Social & Domestic Issues

Why liberals really fear the “gendercide” debate

If abortion is an acceptable form of birth control, a matter of “reproductive health” rather than life and death, why are pro-choicers so touchy about the subject of sex-selecting abortions? If life doesn’t begin until a baby can feel pain or it can survive on its own (or whatever arbitrary, unscientific designation we’ve come up with), why is using abortion to determine sex any more detestable than using abortion for convenience sake? Does the intent change the reality of the act?

House Republicans failed to pass the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act today, a bill that would have made it an offense to perform an abortion “knowing that such abortion is sought based on the sex or gender of the child.” The White House objected to the bill: “The Administration opposes gender discrimination in all forms, but …” We must keep abortion gender neutral!

Recently, pro-life activists from the group Live Action secretly taped workers at various Planned Parenthood clinics across the country abetting sex selective abortions. One counselor named “Rebecca” in Texas, for instance, is extraordinarily helpful on the matter: “I see that you’re saying that you want to terminate if it’s a girl, so are you just wanting to continue the pregnancy in the meantime?” — and a social worker in New York is similarly cooperative. More of these videos, I presume, are to come. 

Maybe these are isolated cases, maybe not. Planned Parenthood says they oppose sex-selection abortions. Everyone says they do. A 2006 Zogby poll found that 86 percent of Americans thought sex-selection abortions should be illegal. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank — while arguing that outlawing sex-selective abortion would turn Asian-American voters from Republicans — says it is a premise “with which just about everybody agrees: a woman shouldn’t abort a fetus simply because she wants to have a boy rather than a girl.”

But why?

What seems to offend many pro-choice advocates is that gendercide is typically aimed at baby girls — predominantly in Asia. Is it a problem in the United States? In some communities, yes. But in a wealthy nation, it seems to me that selective abortions wouldn’t skew much higher for one gender or the other, making it, well, just simple infanticide. Selecting sex is just another outgrowth of “choice,” is it not? What I want my family to look like is none of your business, right? It’s not like we’re aborting anything with consciousness or awareness, so what’s the problem?

The real difficulty with the topic — already straining under the weight of euphemisms — is that it presents a massive logical and ethical dilemma. It forces pro-choice advocates to admit that abortion, in certain circumstances at least, is wrong. Why? I still haven’t found an answer. 

I can’t bore into the souls of pro-choicers, but I suspect most are concerned with political ramifications of gendercide rather than any ethical dilemma. Abortion will increasingly become a debate about eugenics. The more prenatal testing that goes on, the more babies with birth defects and disabilities will be aborted. Parents who find out they have a Down Syndrome child on the way already terminate pregnancies at high levels — even though the child would experience school, work and love for, on average, a 55-year lifespan.  

Michelle Goldberg, abortion advocate at Newsweek/Daily Beast, writes that “Sex-selective abortion is odious,” but, “Banning it means allowing the government to decide what constitutes a legitimate reason for a woman to terminate a pregnancy, and forcing doctors to try to discern the motives of their patients.”  

She is right: There is no way of knowing what the intent of the mother is nor should we care. It’s irrelevant. Either the unborn baby is a victim or it isn’t.  Around 22 percent of pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion. Everyone has their own reason, I’m sure.  Many of them are, no doubt, more “odious” or trivial than sex selection.

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