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Once again, a Conservative MP wants to fiddle with current abortion laws. Mark Warawa has proposed a motion asking the House of Commons to condemn sex selective abortions.

I don’t like sex-selective abortion. I still support a person’s right to choose one.

Given the current discussion around abortion, I feel that’s an important distinction to make. Sex selective abortion bothers me. A lot. It’s a choice that’s often driven by a belief that certain genders – often females – are of little to no value. It’s a perspective that I find personally offense being that I’m a feminist and a big believer in overall equality.

Do I fight misogyny? Hell, yes! But I will not make someone else’s body my battle ground.

Being pro-choice does not mean that I always approve of someone else’s choices. It means that I believe my approval, or lack, thereof, is irrelevant. It isn’t my body. It isn’t my life. Therefore it isn’t my decision. I don’t believe that anyone should be forced to continue a pregnancy or give birth based on my personal ethics. Because no matter how sound I think my ideals may be, I don’t have to live with the effects of that pregnancy. Nor do I have to deal with the consequences. The consequences being a child.

I totally feel those among you who are pissed off by sex selective abortion. I’m pissed off too! But then I think about the consequences of banning that practice specifically. I think about the logistics. Would people be forced to convince physicians that they were seeking an abortion for legal (read: valid) reasons? Would people from specific ethn0-cultural groups be subjected to closer scrutiny or denied an abortion based on racists assumptions?

What would banning sex selective abortion mean for the people – many of whom identify as women themselves – who already exist in a culture or household where they themselves are devalued? What would it mean for the baby girls they were forced to birth?

As a woman, I believe that equality is my birth right. But I’ve also come to understand that my ability to live in accordance with that belief is a privilege of my circumstance – my family, my community, my education and socio-economic status. Someone tells me girls aren’t awesome and I can bite back with “fuck you” or another similarly clever rejoinder knowing that my partner, my parents, my friends and most people around me will back me up.

But what if no one were there to back me up? What if I had been raised to see myself as less? What if my partner required my subservience? What if my community condemned my bid for equality?

What if I were pregnant and I knew the child I was carrying would be not be received as a wanted blessing but as a valueless blight? Would I be grateful to those advocating under the auspices of feminism and equality that I now had lost what little agency I had to spare myself and my child from further oppression? Would I see my pregnancy as a happy development and the birth of my baby girl as step towards gender equality?

Maybe. Or maybe I’d feel frightened and angry that some random politicians were forcing me to become even more vulnerable by giving birth to a child who would be even more vulnerable than I.

When it comes right down to it, my feeling about abortion is this: I don’t have to like your reason. No one should be forced to have baby if they don’t want to. Forbidding sex selective abortion won’t solve the problem of gender discrimination. What it will do is leave many people with no other option but to endure a pregnancy which will culminate in the birth of a child that isn’t wanted.

And that I cannot support.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Well put and it needed to be said.

  2. Jolie says:

    This is a tough subject, but I agree with you entirely!

  3. D says:

    Well put indeed. And you do a commendable job humanizing the decision. And while you are right that the real solution to gender selective abortion lies in changing social values in the groups that practice it (here in Canada for instance), part of changing those social values is by defining in our common behavior and laws what is, and is not acceptable treatment of women – period, full stop. And killing women, because they are women is unacceptable, regardless of the context. In this respect abortion is like free speech and in some ways I believe that was the spirit of you post.; as in, I may disagree with what you have to say but I will defend your right to say it etc. But abortion, like free speech does have its outer limits. I will defend your right to say anything until it becomes hate speech. Then it has to stop. Similarly I will defend your right to abortion until it becomes hate-based abortion – and in this case it is systemic hate towards women that cannot be tolerated.

    • Nadine says:

      Hi D,

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I think I understand the point you’re trying to make. And I wholeheartedly agree that killing women because they are women is unacceptable, regardless of the context. I think where we might differ is in our belief about whether a female fetus and a woman have the same rights. But I don’t want to make assumptions about your beliefs, so I’ll just clarify mine.

      I don’t believe that a fetus is a person. I don’t believe that abortion is murder. I don’t believe that sex-selective abortions kill women. I don’t believe that a fetus right to bodily autonomy or independent personhood. I believe it’s a living organism that has the potential to become a person. Based on those beliefs, when someone chooses to abort a female fetus it isn’t “killing women”. They’re terminating a pregnancy and in my opinion it involves their body and their body alone.

      But your comment did make me think – do I believe there should be any sanctions placed on abortion? I’ve come up with one so far. I don’t think anyone should be coerced or forced into having an abortion if they don’t want one.

  4. Amanda says:

    totally agree, though I never could have put it so well. And as a sidenote, the term “pro-life” needs to be abolished. It should be “anti-choice”, IMO.

    • Nadine says:

      Many people in the pro-choice community use the term “anti-choice”. I’m a big believer in honouring the names that people choose for themselves. I don’t mind terribly that people who oppose abortion call themselves “pro-life”. I just enjoy reminding them that of all the choices I support, life is actually my favourite one!

  5. Thank you for this. Shared, shared and shared. :)

  6. zchamu says:

    Great post, even though I do disagree with you, for one simple reason: A sex selective abortion isn’t about the woman and her right to choose what happens to her body. What happens, happens no matter what sex the child is. A sex selective abortion is about the fetus and is a value judgment on its organs. So frankly I don’t even see it in the same vein as the abortion debate at all; I see it as a women’s rights issue, and the right of females to actually be born and not be less valued than males.

    But I welcome the discussion.

    • Nadine says:

      As do I. Thank you for your response and your perspective.

      I also feel that sex selective abortion is a judgment on the fetus, it’s organs and it’s presumed gender. There is no denying the gender discrimination in that decision. And I hate that. I wish it didn’t happen. I hope that someday people of all genders will be valued equally as human beings.

      That having been said, where I feel differently is that I don’t believe that being carried to term is right of any fetus. Until it’s born, I believe the fetus is part of someone else’s body. And I believe it’s a right of the person experiencing the pregnancy to choose whether to carry that fetus or not. So I can’t separate sex selection from the general abortion debate because I don’t see a fetus as separate from the person carrying it — even if that person might choose abortion for shitty, misogynistic reasons.

  7. Caroline says:

    This was a great post! When I saw the title, I expected to disagree with what you were going to say, but I found it was the total opposite! This may be a silly question, but how do you go about banning sex-selective abortion? Would you not have to ban all abortions? You can always find an alternative reason for having one if only sex-selective abortions were to get banned(reasons other than stating you want a baby of the opposite sex)

  8. Lynn says:

    Wow, I thought this post was fantastic and really got me thinking. It’s so easy to hear about sex-selective abortion and knee-jerk that it’s bad, and we should stop it. But this post really puts into perspective what a law like that would mean. Thanks for the thoughtfulness!

    • Nadine says:

      I admit that I have some pretty strong negative feelings around sex-selective abortion myself. I just don’t feel that disapproving of someone’s reason for an abortion is a valid reason for denying their agency over their own body.

  9. Ross Brown says:

    Well-thought out and presented. I share the sentiment.

    Kudos to you, Nadine!

  10. Gretchen Powers says:

    I have a great solution. A woman is granted ONE sex selective abortion and it comes in conjunction with a sterilization. This way they cannot breed any more hateful, degenerate people.

  11. Maurice says:

    “Being pro-choice does not mean that I always approve of someone else’s choices. It means that I believe my approval, or lack, thereof, is irrelevant. It isn’t my body. It isn’t my life.”

    This suggests that you don’t understand what the debate over abortion is actually a debate about.

    After a child is born, it has its own body, right? Yet, does this body suddenly come into being when it leaves the womb? It seems hard to believe that this is the case – it already has a body, with its own heart beat, brain patterns, immune system, genetic pattern, and so on, before it is born.

    So, the debate about abortion (simpliciter) can’t be about whether someone has a right to do what they want with their own body – the response (properly) is that you’re dealing with two bodies, the mother’s and the unborn child’s.

    A better question is which body has priority – the mother’s (and possible inconvenience or dangers that go along with it) or the child’s (where abortion means approximately a 100% chance of death for that body), at which points in development, and why.

    • Nadine says:

      Hi Maurice,

      Thanks for reading and raising some interesting questions.

      The passage you quoted isn’t meant to summarize the abortion debate. I’m speaking specifically about why I maintain a pro-choice position as it pertains to sex-selective abortion even though I’m anti-misogyny and a feminist.

      For me, the debate is about personhood, not just when a physical body is present. Is that unborn body a person? Some believe that personhood begins at the moment of conception or implantation or when the embryo develops a heart beat.

      I believe that fetus is developing living body; however, I don’t believe it has an independent right to life until it becomes physically independent from the person who is pregnant. I believe a fetus is a body that becomes a person when it’s born. So answer your specific question about who’s body takes priority I personally believe it’s the person who is pregnant.

      I believe most people on both sides of the issue are sincere and passionate in their believes and that those two perspectives are very difficult to reconcile. Hence the debate.

      To be clear, I support choice. People can choose to bestow personhood on their own zygote/embryo/fetus at any stage they choose.

      I understand that there is (and will likely always be) a debate because not everyone believes what I believe. Some people believe that personhood starts in utero and therefore a person must give up complete control of their body if they become pregnant.

      I absolutely defend a person’s right to define their own fetus as a person/baby/child that they are bringing into the world.

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