When Paradigms Collide - Could an In-Utero "Gay" Test Change Abortion Views?

Inspired by the comments in this thread, in which it’s alleged that diet pills can turn developing fetuses gay, I was struck by Jervoise’s rumination on the possibility of one day being able to select homosexuality or heterosexuality for one’s in utereo child. In particular, Jervoise wonders if gay culture may simply fade away if this becomes a reality.

I thought that vision deserved a thread all its own, because there is a strong school of thought relating to women’s reproductive rights that says, in essence, women may terminate a pregnancy (at least in its early stages) for any reason they please.

Assume for a moment that, based on this diet pill “breakthrough” (not, mind you, that I am defending the accuracy of the story tooth and nail by any means) an inexpensive test was available to determine if an in utereo child was likely destined to be gay.

Would the availability and use of such a test to abort children that were not destined to be straight be… acceptable? Palatable? Should it even be legal?

From my own perspective, of course, that would be absolutely horrible: a deliberate genocide, a deliberate murder. But of course, I’m not a good example, since I view abortion as wrong in almost any circumstance anyway.

I think it should be legal, but I’m probably not a good example either–I don’t think there should be any limits on abortions of non-viable fetuses. While aborting fetuses just because of their orientation is definitely gross, it should be legal, because there shouldn’t be any clauses put on the right to abortion.

Besides, if a woman (or the fetus’ father) hated gays so much that she was willing to have an abortion just so she wouldn’t have a gay child, she’d make that poor kid’s life miserable. I wouldn’t want to be born to a person who would have an abortion just because she didn’t want to deal with the possibility that I might be gay. Let her have the abortion, and hope the doctor punctures her uterus on the way out.

If an early foetus is merely biological matter comprising a potential human (like the contents of a condom and a tampon) then the potential parent must surely be allowed to dispose of it for whatever reason, no matter what prejudice or bigotry it implied.

After all, we allow parents to indoctrinate their kids and fuck them up in all kinds of ways after they are born and only sanction intervention in extremis. I find such ‘genocide’ only as unpalatable as, say, avoiding sex on Halloween so as not to conceive a devil-child.

In reality, of course, there does not appear to be a ‘marker’ obvious enough to facilitate such a test, and the parent will always be mindful that future conception is never guaranteed, and so “throwing it away and trying again” might possibly be equivalent to choosing a kid with the marker or no kid at all - you’d have to be pretty anti-gay to terminate your pregnancy based only on a raised probability of bearing a kid who grew up to be gay.

It would be nice to see some statistics to show that American women have abortions in any significant number to select for certain characteristics (i.e. male or female sex) before worrying that abortions might jump in response to discovery of a sexual orientation test.

The anti-abortion movement has long been proclaiming its view that women casually undergo abortion as a matter of con-veeenience, but in practice even those abortions undertaken in response to severe and/or rapidly fatal birth defects are not highly commonplace, and follow prolonged and sometimes agonizing decision-making by the parents. Given this history, and the increasing acceptance of non-heterosexuals in society, and it’s hard to see that the situation posed in the OP would be a serious problem (never mind the lack of science prompting such concerns).

People seem to want kids badly enough that they would not opt for abortion in the case of an otherwise healthy fetus which might turn out to be gay.

Anyway, endocrine disruptions due to environmental pollution caused by our Greedy Rapacious Corporate Overlords™ will probably doom heterosexual reproduction anyway. :smiley:

It is my understanding that abortion resulting from sexual identification of the fetus is already common in parts of Asia, prompting little debate. I don’y see why it should be any different for sexual orientation, if identifiable.

The way I see it, there are direct moral obligations and indirect moral obligations.

A direct moral obligation is one that prevents us from acting against a person in a way that hurts them. I’ve got an obligation not to beat a man for being gay, because doing so causes him harm.

An indirect moral obligation is one that prevents us from acting toward a person in a way that doesn’t hurt them, but rather increases the likelihood of hurting someone else. I have an obligation not to burn gay men in effigy, not because the effigy itself has rights, but because my burning the effigy (by increasing hatred and ill-will toward gay men) increases the likelihood that gay men will be harmed.

Early-stage fetuses (for the purposes of this discussion, let’s limit ourselves to early-stages) do not, in my opinion, have any more rights than an effigy has, and so it is impossible for them to impose moral duties on a person.* A mother who decides to terminate a pregnancy in the early stages for any reason–the child would be gay, the child would be female, the child would be Republican, the child would harbor a love for manufactured pop bands–is unencumbered by any moral duties toward the fetus.

HOWEVER: it is possible that the mother is encumbered by indirect moral obligations toward other people. If her terminating the pregnancy of a gay-inclined fetus is likely to result in harm toward existing gay people, then she must take this into consideration.

For folks who want to argue against such selective abortions, I see this as the most promising route. However, on its surface, I’m not at all sure what actual harm gay people would experience from such selective abortions. I think it’d be a hard argument to make.

Also, I’m very skeptical that this would be widespread.


  • Although it may seem paradoxical, I believe that a woman who plans to carry a fetus to term does have an obligation toward her future baby not to engage in unreasonably risky behavior during the pregnancy, e.g., no snorting coke during pregnancy. That’s because there will be a person who gets harmed by the behavior. An abortion means there will never be a person who’s harmed by the behavior. If you want to discuss this further, it’s probably good fodder for another thread.

If the sexual orientation of a fetus were ascertainable, wouldn’t that definitively answer the question of nature/nurture and “choice”? Many people are homophobic because, in their opinion, I can “choose” not to be gay, a position which would be unsustainable in this scenario (not that it’s sustainable anyway). But I’m wondering how many people have some sort of emotional investment in their homophobia, and would simply find another excuse for their intolerance.

But to answer your question: I believe that a woman has the right to control her own body, and in this context, that right trumps any other considerations. Being gay may not be a choice, but being homophobic is. And she has the right to act on her chosen beliefs, regardless of their validity, at least in the context of a pregnancy.

Regarding the issue of genocide: If people were aborting black or Jewish fetuses, most people would consider this genocide. And that would also be applicable to the abortion of gay fetuses. But I’d still defend the right of the woman to make that choice.

You mean if black or Jewish women were aborting their own children, people would consider that to be genocide? They might, but that’d be an extremely bizarre argument to make, getting dangerously close to arguments made by White Power groups about white genocide (since white birth rates are lower than, say, Latino birthrates).


Let us make it clear here that this debate is not about forcibly aborting someone else’s foetus: the woman who terminates her own pregnancy because of the ethnicity of the thing in her womb must have some serious issues regarding who she chooses to have sex with in the first place!

(And, of course, it would not be unacceptable for her to limit her baby-making only to fathers of a particular ethnicity.)

There should be no restrictions on reproductive choice. A woman does not a good reason (or any reason) to terminate a pregnancy.

I wonder if a gay test would have the ironic effect of making fundies want abort their queer fetuses.

Abortions before the fetus is a viable child should be available for any reason a woman decides. I might think less of her for deciding to abort a gay-to-be fetus, but it’s her perogative.

That was the dilemma I first thought of, too. It’s interesting to me the way Bricker seems to think only those on the left would suffer any dissonance or might be inconsistent.

Would the availability and use of such a test to abort children that were not destined to be straight be… acceptable?

No, no, and hell no.

** Palatable?**


Should it even be legal?

Considering the child’s sexuality isn’t going to come into play for years after the birth, I don’t see why anyone would need to know in advance if they’re planning on going through with the birth anyway.
I wonder if a gay test would have the ironic effect of making fundies want abort their queer fetuses.

This is what a lot of people would love to believe, I’m sure, but I think the answer would be a resounding “hell no” for the majority. Murder is murder is murder. Abortion wouldn’t even cross the mind of anyone who is truly pro-life. This “fundie” wouldn’t even consider it.

PS: “Fundies” are already having abortions for every reason that everyone else does, they just don’t broadcast it.

I guess I see through my own rose-colored glasses. The wrongness of abortion is so self-evident to me that it didn’t occur to me that someone might take the position that being gay wrong, so wrong, so much so that abortion is the lesser evil.

But yes, that would be a contradiction for fundamentalists to face, I guess.

No it wouldn’t.

Bullshit. Considering the number of fundamentalist families that are willing to disown and kick out gay children, I think it’s highly unlikely the knowledge that their fetus has a good chance of turning out gay wouldn’t cause some conflicted emotions. I have no doubt some would consider the one-time sin of abortion, which they can repent, to be a better choice than allowing a homo-child to be born to eventually burn in hell. Hell, they’d probably consider it compassionate to do it so that the unborn soul can go to heaven without growing up to be a filthy sinning somodite.

Not really. You’re a smart guy, but your hypothetical is is like one of those post WWII Popular Science covers with the hat wearing, pipe smoking “Leave it to Beaver” dad toodling around in his air car, heading for his modern 50’s style, low slung ranch house with a big TV antenna on top. The fact that the technology exists to do something changes the nature of the thing, and the choices that are aligned with it. If we develop a detection tool so finely parsed and sophisticated that can ferret out an absolute predispostion to homosexuality, that black box is going to contain a lot more potentiality than just the keys to the queer switch, and the mores and ethics surrounding it’s use are going to evolve along with the technology.

I agree.

I doubt it. Biblical literalist would just refuse to believe that such a gene existed, or that if it did, God could simply alter its affects if the person had faith.

If you posit a guy with a “magic wand”, solutions to otherwise tricky problems are trivial.

I agree that fundies would be unlikely to sanction abortion just to keep from having gay-prone children. Can you imagine the life of poor fundie-junior, though, as his parents know that he’s tested prone to homosexuality and raise him with a strong desire to keep him from becoming gay. Feeding him nothing but red meat, having to go to peewee hockey, football and boxing, living in a household where all arts and crafts are forbidden, all his male friends eyed with suspicion etc, etc. Sounds like an awkward childhood to me.

I don’t think so, really. Instead, it could only make them reconsider their view that sexuality is a choice, and that those who choose the “gay lifestyle” are behaving immorally. As such, it might even be beneficial to society in the broader sense to wipe that “argument” from the boards, although certainly you’d see individual cases of gay babies being aborted by the same people who’d abort a Downs baby, and for basically the same reasons.

Just to be clear, I was not implying anything like what your post implies. I think it just as likely that a “non-fundie” parent might do those things, or that a “fundie” parent might simply pray for God’s grace to have the wisdom of how best to deal with the situation.

I’d also like to add that I think the OP has taken the discussion beyond the hypothetical and into the realm of most unlikely. There may very well be some suite of genes (not “a” gene) that predisposes people towards homosexuality or heterosexuality. But it is highly unlikely that those genes do anything more than predispose. There is almost certainly a non-genetic component as well-- whether that is exposure to certain hormones at certain stages of development, or psychological experiences the child might have, or some combination of several factors.

Let’s just keep this in mind when discussions of “the gay gene” ensue around here. It would be astounding if such a gene actually existed.