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View Full Version : Should babies be aborted based on their gender?


Bricker
01-23-2004, 10:52 AM
Based in part on this thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=236235), it appears that China, among other countries, has begun to reap what they've sown concerning female babies - they are selectively aborted, as well as left to die after being born. Of course, some of the pressure comes from China's limitation on the number of children a family may have, but as the linked thread points out, this problem arises in other countries where female offspring are not as prized as male, even without a policy limiting family size.

On the other hand, one of the arguments in favor of abortion has always been that it's a woman's right to choose what happens to her body.

I'm curious to know if pro-choice people see any conflict or tension between these two. I assume, of course, that pro-choice folks are as horrified as anyone at the thought of newborns being abandoned; my question is how they feel about the selective abortion of female babies - or, if you prefer, of female fetuses.

- Rick

Bricker
01-23-2004, 10:53 AM
I thought I was in GD, and if a mod should wander across this, moving it to GD would be appreciated. There no longer seems to be a "Report this post to a moderator" button.

- Rick

cleosia
01-23-2004, 11:14 AM
With a little bit of forethought, they should have seen this coming. I can see a time when females will become exceedingly valuable and perhaps to get one, you'll have to give one, i.e., if you want my daughter to marry your son, you must also give me your daughter to marry MY son. It would leave families who did not want a girl in a bad position.

Hauky
01-23-2004, 11:14 AM
I've got nothing to add, I was just passing through and thought I'd help you out. Up at the top of each post, right above the member's join date, is the post's number (in the thread) followed by a picture of an exclamation point. That exclamation point is the new Report Post button.

Cat Whisperer
01-23-2004, 11:14 AM
I don't know, talking about killing babies because they're girls seems like a good topic for the Pit.

I'll answer your question for debate; I'm semi-pro-choice person, and I do not in any way, shape, or form condone killing a baby because it's a girl. I believe there are good reasons for aborting a pregnancy, but this isn't one of them.

Lynn Bodoni
01-23-2004, 11:15 AM
The "Report" button is now cleverly disguised as an exclamation point, or some such. Hover your cursor over the various buttons along the edges of the post field to see what they do. ;) That's what *I* had to do, dammit, so the rest of you should have to do it too.

Lynn

Velma
01-23-2004, 11:15 AM
There is an interesting story that talks about this in the latest Newsweek. There are new ways that couples can pick with relative certainty the gender of their baby now, and it raised the question of people who chose for a sex but fell in the percentage of those who got the 'wrong' one. It said there were some people who aborted based on the gender (I don't remember what the numbers were - maybe someone who has seen it will remember).

The article seemed to convey that even people who were pro-choice often had a difficult time reconciling that this was morally ok to do. Some doctors refused to do it ( and some Dr.'s refuse to use the technology to let a couple pick the gender entirely ).

It's an interesting topic and one that will continue to get more real in the U.S. with the new technology.

UncleBeer
01-23-2004, 11:15 AM
Away it goes. And that little exclamation point at the top right of each post is the "Report to Mod" function. No idea why the coders decided to hide it like that.

Lynn Bodoni
01-23-2004, 11:19 AM
Hmmmm, interesting...I don't get that button on my own post, but I can report YOUR post just fine. So I guess that we can't report our own posts any longer.

belladonna
01-23-2004, 11:29 AM
I'm pro-choice and I think it is wrong.

Abortion exists (or should, IMO) as an option for women who are--at the time--unable to carry, deliver, and care for a child. Gender-based abortions fall way outside this realm because the women having them are ready and able to become a mother, just not to a daughter.

I'm biased, of course, because as a female I find it very insulting that a male child would be so heavily preferred. I also realize that cultural and financial issues factor heavily into this practice. However, I still feel that terminating a pregnancy for no reason other than the gender of the fetus is NOT the right thing to do. It smells too much like sexual genocide, not to mention all of the ammunition it could give to the pro-lifers about capricious and petty motives behind abortions.

Tikster
01-23-2004, 11:29 AM
I agree with featherlou : There is a big difference if you get an abortion because you just don't want a child right now and getting an abortion because the fetus isn't the sex you wanted.

If someone is willing to get an abortion on those grounds, they are, in my mind, not ready to become parents at all. Children are a gift, no matter their sex, and should grow up among parents who love them and don't say 'I wish you'd been a boy/girl instead'.

-Tikster

Eve
01-23-2004, 11:35 AM
I don't think "babies" should be aborted at all.

I think embryos should be able to be aborted in the first trimester for any reason the parents wish.

lno
01-23-2004, 11:46 AM
(As an aside, Lynn, the ! doesn't appear if you're not logged on - I was baffled as to what you and UB were talking about until I tried to reply...)

I view myself as more pro-choice than pro-life, in that I feel that abortion should be legal but not completely unrestricted. I would be horrified by abandoning a newborn to die by exposure.

Selective abortions based on cosmetic factors such as hair or eye color seem to me to be more selfish of reasons. The parents have presumably decided that they do want a child, but have a predefined image that their child must meet. If I knew someone had an abortion for this reason and this reason alone, I think my opinion of them would fall drastically.

Similarly, an abortion based on the gender of the fetus is abhorrent. The parents, again, presumably want a child, but only the type of child that they want.

However, I don't think abortions based on other factors - economic, medical, or other personal reasons - are not equal to this. If a woman were to find that her child will be born with severe mental and physical disabilities, I believe it should be her choice whether to bear that child, and I don't think that her decision would be reached easily. (To stretch an analogy, I recall a passage from Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried in which he discussed facing the draft in Vietnam, and weighing whether to flee to Canada and face those repercussions, or go to Vietnam and face what that entailed. The chapter ended on phrase like "I was a coward. I took the easy way out. I went to Vietnam.")

This is a convoluted way of saying that though I consider myself pro-choice, I consider selective abortion of female fetuses (or blue-eyed, or black-haired, or..) to be far more of an ethical grey area.

Diogenes the Cynic
01-23-2004, 11:47 AM
It may be stupid from a practical point of view but it's still victimless, IMO.

Kimstu
01-23-2004, 11:48 AM
I agree that gender-based abortion (or as it's called here in India, "female foeticide") is a Bad Thing, but I don't think there's an adequate case to be made for legally prohibiting it. (Even here where female foeticide/infanticide is a real demographic problem---young men in some areas are already faced with a serious shortage of potential brides---it seems to be not the abortion itself but the prenatal sex screening (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/2765853.stm) that's illegal.)

After all, a woman's right to choose is a woman's right to choose. Even if she's making a bad choice for a bad reason, it's still her choice.

I think the only real solution is to address the issue of the status of women. As long as daughters are largely an economic handicap (dowry expenses, leaving the family upon marriage, lower earning potential) while sons are an economic asset, some people are always going to feel that they can't afford to have a daughter instead of a son.

Public education to drive home the demographic consequences might help some. You may want a son to carry on your line instead of a daughter to carry on someone else's, but if your son can't find anybody to marry when he grows up, that'll be a wash, won't it?

John Mace
01-23-2004, 12:05 PM
I don't think "babies" should be aborted at all.

I think embryos should be able to be aborted in the first trimester for any reason the parents wish.

I can agree with this, although I'd probably set the time at somewhere around 4-5 months rather than just the 1st trimester. I don't see this as ethically any different than if you could choose the sex thru artificial insemination (only the "Y" sperm get thru).

If I were a doctor, I'd probably council the couple pretty strongly about having that medical procedure for such a superficial reason. OTOH, it's unlcear if it would be wise to encourage a couple to have a baby they didn't want...

blowero
01-23-2004, 12:51 PM
I don't think "babies" should be aborted at all.

I think embryos should be able to be aborted in the first trimester for any reason the parents wish.
I love it! That's a great comeback.

I think the problem in China is a large percentage of the population still having provincial attitutes about gender roles. There's a lot to blame the Chinese government for, but I have a hard time faulting them for the population control law. It seems wrong, but on the other hand, if they allow extreme overpopulation, there are going to be a lot more problems than just moral dilemnas. Then again, the ends don't justify the means. I'm so confused....

As for aborting based on gender, I think it's a horrible idea, and anyone who does so is ignorant in the extreme. The only worse idea is forcing people to have babies when they don't want to. I agree with John Mace in that educating people can help.

What does everyone think of having a law, not restricting the choice to abort, but preventing doctors from telling people what gender the baby will be? I don't know how I would feel about that, but I thought I'd throw the idea out there.

istara
01-23-2004, 12:55 PM
With a little bit of forethought, they should have seen this coming. I can see a time when females will become exceedingly valuable and perhaps to get one, you'll have to give one, i.e., if you want my daughter to marry your son, you must also give me your daughter to marry MY son. It would leave families who did not want a girl in a bad position.
Sadly, I believe it will worsen the position of women. They will become total chattels, bought and sold. They won't command their own price, their fathers, husbands, brothers, "owners" will.

I read elsewhere that the one child policy has led to huge deliquency among Chinese male youth. For two reasons:
(a) prized male children with no siblings being brought up as spoilt little princes
(b) lack of females at adolescent age to (can't remember exact terms used) "pacify" male adolescents -ie that in the absence of women as a distraction, they just become aggressive and violent

So with a mass majority of spoilt, aggressive men used to not being around women, how will a minority of less valued women, probably grown up to feel like total second class citizens, ever achieve empowerment or equality? In fact, a situation not unlike that which led to some of the more bizarre Taliban atrocities: males, brought up with virtually no contact with women, taking power of a society where women were already less valued and oppressed, and treating them worse than animals.

I truly fear for Chinese women.

blowero
01-23-2004, 12:57 PM
Oops, I missed Kimstu's post. I see pre-screening already is illegal in India.

Freudian Slit
01-23-2004, 01:08 PM
In theory, it does sound like a good idea to ban this aborting of fetuses based on gender. But how would you even enforce it? If a doctor asks you why you're doing it, you could just lie about the reasons for doing it.

Also...what are the reprecussions, if a couple is made to bring up a child of the gender that they obviously don't want? Will they end up unconsciously resenting it, making life even worse for the kid?

Kimstu
01-23-2004, 01:27 PM
Zoggie: Also...what are the reprecussions, if a couple is made to bring up a child of the gender that they obviously don't want? Will they end up unconsciously resenting it, making life even worse for the kid?

Unconsciously? In India, a lot of female children are deliberately neglected or abused (even if they're not simply exposed, i.e. killed by neglect, as infants): given much less food than their brothers, not given medical care when they're sick, not educated, etc. etc. In the ruthless calculus of poverty and sexism, they are deprioritized to a point that a lot of them don't survive.

Caveat: I'm not trying to say that Indian culture is essentially misogynist or abusive. Most Indian fathers absolutely adore their daughters, and from the middle class on up it seems to be quite accepted by most people that girls are to be loved and educated and all that good stuff just as much as boys. But when poverty, ignorance, traditional gender bias, and crushing dowry burdens combine, the result is often not a good outlook for girls.

BobLibDem
01-23-2004, 02:13 PM
I'm pro-choice, but this disturbs me. If you abort a statistically significant number of girl fetuses, you're going to alter the sex ratio for a generation. Even going from a split of 50-50 to 55-45 means that 10 guys out of 55 aren't going to find a mate. What effect having say 20% of the male population with no prospect of mating would have on a society is anybody's guess.

alice_in_wonderland
01-23-2004, 03:49 PM
Well, even though I consider aborting fetuses' because of their gender to be morally repugnant, assuming that the woman (couple) in question really, really doesn't want a girl, and the alternative is having the baby and leaving it to die on the side of the road, I would consider abortion the better option.

It's a bad situation and the abortion seems like the lesser of two evils.

I'm 100% pro-choice, as an aside.

Marley23
01-23-2004, 05:16 PM
Should babies be aborted based on their gender?
I see nothing good about it, but I don't think it should be illegal because that requires doctors (or the law) to pry into women's lives and decide why they can or can not have an abortion.

While Bricker may be right about the negative impacts of widespread selective abortion in this manner, I'm pretty sure this practice is on the decline in China. Likewise female infanticide, though I'm not sure how common it *really* ever was. I think the government has relaxed its policies on the issue, although the governments of China and India should probably continue to encourage population control in a responsible manner. (That means not forcing anyone to do anything and not killing anyone, in case I needed to clarify.)

Horatio Hellpop
01-23-2004, 05:40 PM
I don't have a cite for this, so feel free to find one that contradicts me; I don't mind a bit.

The pro-choice line (which I agree with) is that abortion is the decision of the mother and her physician, period. Abortion for sex-selection is usually the result of the father's input on the decision. In this country, Daddy's opinion on the subject carries no legal weight, so unless Mommy's a total pushover, it simply isn't a huge concern.

I've been hearing about these "Select the sex in advance" kits lately. Actually, I've been hearing about these for over twenty years. Either they don't work very well, or they're really unpopular. Until the science involved improves, I don't think these will result in a lopsidedly male America for a couple of generations yet.

Eva Luna
01-23-2004, 08:03 PM
Would any of you who think aborting a pregnancy upon discovering the baby would be female if it were for a different reason than simple gender preference, such as if you had a strong family history of a severe genetic defect that affected only girls?

(I have no idea whether there is such a defect, particularly one that is detectable early enough in the pregnancy for abortion still to be a real possibility, but after it's possible to determine gender.)

Cat Whisperer
01-24-2004, 12:28 PM
Maybe what Indian and Chinese officials should do in areas that are obviously aborting for gender is even things up for them again - come to a town that has a significantly higher ratio of boys, put the names of all the boys into a lottery, and draw names for which boys are to be killed to reduce the ratio to 50-50 again. Sure it sounds harsh, but I don't think you'd have to do it very often.

ResIpsaLoquitor
01-24-2004, 02:11 PM
Gotta wonder what it'd be like growing up in a household that endorsed the practice. "Son, it's lucky you were a boy, because we'd have gotten rid of you if you weren't."

Earthling
01-24-2004, 02:13 PM
I'm pretty sure this practice is on the decline in China. Likewise female infanticide, though I'm not sure how common it *really* ever was.Don't be so sure. As a national average, 117 Chinese boys are born for every 100 girls, and in some regions the disparity is as high as 135/100 (http://www.economist.com/World/asia/displayStory.cfm?story_id=1195334).

Until the science involved improves, I don't think these will result in a lopsidedly male America for a couple of generations yet.Interestingly enough, in adoptions, where parents can legally express their choices beforehand, the preference is for girls (http://slate.msn.com/id/2093899).

Horatio Hellpop
01-24-2004, 06:10 PM
Maybe what Indian and Chinese officials should do in areas that are obviously aborting for gender is even things up for them again - come to a town that has a significantly higher ratio of boys, put the names of all the boys into a lottery, and draw names for which boys are to be killed to reduce the ratio to 50-50 again. Sure it sounds harsh, but I don't think you'd have to do it very often.

I don't know about India, but in China the uneven gender ratio and female infanticide are the result of draconian government policies. I'm not sure addressing it with yet another draconian government policy would be the way to go; it's like using a second rusty nail to respond to a flat tire.

artemis
01-24-2004, 06:42 PM
Would any of you who think aborting a pregnancy upon discovering the baby would be female if it were for a different reason than simple gender preference, such as if you had a strong family history of a severe genetic defect that affected only girls?

(I have no idea whether there is such a defect, particularly one that is detectable early enough in the pregnancy for abortion still to be a real possibility, but after it's possible to determine gender.)

An aside:

Aborting a fetus because it was the "wrong" sex used to be done in cases of sex-linked genetic diseases (although the "wrong" sex in those cases was male). The ability to use amniocentesis to determine the sex of a fetus came along before reliable genetic tests for sex-linked disorders such as muscular dystrophy were developed. Couples who knew they were at risk of conceiving an affected child had a tough choice: carry the male fetus to term knowing there was a 50% chance the fetus carried the defect, or abort any male fetuses conceived and only carry female ones to term (knowing that on average half of those aborted male fetuses would be normal).

Now that reliable prenatal testing for many sex-linked diseases can be performed, this nasty situation isn't seen much any more.

FisherQueen
01-24-2004, 08:16 PM
Also...what are the reprecussions, if a couple is made to bring up a child of the gender that they obviously don't want? Will they end up unconsciously resenting it, making life even worse for the kid?

Worse than what? Worse than not being alive at all? I'm pretty sure my father would have preferred to have a son, and certainly I have the usual psychological scars, but you know, I can't honestly say I would rather not exist.

Susanann
01-25-2004, 08:40 AM
I'm biased, of course, because as a female I find it very insulting that a male child would be so heavily preferred. .

How many male fetuses or newborn males are aborted/killed because a female baby is wanted, in the US, and all over the world?