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.

Grennie Mon 30-Sep-13 20:07:21

Yes at first look this seems a difficult issue for those who are feminists and pro choice. But I think in reality there are probably women having abortions for other raesons that I would see as trivial. It doesn't matter. It is her body, and it should be up to her.

Although if women were not taught that they have to have penetrative sex with a man, then there would be less need for abortions in the first place.

OrangeFizz99 Mon 30-Sep-13 13:21:28

Wow, this is interesting. I came on here to post about the 'Im Pro Choice but..' attitude I keep coming across on mn and a bit in rl too.

This is really very thought provoking in that it challenges my views on the very thing I as about to post on.

I think cases where the women is in a society where bearing a girl is down right dangerous is probably outside the debate. That women is acting in preservation not through choice. Surely noone blames the women in those cases? They are victims.

I think I probably have to say, as others have, that I am pro choice and therefore believe that in every situation a women should have a right to decide what is in her womb and when. I wouldnt abort late on or for gender reasons but what really makes those reasons different to my reasons for my very early on abortion? The minute you start laying down a line anywhere (as per the 'ok if its rape, a 16 year old' etc I was going to post about) is the minute you start narrowing choices and punishing a woman for having a womb and being sexually active.

Late term and gender selective abortions do make me feel uneasy though which I dont understand given the logic laid out above.

Bumpstarter Sun 22-Sep-13 15:23:27

And the answer to such misogyny is never to deny women power over their own bodies actually I think allowing women this particular power over their bodies will not answer misogyny. Far more work is required that allowing gender based abortions. I doubt that misogyny is becoming less prevalent in places where gender selection has gone on and women are in the minority.

ErrolTheDragon Sun 22-Sep-13 00:23:43

WeAre - I've not gone back to read my posts but that's certainly not what I meant! The sex of the foetus is totally irrelevant to the question, I would assume no-one would think otherwise.

garlicbaguette Sat 21-Sep-13 13:03:12

I would rather a foetus be aborted than the child suffer starvation, neglect, murder, after birth. It would probably be better for the mother, too.

Obviously I don't condone the attitudes that make these outcomes likely, but they have nothing to do with the availability of abortion. Removing the option will not make the child more wanted, or the woman less punished.

Viviennemary Sat 21-Sep-13 12:18:25

I'm not in favour of pro-choice when that means abortion at any time and abortion for any reason. I am disgusted at abortion because the baby is female.

anaotchan Sat 21-Sep-13 12:14:05

I think the phrasing of the topic is really misleading - thinking that sex-selective abortion should be legal does not mean I am "in favour of it"!!

There is a huge difference between giving someone the legal right to do something, and thinking that said something is the right thing to do.

For instance I don't think it's a good idea for women to drink/smoke while pregnant, but I would be horrified if the government tried to legislate to legally force them to stop both.

In fact, I feel the same way about abortion: in my opinion, it's rarely the best option for women. But I would still argue to the death for our legal right to decide for ourselves!

LurcioLovesFrankie Sat 21-Sep-13 11:41:14

Kerala, I think. I have colleagues from there, and I'd say the issues are, as ever, complex and multi-faceted. Politically it's left leaning, and culturally some aspects of their society are women-friendly - IIRC there are some matrilineal inheritance laws, for instance.

EmmelineGoulden Sat 21-Sep-13 09:57:19

I find the abortion by the Australian woman less upsetting than the abortion by the Indian woman. The idea of a woman being coerced into an abortion she does not want seems much worse to me than a woman doing something to her own body for her own purposes.

sashh Sat 21-Sep-13 07:24:56

Whilst it is something no right minded person wants is sex selection abortion bettor or worse than killing a girl baby shortly after birth? Or in a recent case in Pakistan an older child because her new sister was a girl not a boy?

Sex selection abortion is a bit of a red herring because it is the attitudes that need to change.

I heard the same programme about China and men being desperate for wives, but their reasons were nothing to do with wanting to love a woman, they were to do with status, an unmarried man does not get the same respect as a married one.

Also before this policy millions of Chinese starved to death. Because of attitudes to women and girls they were the ones deprived of food first. Again is it better to never be born or to be starved to death as a child?

As a woman in 21st century Europe it is difficult to think that you would abort the 'wrong' sex, but if you know that the child you are carrying will not live beyond 6 months would you consider abortion then?

It will be interesting to see how this next generation in China feel about boys and girls? Single children who are now adults are allowed to have two children, will they want 2 boys?

Yesterday in Pakistan there was a country wide event where Imans in their Friday sermon were preaching "A girl is a gift from Allah".

There is a state in India (sorry can't remember which one) where education is free up to the age of 18, they have seen family size drop to 2-3 children a family and there is less, if any bias for boys because girls can and do get an education and then earn their own money so girls are no longer a financial burden.

WeAreSeven Sat 21-Sep-13 00:44:00

You know what, Errol, I have had wine tonight so it is perfectly possible that it has adversely affected my reading of the screen! I thought someone asked if you would find it more repugnant if it were a male foetus that were terminated and you said it was slightly less repugnant but I probably didn't read it correctly! blush

I think I get confused with termination because I really don't think I would ever have one, no matter what. But I wouldn't dream of imposing my "morals" on another woman or voting to impose my morals on another woman. I got really angry one day in work because someone who knew about my dd, who was born at 28 weeks and died 7 weeks later, said
"So you must be really against abortion" and I'm NOT! I said so but couldn't be too vehement because it was a client I was talking to and you are supposed to be polite to clients.

I get confused because a foetus is a foetus, surely. So if it's OK to terminate this foetus, then it should be OK to terminate that foetus. But it is upsetting if the reasons for the termination seem facile and shallow.

And, then, this is the thing. The woman in India might want her baby, no matter if it's a boy or a girl. But if she wants the baby and her husband, family or circle of acquaintances pressurise her into having a boy, then it's not her choice, is it? It is the choice of the people around her, therefore her choice is taken away and she is seen as a breeding vessel for male heirs. And yet she is the one who will have to live with that, probably thinking for the rest of her life about that baby girl and how she might have turned out.

The woman in Australia wanted a girl and it was her choice to terminate the boy because of prettiness, dresses, barbies and pink. Because at the end of the day, that's what it boils down to.

And although it upsets me that she would have a termination for such reasons, that I still feel morally obliged to support her choice because it must always be her choice. Always.

ErrolTheDragon Sat 21-Sep-13 00:11:14

Seven, so sorry for what you've been through

>Errol do you really think the above scenario is really even slightly less repugnant than a woman in a country where news of a baby girl is greeted with sympathy, seeking to terminate a baby girl?
To me it seemed worse. There would be far less cultural pressure on the Australian woman to produce a daughter than there would on the Indian woman to produce a son.

Yes, me too - I'm not quite sure why you thought I'd think otherwise confused. Maybe I was unclear in some earlier post about something...its a complicated issue. I don't find the actions of the Indian woman repugnant - they're understandable, but the position she's put in certainly is.

I think I got close to my conclusion with my reframing of the OPs title
'if you're pro-choice you are in favour of a woman having a right to sex-selective abortion' - you may think that their reasons are understandable in their situation, or you may think them ethically wrong but its their decision.

MooncupGoddess Fri 20-Sep-13 23:04:29

Really sorry to hear about your loss, WeAreSeven.

It's entirely possible to think a particular action should be legal but disapprove of it morally... that's where I would stand on the case you mention.

WeAreSeven Fri 20-Sep-13 22:57:38

I used to sometimes frequent a forum which existed for people who wanted a baby of a specific gender, some wanted boys, some wanted girls.
One woman started a thread blaming the Australian government for "making her" have a termination. Because gender selection is not allowed in Australia. She had two boys already and had just terminated her pregnancy with twin sons.
I have to say, it rattled me.
First of all because I was sharing a forum with her. I wanted a girl too. Was I so self-absorbed as that? I knew I wouldn't have aborted any of my sons regardless of gender. But here I was, like this woman, trying to figure out how to sway my odds towards a girl.
Secondly, I was pro-choice but yet this upset me. So was I not really pro-choice? Because if you are pro-choice, shouldn't you be pro-choice for all pregnant women? Not just the pregnant women who terminate for reasons you deem acceptable?
And then because she was blaming the government for her choice. But she knew before she embarked on the pregnancy that she would terminate a boy. If she were rich, she could have gone to the USA and had a procedure to guarantee a girl. Because she wasn't rich, she took her chances, she gambled and lost.

Errol do you really think the above scenario is really even slightly less repugnant than a woman in a country where news of a baby girl is greeted with sympathy, seeking to terminate a baby girl?
To me it seemed worse. There would be far less cultural pressure on the Australian woman to produce a daughter than there would on the Indian woman to produce a son.

I stopped using that forum after that.

I did have a baby girl and then she died. And a lot of people were very sympathetic that "the girl" had died. More so, I think than if it had been one of my sons . And yet it really wouldn't have been an improvement if it had been any of my sons.

BasilBabyEater Fri 20-Sep-13 22:36:07

Yeah, very few of the pro-forced-birthers will argue that people should be forced to give blood against their will in order to have a permanent well-stocked blood-bank in the public interest, let alone be forced to give up one of their kidneys.

EmmelineGoulden Fri 20-Sep-13 22:15:06

Rights frequently become hierarchical in ethical arguments. For example, we talk about humans having a right to life and a right to bodily autonomy in terms of organ transplants, but no one finds it difficult to say the right to life does not mean you can insist someone gives up a kidney for you. The right to bodily autonomy is quite important then. It allows your fear of needles or simply your desire to not suffer any loss in order to benefit someone else to keep you from being forced into taking the lesser risk to your detriment and someone else's benefit. And that's accepting the false equivalence between a foetus and a human being.

edam Fri 20-Sep-13 21:39:15

There are plenty of reasoned, important criticisms of utilitarianism. Especially in relation to minorities - greatest good of the greatest number is all very well if you are in a majority, not so handy if you are the only gay in the village.

Jo can you explain a bit more about this please? Compromising someone's bodily autonomy is always undesirable, but preferable when it avoids a greater harm. What greater harm do you mean, in the context of this thread? Thanks.

I think my blocked sinuses are blocking my brain too. Can't sem to understand things properly today. sad

LadyIsabellaWrotham Fri 20-Sep-13 20:05:09

Quite agree Jo - People have "interests" but they don't have rights. If Utilitarianism was good enough for John and Harriet Mill then it's good enough for me.

JoTheHot Fri 20-Sep-13 19:55:49

This thread is an excellent example of why framing ethical arguments in terms of rights is unhelpful.

1. Humans have a right to life.
2. Humans have a right to bodily autonomy.

2. contradicts 1.

So 1. becomes - Humans have a right to life, apart from when they don't.

Ethical decisions should be about minimising harm and maximising well-being. Compromising someone's bodily autonomy is always undesirable, but preferable when it avoids a greater harm.

BasilBabyEater Fri 20-Sep-13 19:02:29

"it's the culture that needs changing, not the right of women to determine their own lives."

Quite. Get rid of a culture that says males are more valuable than females and you get rid of the need for sex selective abortions.

In fact, you get rid of the need for most abortions full stop. Women don't generally "choose" to have abortions like they choose what colour knickers to buy; they choose to have abortions because there is no other acceptable choice if they want to continue to function in a society which has been designed to disadvantage them.

YoniMatopoeia Fri 20-Sep-13 18:50:26

So... The fwr board changes my mind about something else....

My instinctive reaction to sex selecton abortion was 'no'.

Just as my gut reaction to late term used to be negative.

Thank you for discussing all this stuff from a (mostly) lurker.

EmmelineGoulden Fri 20-Sep-13 18:20:29

I'm pro-choice for any reason. If a woman thinks having a female (or male, or disabled, or blonde, or double recessive blah blah gened) child is not in her own best interests then she should have the right to terminate.

Not that I would choose or think that other women should choose abortion in those circumstances (so I'm not pro-). But I think they should have the right to do as they please with their bodies and don't believe they should be forced to use their bodies to support a foetus against their will - even if their decisions are sexist, racist or disablist. Just as I don't think a woman should be obliged to sleep with someone they don't want to, even if their reason for not wanting to is influenced by sexist, racist or disablist views.

At the same time, I find a culture that favours the birth of boys over girls to be abhorrent. But it's the culture that needs changing, not the right of women to determin their own lives.

Oh ok, Mumsnut, I see what you mean. That’s definitely an issue. For me the key is in the word "choice"; the decision must be the woman's, without fear or coercion.

captainbarnacle Fri 20-Sep-13 18:03:02

You are correct, OP.

Who is it this week who has been attacked for saying abortion on grounds of gender is the same as abortion on grounds of rape? She is totally correct too.

Abortion on grounds of any thing other than the medical issues a foetus may have is abortion on grounds of the woman's choice. There is no difference between the motives - whether there is an abortion on grounds of rape or gender, the foetus remains healthy and viable and has no guilt whatsoever.

I spent this lunchtime being attacked on a FB post for pointing this out.

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