09/27/2012 05:01 EDT | Updated 11/27/2012 05:12 EST

Rona Ambrose May Have a Point, But Abortion Is No Answer


A lot has been made of Rona Ambrose's support for Motion 312, including this poster which has been floating around (and its accuracy is indeed questionable, but isn't that true of most memes?)

Now, I'm not 100 per cent sure if that was her specific motivation for supporting Motion 312 or not. Here's a tweet that she sent out, explaining her position:

In this regard, I somewhat agree with her; I admit that it's difficult for me to support the abortion of an otherwise-healthy fetus, simply because it has XX chromosomes. But I don't think that limiting womens' access to abortion is a productive answer.

Some people have suggested prohibiting ultrasound technicians from disclosing the sex of the fetus until the third trimester, as a means of combating sex-selective abortions, but in my mind, this is ignoring the true root of the problem: Health Canada's hastily-enacted policy, which prevents sex selection during artificial insemination. If Minister Ambrose truly cared about both a woman's right to choose and wanted to prevent sex-selective abortions, why wouldn't she try to remove this restrictive policy instead?

It may seem noble on the surface to want to stop sex-selective abortions, and there is some evidence to suggest that certain communities prefer male children, and use sex-selective abortions to abort female feti. (Spell-check note: No, I definitely DID NOT mean to write "female fetish"! Stupid spell-check.) But sex-selective abortion is simply a work-around that couples might use because they can't choose their child's sex during the assisted reproduction process. For those who cannot afford assisted reproduction but still prefer a male child, the alternative is even worse; preventing sex-selective abortions would necessarily lead to an increase in female infanticide, as has been the case in China during the one-child policy.

A good amount of research has been done in many jurisdictions, including most states in the USA, which allow sex selection during the insemination process. So far, no evidence suggests any strong gender bias among those seeking reproductive assistance. Often families will seek out "balance" among their children (such as a family that already has three boys now wants a girl, or vice-versa) and even when a couple prefers a boy or a girl for their first child, things tend to balance themselves out over the aggregate.

Therefore, there's no evidence to suggest that allowing sex selection for insemination would have any impact on overall demographics, nor would it create any social preference for children of one sex over another.

It should be noted that the same policy also prevents same-sex female couples from choosing a specific sperm donor, requiring that all donations be anonymous (which increases the chances of serious genetic disorders being passed on to the child) and also prevents people from receiving payment for donation of either their eggs or their sperm. I'm not going to weigh in on the moral questions of whether it's right or wrong to ask for money for such a donation, but the policy still serves to limit the options available to couples seeking reproductive assistance.

Minister Ambrose, if you truly wish to represent the rights of women to make reproductive choices for themselves, you will instead work to remove these restrictions. In doing so, you will increase the choices available to couples wishing to have children, and at the same time, you can reduce or eliminate the incidence of sex-selective abortions.

If you do not follow your vote on Motion 312 with a similar attempt to remove these restrictions on womens' and couples' reproductive options, we can only conclude that you indeed wish to reduce womens' choices regarding their reproductive rights.

If we don't see any follow-up action to increase womens' reproductive options, my recent tweet will remain accurate:

Please, Minister Ambrose -- prove me wrong.

*This post originally appeared on the author's site.

Photo galleryHow Alberta MPs Voted In Motion 312 See Gallery

Photo galleryRona Ambrose React See Gallery