On January 16, the Canadian Medical Association published an editorial penned by their Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Rajendra Kale, “It’s a girl!” – could be a death sentence. The issue of sex-selective abortions was stirred to life with this bit of paternalism:
A pregnant woman being told the sex of the fetus at ultrasonography at a time when an unquestioned abortion is possible is the starting point of female feticide from a health care perspective. A woman has the right to medical information about herself that is available to a health care professional to provide advice and treatment. The sex of the fetus is medically irrelevant information (except when managing rare sex-linked illnesses) and does not affect care. Moreover, such information could in some instances facilitate female feticide. Therefore, doctors should be allowed to disclose this information only after about 30 weeks of pregnancy — in other words, when an unquestioned abortion is all but impossible.
I’m not sure how equality is served by a man deciding what information a male-dominated profession should allow women to have, but I do know that Dr. Kale has presented a solution to a problem that does not exist in Canada. There is no epidemic of “lost women” in Canada, nor is there any grand social unrest in the ethnic communities he damns as bastions of sexism.
No, this issue isn’t about sexism. It’s about abortion and tribalism. We have decided, roughly speaking, that abortion is okay. Canada has zero laws prohibiting abortion at any stage of pregnancy (though doctors tend not to perform late-term abortions other than for dire medical reasons).
People are concerned about pregnant women aborting little girls. They’re worried about lost women. So much so that some 60% want laws against sex-selective abortion (or maybe they’re just xenophobes). But this is all just about the yuck factor.
Legally, no girls are being aborted. No women are going missing. Women who are pregnant are receiving information from their doctors and deciding how they will (legally) act upon it. If girls and boys are ‘being aborted’, it is occurring whether or not anyone sees an ultrasound.
Equality will not be achieved by passing insignificant laws that infantilize women.
Bonus link: National Post’s Chris Selley notes the hypocrisy when a near-identical matter is raised:
We know, for example, that Canadians travel to the United States to have sex-selective in-vitro fertilization. It has been reported that they tend to request female children. This strikes me as sex selection, plain and simple. But after I wrote about this last week, I was surprised to find that some Canadians draw a very definite line between sex selection (which is bad) and what’s called “family balancing”: That is, arranging to have a girl because you already have two boys, or vice versa. This can involve anything from pre-implantation gender determination to simply aborting a naturally conceived fetus of the unwanted gender.
The distinction doesn’t hold up well to scrutiny, in my view. Sex selection isn’t inherently sexist or coercive (though of course it often is), and “family balancing” isn’t inherently free of those problems. There are perfectly rational economic reasons, abhorrent though they are, in many countries to prefer male offspring. In Canada, we properly see them as cultural relics. But if Dick and Jane of Kitsilano are going to be congratulated on the boy they engineered for themselves just because they wanted a boy, I don’t see what right we have to inquire as to Deepak and Sanjana’s motives. For all we know, neither couple’s motives are any more “cultural” than the other’s.
Bonus link II: David Warren goes there:
On other fronts, we find the whole range of “eugenic” issues raised by selective abortions; the horrible prospect of enabling people to do by “choice” what Hitler chose: to eliminate those groups he deemed to be “inferior.” To order “designer babies” for a new master race.
Well, at least we’ve got the Hitler comparison out of the way.