The Ultimate Dilemma for Pro-Abortion Feminists: Sex-Selective Abortions

By Dave Andrusko

Two posts we entered this week on the same topic received a lively response from our readers. “Selected out of Existence” and a follow-up addressed a very uncomfortable but essential book that confronts the loss of over 163 million unborn girls as a result of sex-selective abortions.

I don’t have time to recapitulate the grim story, nor talk about all the insights that two other reviewers—Jonathan Last and Ross Douthat—offered about “Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men.” Today I’d like to briefly discuss a response the author, Mara Hvistendahl, made to Douthat, which I found incredibly helpful, albeit unintentionally so.

Douthat tells us that Hvistendahl “Not surprisingly… takes exception to my suggestion that sex-selective abortion poses a problem for pro-choice liberals, arguing that there’s no contradiction at all between supporting abortion rights and trying to restrict/ban abortions based on sex.” In her response Hvistendahl attempts to have it both ways by quoting an abortionist:

“’You can choose whether to be a parent,’ explains Puneet Bedi, a gynecologist in Delhi who performs abortions — and campaigns against the sex-selective sort. ‘But once you choose to be a parent you cannot choose whether it’s a boy or girl, black or white, tall or short.’”

This is not the only point that Douthat and Hvistendahl politely lock horns over and, for that matter, there are additional nuances on this one. But note how he deftly cuts to the heart of the absolutism that is the face of American pro-abortionists in responding. Douthat writes

But at least in the American context, I think that Hvistendahl is underestimating how radical and wrenching a departure from the existing abortion-rights framework this kind of shift would be.

That “once you choose to be a parent …” line, for instance, directly contradicts the standard pro-choice argument that pregnant women haven’t chosen to be parents yet, and that they’re free to say yes or no to parenthood until the fetus is viable (or born!). In pro-choice jurisprudence, this freedom has been founded on a right to privacy, autonomy and personal choice that’s defined in the most expansive terms — as a right to the unhindered “development and expression of one’s intellect, interests, tastes, and personality,” in the words of William O. Douglas’s Doe v. Bolton concurrence, and as “the heart of liberty … the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life,” in the famous phrase from Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Is a hypothetical woman who’s already had one girl, can’t afford more than two children, and really wants to her second child to be a boy somehow not “defining her own concept of existence and meaning”? Is she not trying to expre
ss her “intellect, interests, tastes, and personality”? Hvistendahl’s (admirable) desire to tell this woman that no, she can’t abort her female fetus doesn’t just revise the Roe/Doe/Casey framework; it abandons it altogether.

What a keen understanding of what is at swirling around in the pro-abortion mind. A  mish-mash of airy abstractions intended to elevate nebulous formulations at the expense of the concrete reality of what abortion does, and to whom.

In the “old days,” long before ultrasounds and television commercials and plot line in movies made the invisible unborn child visible, pro-abortionists could indulge in this academic exercise. Everything was so…abstract…the unborn child almost as vague as this legal and academic rigmarole.

No longer! What to do? Accept ANY limitations? The few pro-abortion feminists who have floated that trial balloon always hedged it with so many qualifications that the multiple exceptions swallowed the rule. Even so they were clobbered for even mentioning the unmentionable.

To return to the issue at hand, sex-selective abortions. You would think that for female pro-abortionists, this would a step too far: aborting babies BECAUSE they are female?

Hvistendahl thinks so, and no doubt we should take her at her word. But while “I would be very, very glad to see abortion-rights supporters ‘scrap unconditional choice’ [Douthat quoting Hvistendahl] in favor of a more restrictive approach to abortion law,” that is simply not going to happen.

They are too wedded to the absolute right to abortion to let a little thing like the extermination of millions of unborn baby girls  get in the way.

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