Reading Time: 3 minutes By University of Toronto Students for Life [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Reading Time: 3 minutes

This is the third and last article in a series on this subject. The previous two are:

Gender Selection Abortions

Gender Selection Abortions – Take 2

Ask any adamant pro-choicer what they think of a woman who seeks an abortion solely because she has a female fetus, and you will most likely get a look of horror and revulsion. Queried why, they would point out the obvious chauvinistic and discriminatory aspects, and might even claim that the resulting shortage of females in the population would be harmful and destabilizing.

Some countries have laws prohibiting gender selection abortion, (GSA) although they are largely ignored in China and India, where the practice is common. The US has no law specifically prohibiting GSA, but the practice is rare in this country, confined to some small ethnic groups.

Enforcement of anti-GSA laws is difficult. If a woman seeks an otherwise-legal abortion, how can authorities determine her private reason(s)? Some countries have circumvented this problem by prohibiting fetal gender tests, but these laws are also difficult to enforce and are often ignored.

Other methods of fetal gender selection have been developed such as IVF with Microsort or PGD, and the Shettles or Ericsson Albumin Methods[1]. These methods are widely advertised on the Internet, without any apparent moral outrage, but they are obviously just as chauvinistic and discriminatory, and potentially as harmful and destabilizing as GSA. The end result of both is exactly the same…suppression of female births.

What’s going on here? People who have no problem with early-term abortion and apparently are not opposed to other gender-selection methods go ballistic when the two are combined.

Let me be clear here: I am not condoning the practice of GSA. I think it is deplorable. Many people think the use of legal drugs like nicotine or alcohol is deplorable. But government actions to discourage use of them is limited to warning signs and labels, and they remain legal as long as their use does not threaten other people.

Let’s examine the charges of chauvinism and discrimination. I have known some real chauvinists in my life. You know, the guys who think women should be pregnant in the summer and barefoot in the winter. Who think women should limit their intellectual activity to meal planning and laundry. Rush Limbaugh, calls women’s rights advocates “feminazis.” That’s chauvinistic…but not illegal.

There are various laws prohibiting discrimination in public venues like the workplace, or businesses open to the public. But an individual is free to discriminate in his private life…in his choice of friends, spouse, and the businesses he patronizes. It is not against the law to be a private bigot. If it were, some sections of the country would have to build a lot more jails.

Most people deplore chauvinists and bigots, but there is no outcry to make such private behavior illegal. So why are people outraged at the idea of GSA? Any discussion of abortion is charged with emotion and fervent beliefs, both pro and con. In fact, it is impossible to discuss GSA without considering the larger subject of abortions in general. Could it be that even pro-choice people feel (perhaps only subconsciously) that the “rights” of the aborted fetus are violated by GSA? Legalized abortion, by definition, denies that the early-term fetus has any human rights, so such thinking is illogical, but emotions sometimes override logic in even the most rational people, especially on the issue of abortion.

Finally, let’s tackle the last point…that gender imbalance in a population is damaging and destabilizing. This view is widely held, although studies of the situation in China suggest that such fears are exaggerated there.  Some areas in India and China have the highest gender imbalance ratios on the planet. Gender imbalance is not a new problem in these countries, and the preference for male children is deeply ingrained in the culture of India in particular.[2] Girl babies are considered a financial liability, while boys are considered an asset. Both the Chinese and Indian governments are concerned about the growing imbalance, and are taking actions to discourage GSA, using both laws and positive inducements to promote a more balanced gender ratio at birth.[3] The laws have proved largely ineffective. People have found various ways around them. Even when girls are born, they are often subject to neglect, and even infanticide.

There are some signs of progress. In addition to cash incentives, even more encouraging is the emergence of grassroots organizations in small communities that organize pledges by their members to promote the births of girls, saying that the practice of suppressing female births is shameful and primitive.[4] This seems like the best solution to the problem. The culture that promotes this unsavory practice must be dismantled. Passing the most draconian laws will ultimately be futile if the people refuse to obey them. No government can force such a thing on its citizens. They must be convinced that it is the right thing to do.




[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

Bert Bigelow is a trained engineer who pursued a career in software design. Now retired, he enjoys writing short essays on many subjects but mainly focuses on politics and religion and the intersection...