freedom of speech). How to get people who are already acting within their rights to behave in a way that you believe is better than what they are currently doing? The responsible, citizen-like approach is persuasion—certainly not outright coercion / removal of their fundamental rights.

Further. Since the right to abortion access is not one that can be exercised in a way that harms anyone directly, there is no argument for limiting it externally—as we limit, for example, someone’s freedom of speech when it comes to direct verbal threats. (If you think a zygote/embryo/fetus is biologically anything other than a part of a pregnant person’s body, you may have a do-over.)

When someone is exercising a fundamental right, we do not demand that they submit their motives to society’s examination before “allowing” them access to that fundamental right. Think of how we treat individuals’ decisions about joining a religion or converting from one religion to another. Should people be prohibited by law from joining religions that have discriminatory beliefs? [See update at bottom of post.]

As for contentions that SSA leads to imbalanced gender ratios and a host of related social ills: no. Not by itself. Abortion can be a tool of misogyny and lead to misogynistic outcomes only where misogyny exists. It does not create misogyny, no more than freedom of speech creates anti-choice lies. In societies where misogyny exists, women are being “selected against” through many other means as well: murder, domestic assault, denial of basic rights and needs, such as medical care that is on a par with standards in their community, food, shelter, etc.

[UPDATE, January 31st, 2012, a sampling from the last 24 hours: Man kills wife for giving birth to daughter instead of son, Billings man admits attack on girlfriend, Man repeatedly assaulted partner, police say, Woman testifies she was slave to husband’s family, Carlisle dad stamped on partner’s face]

* * *

Now for the laughs!

Barbara Kay:

This is gendercide tout court. Morally, this odious practice, often performed counter to women’s wishes to satisfy a cultural preference for male offspring, is no different than enforced sterilization on grounds of mental or racial inferiority.

It’s not any kind of -cide if people aren’t being killed. If you still think that a z/e/f is biologically anything other a part of the pregnant person’s body, you may have one more do-over.

Moira McQueen:

It is appalling that women can even think of aborting their own child simply on account of its gender.

As Moira McQueen’s partner in crime Barbara Kay has just pointed out, women are often coerced into such a decision; threats are a proven way to expand someone’s horizons! In some communities, women are treated with neglect and violence just for existing and especially for giving birth to a non-male child. If someone would like to avoid an extra dose of that abuse—or would like to avoid giving birth to someone who will be similarly abused by those closest to her . . . whatever the particular circumstances are, Moira McQueen’s “simply” has no basis in reality.

Chris Selley:

Personally, I don’t mind Canada’s legal vacuum, because I see just about all abortions as morally equal.

Thanks for trying to help (?), but Canada doesn’t have a legal vacuum, it has a legal history in which abortion restrictions have been found to be unchartertutional—or whatever it’s called when your foundational document is a Charter.

Kathryn Blaze Carlson:

The idea of aborting female fetuses strictly because they are female, of discriminating against them because of their sex, may have presented feminist prochoicers with a new and rather difficult challenge—a philosophical issue where a well-founded rejection of patriarchal cultural attitudes conflicts with an instinct to beat back any limits at all on a woman’s right to choose abortion.

“May have” indeed. I have yet to come come across a pro-choice person advocating for limits to abortion rights on these grounds. Probably because, as already discussed, the patriarchal cultural attitudes that we so well-foundedly reject include an attitude of nonchalance towards women’s basic rights. And yes, experience does develop a certain “instinct” for the techniques that your opponents have used against you over and over and over again.

The pro-choice movement is anything but unanimously or easily decided on sex-based abortion. . . . The ideological struggle was highlighted this week by an editorial in the Toronto Star, which has for years supported abortion rights in its editorial pages.

In actual fact, nothing in the editorial in question would detract from any prior support for abortion rights, which may be why she doesn’t provide a link to it. The editorial simply criticizes a recent recommendation for reducing the occurrence of SSA as an intrusion on the rights of pregnant individuals and as likely to be ineffective in the circumstances. You would think at least this second point would matter to those who claim to be concerned.

All the pro-choice people whom Kathryn Blaze Carlson goes on to cite actually give agreeing answers when asked about individuals’ rights regarding abortion: no additional limitations should be imposed. When asked what they personally think about SSA, they condemn the discriminatory motives involved. So where is the lack of unanimity? Perhaps it resides in Kathryn Blaze Carlson’s fantasy life, which she of course has a right to speak about freely in public. A world where women are morally conflicted and not each other’s allies would certainly get me all excited.

Ericka Andersen:

If 160 million girls turned up missing tomorrow—eliminated solely for being female—wouldn’t a cry of outrage ensue? Feminists and women’s rights groups would be utterly beside themselves—as they should be.

They are! Whoops. I suspect they just don’t believe that misogyny is going to be reduced by adding more misogyny. Purely a guess on my part.

Also, the subtitle of the piece: “The War Feminists Seemingly Refuse to Fight.” Wait, is this the one to restrict pregnant women’s individual rights? No thanks, you’ve got that one covered pretty well already.

[UPDATE: Just imagine the interview for freedom of religious choice:

Are you joining this religion to further your spiritual journey or to reinforce your discriminatory views? If these go hand in hand, that’s okay too. Just check the box next to “both of the above.” . . .

Now, just a few items to confirm that you already sincerely believe that women’s individual rights are less important than men’s. It’s obviously okay so long as you believe it deep in your heart! . . .

Great, it looks like you’re a true believer. . . . In which case, it’s no problem that your wife couldn’t make it today—I’ll just have my secretary copy all your answers into her survey form as well. You’re all set! See you at services later in the week!


One Response to “sex selective abortion”

  1. Nicely argued. Thanks for the mention.

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