If you're pro-choice then you're in favour of sex-selective abortion

(73 Posts)

I read this piecein the Guardian and it really got me thinking. I've always been pro-choice but my knee-jerk reaction to the suggestion of sex-selective abortion was revulsion. I feel distaste at the idea that a woman could abort a healthy foetus purely because it has the "wrong" genitals.

But that's the whole point isn't it? Pro-choice means being in favour of a woman's right to bodily autonomy no matter what the circumstances or how distasteful someone else finds the idea. For some reason that had never fully occurred to me before. blush

I'm sorry if this seems glaringly obvious to everyone else! It's just something I hadn't fully considered before, and I doubt many people IRL would be keen to discuss this.

jennycoast Fri 20-Sep-13 12:36:42

I read it too, and though I see the logic, feel it is fuel for the anti abortion lobby more than anything.

MorrisZapp Fri 20-Sep-13 12:39:34

I support a woman's right to choose abortion for any reason she may have. Of course I find sex selection terminations pretty horrible, but it's the culture behind them that I have the issue with. Ultimately, I couldn't ban abortions on sex selection grounds.

GrownUpYOYO Fri 20-Sep-13 12:44:14

I thought I was pro - choice but I think sex-selective abortions are wrong. Scans don't always get the sex right anyway so surely this should be considered. There is a line you shouldn't cross and for me it's aborting babies because you are not happy with the sex. What happens if a woman keeps on having boys and wants a girl? Keep aborting, aborting, aborting?

kim147 Fri 20-Sep-13 12:44:20

Pro-choice also means that there should be no limits as to the time limit on abortions. But there is.

There was a report on Radio 4 this morning about gender based abortion. So many missing girls because of this.

There isn't a conflict for me. I'm pro choice about whether to have a baby or not and selecting at the embryo stage is fine.

But to abort because you don't want the sex of the baby is different - that's not the same as not wanting any baby.

The majority of babies aborted for sex selection are going to be female - and I dispute how much of a 'choice' that is by the woman in a misogynistic culture who may only want boy babies.

It looks like choice but it isn't IMO.

LurcioLovesFrankie Fri 20-Sep-13 12:52:58

I read the article too and for me the really stand-out thing was the idea that blaming the woman for having a sex-selective abortion is once again, blaming the wrong target. If women are so constrained by the culture they live in (financial implications of a future dowry to their family and existing children, risk of divorce, risk of physical violence from their husbands if they have a female child), then the problem is the culture as a whole, and the answer is much more complex than simply restricting what limited autonomy they have (even if in this case it's highly constrained, and there is no real choice in the matter) still further.

On the other hand it sits very uneasily with me - it reminds me somewhat of a recent thread where someone was asking for strategies for coping with what she described as "unwanted sex" because she felt she genuinely couldn't leave her marriage, and not surprisingly, most people on the thread said "what you're actually asking us to do is supply tips for how to let your rapist carry on raping with impunity, and I'm sorry, in all conscience I can't do that."

It's also making me think of the discussion of consent going on elsewhere at the moment. Yes, these women are choosing (consenting to) these procedures, but against a background of cultural pressures so immense and so deeply screwed up that it's hardly real choice (hence question marks over whether 'consent' is a useful concept at all). I feel we are in the same sort of territory of "I'll give my abusive husband a BJ even if I throw up afterwards to avoid him anally raping me later on tonight." Yes these women need all the small crumbs of bodily autonomy they can get, but we're a million miles away from the sort of situations we normally consider wither respect to choice and bodily autonomy: a woman saying "this pregnancy is at a bad time for me, and I want to finish my degree first", or "I have 3 children whom I love dearly and just don't feel a 4th would be right for me and my existing family" or "I actually don't want children, I've had a contraceptive failure and now I'm going to handle the consequences of that contraceptive failure in a sensible way."

Sorry - this is a bit of a waffly brain-dump. I'm only at the early stages of thinking about this.

WowOoo Fri 20-Sep-13 12:55:36

LaurieFairyCake has put it better than I could. I agree with her.

It could extend to someone like me. I have two boys and I only want another if it's a girl, for example. Not that that's true for me, but I've heard mums say things like this before.

Is that really what being pro-choice is about?
It's interesting, thanks for link. I can't get it to open, but will try again later.

I think that what this article has made me realise is that you can't have partial rights over your body - it's all or nothing, so whatever a woman's reason for aborting I should support her right to do it.

But late-term abortions, sex-selective abortions, abortions on the grounds of disability - these do all make me uncomfortable, even hypothetically. I think kim made a good point about time constraints as well.

ModeratelyObvious Fri 20-Sep-13 13:06:34

Yoyo, whilst possible, I don't think that preference of that kind is a major driver of sex selective abortion.

ModeratelyObvious Fri 20-Sep-13 13:13:06

Great post, Lurcio.

Joyful, you are unconfortable because it's a characteristic of the baby that is causing the pregnancy to be terminated. Many people are comfortable with termination as a result of detecting a disability (many are not, of course) and perhaps this feels too much like being female is the disability, which is an uneasy place to be.

hermioneweasley Fri 20-Sep-13 13:17:07

I am pro choice, but never thought of myself as pro sex selection.

If we allow termination on the grounds of convenience, is gender selection worse?

It feels worse because we all know that female foetuses are disproportionately targeted, but if the woman is going to suffer hardship for having a girl, would you force her to go through with it?

Aargh!

ErrolTheDragon Fri 20-Sep-13 13:28:38

As Lurcio has pointed out, in societies where sex-selected termination actually happens, its unlikely to really be the woman's free choice. Allowing sex-selected abortions does nothing to solve the issues in these societies, it perpetuates them.

grimbletart Fri 20-Sep-13 13:33:52

Crossing Continents last week had an item on the brideless men in a part of China who had little hope of marrying because China's former one child policy meant a great number of girls were aborted. One man, talking about his school, cited three classes - can't remember the exact numbers but one class had only one girl, the other two had only a handful.

It's the culture of these countries that has to be addressed rather than the individual case. Sadly some bring their culture with them. This is the bigger picture with gender discrimination.

MrsMcEnroe Fri 20-Sep-13 13:33:54

I support any woman's choice in terminating a pregnancy, for whatever reasons. Her body, her reasons, her choice.

I also support the choice to terminate at any point during the pregnancy. I know this viewpoint is not a popular one, but it is one which I hold firmly and which is very much influenced by my own background (I was an unwanted baby, and that's all I will say on the matter).

The fact that I have chosen to continue with my own pregnancies does not give me the right to judge other women's reasons for terminating.

But, as others have said, I worry that termination on the grounds of (female) gender is something that is not actually a choice for the woman at all, but something forced on her in the name of "culture." Therefore it is actually the polar opposite of the "choice" that I so wholeheartedly support ...

Hhmmm, still working out my thoughts on this, but that's what I think/feel so far.

I will be watching this thread with interest. Have just listened to part of Jeremy Vine's interview with a wonderful lady who survived FGM and it has really got me thinking about all the terrible things that women have been forced to endure over the years, and I would class an unwanted pregnancy for whatever reason as one of those "terrible things."

Repeatedlydoingthetwist Fri 20-Sep-13 13:53:58

This is a difficult subject. I watched the interview with the woman who said it on This Morning, and I have to say that what she says makes a lot of sense. I think by it's very nature being pro choice means regardless of the reasons behind it. However as others have said, I can see the major reason for this being cultural and I do worry whether this is therefore the woman's choice. But then within that there are further questions; if the woman herself has come the to decision without any outside influence or pressure, does that make it ok? And how can you be sure that she hasn't been coerced?

Lottapianos Fri 20-Sep-13 13:56:45

'I also support the choice to terminate at any point during the pregnancy'

Same here. I also support a women's right to abortion on the grounds of sex selection. I find the concept of sex selection really sickening but I agree with other posters that blaming the woman for the beliefs of an entire culture is just wrong.

I had training at work on safeguarding and culture, specifically South Asian culture, recently and the trainer was adamant that the stigma about having girls has not softened one iota in her culture (Indian Sikh). It's so bad that when a mother of 3 adult daughters died aged just 50, the community blamed it on her never having had a son shock and they said this openly to her daughters! News of the birth of a baby girl is regularly greeted with 'oh dear' and 'never mind' sad It was horrifying but with that sort of pressure coming at you from all sides, I could understand why a woman would choose to terminate if she was having a girl.

Lottapianos Fri 20-Sep-13 13:57:07

'I also support the choice to terminate at any point during the pregnancy'

Same here. I also support a women's right to abortion on the grounds of sex selection. I find the concept of sex selection really sickening but I agree with other posters that blaming the woman for the beliefs of an entire culture is just wrong.

I had training at work on safeguarding and culture, specifically South Asian culture, recently and the trainer was adamant that the stigma about having girls has not softened one iota in her culture (Indian Sikh). It's so bad that when a mother of 3 adult daughters died aged just 50, the community blamed it on her never having had a son shock and they said this openly to her daughters! News of the birth of a baby girl is regularly greeted with 'oh dear' and 'never mind' sad It was horrifying but with that sort of pressure coming at you from all sides, I could understand why a woman would choose to terminate if she was having a girl.

GrownUpYOYO Fri 20-Sep-13 14:01:25

What I don't understand is when people are saying the major/primary reason for sex selective abortion would be cultural reasons?

Here where I live in the UK most people are happy for a healthy baby. confused

kim147 Fri 20-Sep-13 14:02:18

To abort because a baby is bad timing / would make your life more difficult / for medical reasons / damaging to your body / unwanted is one thing.

To abort because it's a girl and you really wanted a boy?

The first reasons are because they affect you and your life. It's sad that in some cultures, having a female baby is seen as damaging your life.

I heard a story about a man in India who killed his 15 month old daughter because his wife had given birth to another girl so he killed the first one.

MooncupGoddess Fri 20-Sep-13 14:03:17

Those two points aren't irreconcilable, YOYO. As the author said, sex-selective abortion would probably be pretty rare in the UK, but would mostly be driven by cultural reasons when it did happen.

LeBFG Fri 20-Sep-13 14:07:36

Thanks OP for the heads up. THis is really interesting and represents to me the reason why taking a single issue and applying to all situations in wrong for me. Yes, women should have bodily autonomy, it's a right but a right to be balanced against other rights. Example: healthy fetuses in the 3rd trimester have a right to life. And aborting based on sex I find absolutely abhorrent.

Because I don't subscribe to a woman's right over her body in all and every conceivable case, then I can at least say I'm against 3rd trim abortions (resulting in the death of the foetus) and sex-based abortions.

I don't care if this seems like blaming the woman. It is her choice to abort or not so I can blame her if that's what she decides to do.

zatyaballerina Fri 20-Sep-13 14:24:52

Female hating culture should not be indulged. The only way you change the culture is by challenging it, no sex selected abortions, severe penalties for doctors who provide and families who pressure women into having them. There should be no room in a civilised society for such barbaric attitudes toward any group of people.

You can't compare a woman willingly aborting an unwanted or dangerous pregnancy to one who purposely gets pregnant with the intention of aborting if it is female or worse, women who are psychologically coerced into having abortions by family members.

There are three problems here; one is using abortion as a form of contraception when the result is not to a cultures liking, the second is the compulsion to abort which is what women in these communities feel and thirdly, there are social consequences for skewed sex ratios. The greater the access to sex selective abortion, the lower the percentage of females to males.
articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-07-03/ahmedabad/40350336_1_boys-and-girls-maninagar-wards

www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2012/12/indias-skewed-sex-ratios

daughtersofindia.wordpress.com/tag/skewed-sex-ratio/

Many of these women are not free like most people on this board, for someone trapped within a misogynistic community and controlling family, there is no choice when the pressure is on.

GrownUpYOYO Fri 20-Sep-13 14:28:37

Zatyaballerina - that all makes a lot of sense

If we allow termination on the grounds of convenience, is gender selection worse? I think Hermione makes an interesting point here. I think it's as Moderately said, the difference is when it's a characteristic of the foetus that causes the woman to choose to abort.

I realise that in some cultures it's often safer for the woman to abort than it is to bear a live girl. I honestly don't know how to confront that in other countries.

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