Pro choice paradox: why efforts to curb gender selective abortions are irrational

Note: this post discusses what I see as a logical paradox in the current debate about abortion as a means of gender selection. Full disclosure: I am personally pro life.

I’ve written before about the topic of gender selective abortion. In developing nations, the process of aborting a fetus (typically of a girl) based on gender is common. I read an interesting article this afternoon in the Montreal Gazette discussing how the practice is also becoming more common in North America among certain ethnic groups, while outlining different steps which the medical community has taken in an effort to curb this from happening.

The Gazette sites an editorial from the Canadian Medical Association Journal which urges doctors to wait until the pregnancy is at 30 weeks before they inform parents as to the gender of the fetus.

The editorial states that knowing this information is medically irrelevant.

If a woman has a right to have an abortion, I don’t see why the information which is given to her needs to be “medically relevant.” She’s determining whether or not she wants to have an abortion, and perhaps the gender is a major factor in the decision process.

If you’re pro choice, and you think that it is a woman’s right to have an abortion, I don’t understand why the decision to have the abortion with respect to the gender of the fetus should make a difference. It’s a right to have an abortion or it’s not. If it is a right, then why does the motivation matter? Just because you may not personally prefer the application of the abortion, if you still believe that abortions are ethically justified, then trying to create circumstances in which the abortion should not be done creates an ethical paradox.

According to the article, the reason as to why 30 weeks was chosen as the time to reveal the gender of the fetus is because abortions are more difficult to attain without legitimate medical purposes once a pregnancy has attained that stage.

I’ve heard some make a utilitarian argument that it is not solely about women’s rights. In areas where gender selective abortions are commonly practiced, it inevitably has consequences on male : female ratios within the population. In the long run, when commonly practiced, changing the natural demographics of a population through abortion is bad for all of society, both men and women.

My question is: why should that matter? Don’t misunderstand me. I understand why it matters for various cultures that the ratios are changed by human action, but if it is something that people have a right to do, why should we concern ourselves with the consequences? If it is a right, then isn’t it the duty of society as a whole to bare the negative consequences of those decisions, lest we be guilty as a people of unjustly depriving women of their rights?

To be pro choice but against gender selective abortion is to see the abortion of a female fetus as discriminatory and wrong; while an abortion that is unaware of gender is acceptable. How does a fetus have a right to gender equality when she doesn’t have a right to live?

Perhaps it seems aberrant that a woman could abort a life just because it’s a female. I think it’s horrible to abort a fetus because it’s a human being. I believe in rights. I believe that a pregnant woman has rights to liberty and freedom. But I also believe in a right to life. A fetus is a living being, and I believe that foetuses have a right to life, and that the mother’s liberty does not transcend the foetuses inherent right to life.

I’m almost waiting for a faux news source like the Onion to grab onto this story and write why people need to start aborting more males in an effort to make things fair.


My earlier post on gender selective abortion: