Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Ultimate Woman's Right's Conundrum: Sex-Selective Abortion

From the latest United Families Newsletter.

"For many...even those who are pro-choice, the matter may not appear quite so simple. Two norms in the United States press against a right to sex-selection abortion: one is an equality norm, and the other is a belief -- shared by many who support abortion rights -- that terminating a pregnancy is a serious act that must not be undertaken for affirmatively bad reasons."
Sherry Colb, Rutgers University Law Professor

Dear Friends of the Family,

Welcome to the 21st century. Marvels and conveniences brought on by science and technology have removed the drudgery of every day life and made work more efficient and even enjoyable.

As we have learned through the ages, technology and scientific advances can be used for good or for bad purposes. This is the case when it comes to ultrasound machines, and other newer technologies that reveal the sex of an unborn child. Who would have imagined technology developed to diagnose illness and save lives would evolve into a vehicle to help extinguish life because it did not suit another person's wishes? With this knowledge, one must ask how a culture that values gender over life itself can expect to one day value anything.

Social and political scientists concerned about sex ratios of nations

China and India have been the focus of much study because of their ratio of male to female new births. For every 100 baby girls born in China and India, about 120 - 130 baby boys are born. This is alarming as the average ratio in other countries and formerly in both of these nations is much lower, closer to 105 boys to 100 girls. This fairly new phenomena is believed to be caused by prenatal sex-selective abortion.

Sex-selective abortion is defined as the practice of purposely seeking out the gender of an unborn child and aborting it based on its gender. Cultural norms, such as those in China and India where male children are preferred for social and financial reasons compound other important determinants such as poverty, government birth plans, and the composition of prior siblings. If China's "one child" law meant to reduce its population explosion of the last decade, then it worked; the rate of population growth has slowed considerably, however China is fast becoming the land of missing women.

A 1996 study conducted by a Chinese researcher claimed that 85% of aborted fetuses in Zhejiang, a rural county in China, were female. More recent studies conclude that sex-selective abortion of baby girls and female infanticide, the killing of new-born baby girls, are prevalent in every sector of Chinese society, more so in rural China.

Unintended consequences bring violence to the world

The United Nations reports that 7,000 girls daily are the victims of sex selective abortions in India. India, another Asian country that practices son preference for similar reasons to the Chinese, has 16 million more boys than girls under the age of 15. China has 14 million more boys than girls of the same age group, one of the unintended consequences to this inhumane crime against women and society.

A book by Professors Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. der Boer, called Bare Branches: Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population, warns that war brought on by China and India is imminent. With millions of unmarried males to deal with, the governments of India and China will find it convenient to develop and send their overabundance of men to war. By the year 2020, China is expected to have over 40 million more men than women. Other nations, especially in the European Union will find defending their homeland difficult since most European nations are well below the population replacement level.

Other unintended consequences from female infanticide and the imbalance of male and female ratios include rape, sex trafficking and prostitution, increased crime, societal unrest and obstruction to the development of democracy and prosperity.

Even though China and India are recognized as the worst offenders of prenatal sex-selective abortion by the United Nations, other nations are grappling with the same problem, but for different reasons.

Designer families

Sex-selective abortion is frequently performed for non-medical reasons that do not threaten the life of the mother. Some families opt for it simply to balance the gender of their children; others are utilizing today's technology to "design" their own families. Geneticists, ethicists, pro-life and pro-family experts are alarmed over the potential harm this practice will have to children, families and society as a whole.

Marcy Darnovsky, associate executive director for the Council for Responsible Genetics and author of, Revisiting Sex Selection: the Growing Popularity of New Sex Selection Methods Revives an Old Debate states:

This constellation of technological, economic, cultural, and ideological developments has revived the issue of sex selection, relatively dormant for more than a decade...These include the prospect that selection could reinforce misogyny, sexism, and gender stereotypes; undermine the well-being of children by treating them as commodities and subjecting them to excessive parental expectations or disappointment; skew sex ratios in local populations; further the commercialization of reproduction; and open the door to a high-tech consumer eugenics.

A British company called DNA Worldwide is currently selling a mail order kit that determines the sex of unborn children as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The company sells worldwide over the Internet, except to India and China. Since the kit is sold as "informational" and not medical, no regulation is necessary. The Pink or Blue Early Test Kit claims up to 99% accuracy and costs about $500.

Stopping the madness

Countries like Australia have begun investigations into the ethics and accuracy of such a kit. Many fear that the kit will be used to sex select offspring. Australian Health Minister Tony Abbott, who called for the investigation said, "I have to say, speaking as a citizen rather than as a health minister, I tend to...regard kids as a gift to be cherished rather than as a commodity."

In Canada the law forbids sex selection for in vitro fertilization or other similar procedures, except in rare instances. It is clear that Canadian citizens are opposed to sex-selective abortion, even though there is no law restricting sex-selective abortion after the fetus is a few weeks old.

This past March at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), in New York, the United States and South Korea co-sponsored a resolution calling for the elimination of prenatal sex selection and female infanticide. However, the resolution was withdrawn due to the objections of China, India, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico and others.

Nevertheless, the CSW did address the practice of female infanticide. Included in its "Agreed Conclusions on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination and Violence against the Girl Child" was this entry:

14.9. Violence and discrimination:
h. Eliminate all forms of discrimination against the girl child and the root causes of son preference, which results in harmful and unethical practices regarding female infanticide and prenatal sex selection, which may have significant repercussions on society as a whole;...

Working together to rid the world of "bad reasons"

Just as UFI found some nations at the CSW/United Nations conference opposed to a resolution decrying sex-selective abortion, some pro-choice groups and individuals may stand by their belief that a woman has the right to terminate a pregnancy for any reason - at any time. This position will undoubtedly be controversial as the technological consequences of this crime against nature and women continues to come to light.

Carol Soelberg, President
United Families International



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