Note: this post discusses what I see as a logical paradox in the current debate about abortion as a means of gender selection. Pro-choice advocates who are of a utilitarian persuasion may disagree. This is more aimed towards pro choice libertarians. Full disclosure: I am personally pro life.
I see an ethical paradox in the current bioethics debate pertaining to gender selective abortions.
I have seen a couple of opinion pieces this week discussing the ethics of gender selective abortion. In an announcement last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the gender of a fetus can now be determined as early as seven weeks.
In June, the book “Unnatural Selection” was released by author Mara Hvistendahl where she talks about the major impact that gender selective abortions are having on demographic male : female ratios in China, India, and other developing nations.
Hvistendahl sees this as problematic, and there can certainly be deleterious consequences. A major part of her theme as well as the question in an article I read yesterday by Canadian bioethics professor Vardit Ravitsky both attempt to address the ethics of technology in the context of selecting whether or not to bring a fetus to term with the reason for the decision depending on her or his gender.
I find this to be paradoxical relative to the reason why many people claim to be pro-choice. It’s a woman’s right. It’s her body, it is her right to choose.
Looking at external factors as to the reasons why a person chooses to have an abortion and deciding that it is wrong because of those external factors but that the practice of abortion is not wrong in itself is problematic.
What’s this idiot talking about?
If a person wants to abort the fetus of a girl, and that is viewed as being immoral because she is a girl, and that the gender of the fetus should be respected – while at the same time – being pro choice, and not affirming the belief that regardless of gender, the fetus has a right to be born simply because it is human is logically paradoxical.
In layman’s terms:
1. Someone is pro choice and believes that the choice is an individual right.
2. Given that they are pro choice, they therefore do not believe that a fetus has a right to be born.
3. A person is pregnant.
4. Through technology, the person discovers that the fetus is a girl.
5. But the person doesn’t want a girl
6. So the person decides that she wants to have an abortion and terminate the pregnancy.
7. There are some people who are pro choice and who believe in abortion.
8. But they do not think that it is ethical if the reason for the abortion is the gender of the fetus.
9. So they don’t believe that a fetus has an inherent right to be born but they also don’t think that a fetus should be aborted based on gender.
10. This implies a certain dignity which should be given to the fetus in terms of its gender.
11. BUT that same dignity cannot extend to the right to be born since the person is pro choice.
12. Therefore, it is immoral to abort something based on its gender when the thing being aborted doesn’t inherently have a right to live in the first place.
That is paradoxical.
I think if choice is a right, then it should be a right regardless of the factors which are causing the person to want the abortion. Otherwise, how is it a right?
Don’t get me wrong. The line of reasoning is to a mostly libertarian persuasion. I’m sure plenty of people would disagree that I’m not being paradoxical because “there are so many factors why gender selective abortion is wrong while abortion in itself is not wrong.”
I do recognize that not all pro choice proponents believe what they believe on a strictly “rights based” perspective. But for those that do, being pro choice and opposing gender selection is contradictory.
If it is a right to choose, what difference should it make what the reasons of the parents are?
I also realize that some will ultimately disagree that it is paradoxical because there are extenuating circumstances such as rape, incest, major health issues, and other considerations. In these situations, some argue that abortion is justified, but gender selective abortions are an entirely different animal.
But based on what set of criteria are some justified and others not? Isn’t the crux of all of them a situation where a pregnant mother does not want, or feels that she cannot have a baby. I believe the “she has a right to choose unless…” game is arbitrary.
Now for a conclusion from a pro life view
In my opinion, aborting based on gender is immoral, because I think abortion is immoral in the first place. People do have rights, but I don’t believe that the liberty of a woman who is pregnant can nullify the right of a fetus to be born.