The capricious and arbitrary abortion clinic regulations that went into effect in Kansas this week have closed two of the state’s three abortion providers. I suspect the law was written carefully to do just that; by leaving one clinic open, the criminalizers can argue the law wasn’t written just to close abortion clinics. A court may place a temporary injunction on the closures any time now, though.
Elsewhere — gender-selection abortion is a hot issue again. A few days ago Ross Douthat wrote a column in which he expressed deeply felt and tender concern for the number of girl babies aborted in India and China, and said western liberals ought to be very uncomfortable with this, because obviously if abortion weren’t available it wouldn’t be happening.
Let me make it clear that I find the practice of aborting babies for gender preference appalling, but it also comes under the heading of Stuff I Can’t Do Anything About Because It’s Happening In Someone Else’s Country. And I don’t think my wagging a finger at India and saying “hey, there, stop doing that!” will have any effect.
However, one could blame ultrasound as much as abortion, because if ultrasound weren’t available I suspect it wouldn’t be happening, either. And if places where this is happening keep ultrasound and outlaw abortion, I submit about the same number of sex-selection abortions would still be performed illegally. The fault is not with legal abortion, but with cultures that devalue girls. The solution is not to criminalize abortion — which just drives abortion underground while it further devalues women — but to raise the status of women in those cultures, which eliminates the demand for gender selection abortion.
Of course that’s much easier said that done, but it’s the only effective way to stop this tragic practice, since there is no evidence it is happening in developed democracies where girls are as valued as boys.
This reminded me of another rightie who once commented on the pregnancies terminated for gender selection in developing countries, saying,
In countries where a woman has a virtually unfettered right to choose abortion, the result is that women overwhelmingly choose to abort female fetuses.
When I pointed out to this genius that there are many parts of the world in which women have an unfettered right to choose abortion, but in which no gender imbalance is taking place, he came up with a spirited but utterly nonsensical argument that women still choose to abort female fetuses anyway, nyah nyah nyah. He admitted himself that the only sex selection that may be taking place in the U.S. appears to be happening in ethnic Asian populations, which rather proved my point that culture, not “unfettered choice,” is causing this phenomenon, but he was unable to grasp this distinction.
I take it that several years ago, strategists among pro-criminalizaton activists came up with Asia’s gender selection issue as a way to make western liberals uncomfortable with abortion, or to force us into a debate over whether the right to choose includes gender selection — since girls, presumably, will be the gender targeted for termination. And then, of course, if women don’t have a right to gender-select, then the right to abortion is not absolute and can be picked apart.
And I have a question — is gender selection abortion being performed in the U.S. at all? There is no authoritative agency that provides data on why abortions are performed, so we can only guess. I understand that by comparing gender ratios of newborns, statistics suggest that some gender selection may be taking place in ethnic Asian populations in the U.S., but the ratio of boy and girl babies nationwide doesn’t indicate that any girls are missing.
The authors of one one website have done an excellent job pulling together actual data pertaining to gender selection in the U.S. From this I learned —
Girl babies actually are highly prized in America. Studies from all over the place show that American couples seeking to adopt a baby prefer girls over boys.
Further, when couples attempt to manipulate conception to tilt the odds in favor of one gender over another, they are more likely to try for a girl rather than a boy.
So if Americans are using abortion to select gender, wouldn’t we be seeing a reduced number of boys, not girls? And, indeed, the gender selection website says that the ratio of girls to boys has gone up a tick in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade, although there may be reasons for that beside abortion. In some parts of the world, high levels of certain man-made chemicals in the environment are causing far more girls to be born than boys.
Nature herself seems to have worked out a 51 to 49 ratio of boy births to girl births, and this ratio has been pretty constant in the U.S. and most other industrialized democracies for a long time.
One other point that I think is significant — I understand that most pregnant American women these days learn the gender of their babies by ultrasound at about the 20th week of gestation, give or take, which is pretty far along. Only about 1 percent of all abortions in the U.S. take place after that point. A very small percentage of women learn the gender before that, by amniocentesis, but physicians generally won’t perform amnio unless they think something is wrong because of the slight chance of causing miscarriage.
So we’re talking about late second trimester abortions here, and while they may fall into the period of legal elective abortion, they are pushing the edge of it. And I’m saying not many women are going to voluntarily take a pregnancy that far and then terminate only because they preferred the other gender. It would be like climbing halfway up Mount Everest and then going back to the bottom to get your other camera.
And, yes, that this happens commonly in some places says something pretty horrendous about those places.
One other thing — I’m also seeing the “what if they find a gay gene and then people could abort gay babies” argument. Yeah, right. It may be that someday embryos routinely will get a complete genetic screening so that parents can see the odds that their child might someday develop Alzheimer’s or breast cancer or, yes, same-sex preference. But by the time such a practice becomes reality, if ever, maybe we’ll have cures for Alzheimer’s and breast cancer, and no one will care about sexual preference. Frankly, I doubt any child ever is conceived without some genes predictive of some eventual misfortune, so any couple dippy enough to aim for perfect is likely to not reproduce at all.
So this is a bridge that may never have to be crossed, and I don’t see us coming to it any time soon. Let’s keep our eyes on problems we actually have, shall we?