The Unwanted

EXTENDING THE ARGUMENT AGAINST SEX-SELECTIVE ABORTION

I’ve changed my mind about the outcry against sex-selective abortion. Since the 1980s, when the issue emerged here in India and neighboring China, I’ve been skeptical of feminist objections to aborting baby girls on the basis of their sex. As someone long opposed to abortion of any kind, I’ve found such objections inconsistent: if you are truly prochoice, you can’t second-guess a woman’s reasons for what she chooses.

People who refuse to acknowledge the humanity of the unborn child in general but speak movingly about “female feticide” or the “brutal destruction of unborn girls” seem to contradict themselves. In my own writing I’ve tried to point out that inconsistency: if it’s true for girls, it’s true for all babies.

But now I’ve begun to see the matter somewhat differently. It’s not a foundational change for me, but a strategic one. I have come to see the merit of the feminist case against gender-selective abortion. Its reasoning doesn’t go far enough, but as a position I think it is instructive and maybe even a cause for hope.

Feminists argue correctly that women who choose to abort their babies because they’re girls are not really making a free choice. They are responding to society’s bias against women.

Anyone can see that, taken to its logical...

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About the Author

Jo McGowan, a Commonweal columnist, writes from Deradoon, India.