Thursday, May 1, 2008

Abortion & Indian sex-selection

Excerpts from a recent NY Times article, Indian Prime Minister Denounces Abortion of Females, my own thoughts follow;

"In his first speech on the subject, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh highlighted an “alarming” decline in the number of girls for every 1,000 boys in India, slipping to 927 in 2001 from 962 in 1981, according to the latest census figures. “This indicates that growing economic prosperity and education levels have not led to a corresponding mitigation in this acute problem,” he said.

“No nation, no society, no community can hold its head high and claim to be part of the civilized world if it condones the practice of discriminating against one half of humanity represented by women,” Mr. Singh said, giving an inaugural speech at a national conference dedicating to “saving the girl child,” which brought together politicians, doctors and advocates."

"Over past three decades, the increasing availability of ultrasound equipment has assisted India’s cultural preference for sons and distorted the sex ratio across the nation. As the equipment has become more affordable, special ultrasound clinics have opened even in the most impoverished parts of the country."

I found this article thought-provoking. Without knowing Singh's views on abortion as a whole, I found his denunciation of the practice of aborting females interesting because there is no claim that abortion itself is wrong, only that it is wrong to discriminate between the sexes. Abortion really isn't the main issue, it's discrimination against females. The article goes on to explain that girls are often seen as a liability because when they are married, the groom is entitled to a large dowry. Also, men tend to be the ones who take care of their parents in old age.

I can see how an issue like this could put a pro-choicer in a moral quandary, especially if they have strong feminist ideology. I'm sure if I were of the feminist pro-choice mindset I would see sex-selection by parents as reprehensible, a case of patriarchal society at its worst. But if I truly believed that abortion is always a personal decision every woman should be allowed to make on a case by case basis, then why shouldn't every woman be able to decide whether or not she can afford to raise a daughter? What if she really wants a child, but knows that she will never be able to scrape together a dowry? How is this really any different from any woman deciding she can't undertake the 'burden' of raising a child, regardless of gender, because of the financial stress it would entail. Certainly countries should not pass laws banning abortions done to avoid economic distress, to do so would be an invasion of privacy. (75% of women who obtain abortions cite financial inability to care for the child as one reason).

There are so many parallels that can be drawn from this issue of discriminating against a certain type of human. 90% of the unborn diagnosed with down-syndrome are aborted in the US. This must be a sickening fact to those living with down-syndrome and to the families and friends of those with down-syndrome. I don't think it would be incredible to demand that laws be passed against discrimination towards the unborn diagnosed with genetic abnormalities or other disabilities. But to a pro-choice person, it all comes down to a personal decision that no one else has the right to intrude upon. Lovely.

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