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Not All Abortions Are Born Equal

03/27/2013 08:15 EDT | Updated 05/27/2013 05:12 EDT
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Last week, a House of Commons sub-committee decided not to discuss or debate Motion 408 put forth by MP Mark Warawa.

The member of parliament called on the House to condemn sex-selective abortions in Canada. That is, abortions which are performed because the parents did not like the sex of the child.

The sub-committee, however, wanted nothing of it. No talk of abortion. Case closed. It's legal. That's it.

Pro-choice activists applauded the censuring decision, using their usual argument that this was but a backdoor for Harper to outright ban abortion in Canada. Of course, this is regardless of the fact that time and time again, Harper has failed to be the Down South Politician his critics wished he could be on the issue.

But to fall on this simplistic argument is to miss the gradients of the topic. You don't need to bray Jay-sus at every chance you get when it comes to abortion. Nor do you need to be a bra-lobbing Tumblr feminist. There is a middle ground. There is a point at which one can support abortion, but in certain cases, point a finger and say "No."

And sex-selective abortion is certainly one of those cases.

There is no justification for aborting a fetus because one simply doesn't like its sex. Pre-born children are not like a pair of shoes you can return just because you don't like the colour.

Unfortunately, however, those who often elect to have abortions based on the sex of the fetus do not do so out of whimsy; rather, their decision is based upon cultural backwardness. Yes, cultural backwardness; and if we cannot call the belief that a male life is worth more than a female one "backwards" or "barbaric," then I'm at a loss for what meets those criteria.

In countries such as India and China, the practice is rampant. In the latter, the One Child Policy reigns supreme, and has led to countless girls having been aborted, or ditched in back alleyways to die of cold and starvation, or picked up by strangers.

The underlying belief is that a male offspring is worth more than a female one in such patriarchal societies -- he will provide greater financial security for his parents in the future.

In India, doctors advertise ultrasound scans with the slogan, "Pay 5,000 rupees today and save 50,000 rupees tomorrow" -- the latter figure representing the daughter's dowry.

These chauvinistic beliefs have led to the infanticide of millions which has dangerously skewed gender demographics in both countries. The natural ratio of male to female is 105-100. In China, however, for every 100 women, there are 123 men, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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By 2020, one in five Chinese bachelors will not be able to find a bride because there literally won't be enough women. In India, in 1991, one district had the astonishing ratio of 125 males for every 100 females; by 2001, 46 districts boasted that number.

Unfortunately, however, sex-selective abortions are not merely a consequence of dire economic straits. Punjab, Maharashtra and Gujarat -- some of India's wealthiest regions -- also have some of the highest ratios. The higher the literacy rate, the higher the income per head in China, the more skewed these ratios are, as well.

Naturally, however, we do not face such a demographic upheaval here in Canada. But the fact remains that sex-selective abortions (we could call them SS Abortions, to add to their eugenic ring) occur within our borders nonetheless, and primarily amongst immigrants who have come from the aforementioned regions.

However low the number may be, the preference of male fetuses over female ones does not lose its chauvinistic zeal. No man, whether in Canada or abroad, should be able to consider himself a King Henry VIII.

And yet the Bureau of Economic Research shows that amongst first generation Asian immigrants in Canada, the birth ratio stands at a slight-above-average of 1.09.

However, in each subsequent birth in which the prior children were female, the ratios become more skewed. In Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean immigrants, the sex ratio for third births after daughters is 1.39. Indians "boast" a ratio of 1.90; almost two boys for every girl.

As stated, these numbers will not jeopardize the futures of bachelors in Canada. But that is not the point of condemning sex-selective abortion. The point is not to stand by while cultures that believe a woman's life is worth less than a man's abuse a system which is meant to curb unwanted births for reasons more legitimate than archaic forms of sexism.

Already nearly 66 per cent of Canadians polled oppose the practice. It's time the government does as well.

Now, many sex-selection abortion apologists will say that laws against the practice will do little to prevent this form of infanticide. To a certain degree, this is true; China and India are prime examples.

But nonetheless, a public condemnation of such a terrible act would at the very least stigmatize it, which might lead to a second-guessing on the families about to embark on the termination of a pregnancy because they don't like one of the letters in the chromosome. South Korea was able to reduce its level of sex-selective abortions by way of prohibitions, but also by way of a media campaign, which sought to reverse cultural beliefs on the worth of a daughter.

Another argument against condemnation is that a mother seeking an abortion could easily lie to her doctor as to why she's having the pregnancy terminated. But withholding ultrasound scans (unless in the case of sex-specific illness) until after 30 weeks into the pregnancy, as Rajendra Kale notes, might also help control the situation.

Naturally, there will come the argument "It's her uterus, it's her decision." But frankly, in cultural groups which dictate that sons are worthy of life and daughters can be chucked, the notion that it's the "mother's" decision seems implausible.

Whatever you may think of the issue of abortion, you would be very hard-pressed to justify, in good faith, the termination of fetuses because of a sex coin toss. These types of abortions do nothing to strengthen cultures. They weaken them, and allow them to continue to operate in a barbarically chauvinistic mindset that might have had its time in the Middle Ages, but today, is absolutely repugnant; especially in Canada.

MP Mark Warawa sought to discuss this debilitating problem which should stand as an affront to all Canadians who have the least bit of respect for human rights. And he should be able to, without people having to resort to the shallow extremes of the debate, let alone him being censured.

As I've noted previously, there is a middle ground on the issue, and the fact of the matter is, as crass as it may sound: Not all abortions are born equal. And it's time we talk about those with no respect for equality.