CMA Editorial Sparks Intense Debate over Selective Abortion of Females, Babies with Down Syndrome

By Dave Andrusko

Columnist Barbara Kay

Barbara Kay is a terrific columnist for the Canadian newspaper, “the National Post.” Her observations on bioethical issues, particularly abortion, I find especially helpful.

Today Kay and her colleague Chris Selley, writing separately, address what happens when you start to think through the “logic” of sex-selective abortions or aborting a child because she has been diagnosed as having Down syndrome.

The immediate flashpoint is something we wrote about Monday—an editorial in the Canadian Medical Association, written by the editor in chief Dr. Rajendra Kale, that “urged delayed revelation of fetal sex to reduce alarming rates of female-fetus abortion in certain cultural communities,” in Kay’s tersely succinct summary.

(Selley notes that the willingness to abort to get the “right” child is not limited to Asians coming to North America or against girls. In 2006, he writes, “[A] doctor who performs the procedure in the United States told the Associated Press that his Canadian clients tended to opt for girls over boys, not vice-versa.” But, overwhelmingly, the unborn children who are aborted because of their sex are girls.)

Kay writes,

“Regarding sex selection through government-funded technology: This is gendercide tout court. Morally, this odious practice, often performed counter to women’s wishes to satisfy a cultural preference for male offspring, is no different than enforced sterilization on grounds of mental or racial inferiority. Private clinics as well as public should be regulated to prevent it.”

Female feticide—“gendercide”–shuffles all the usual lines of demarcation, Or, put better, it offers the opportunity for “pro-choicers” to ponder the insane logic of the “right” to abort being employed to slaughter untold millions of women around the world. Is that crazy, or what?

Before segueing into abortion’s many (and under-discussed complications) Kay cleverly ties the gendercide debate to the Texas’s sonogram law which a three-judge federal appeals court panel allowed to go forward, dissolving a temporary injunction.

We know a thousand times more about the unborn child than we did in 1973 and 1988 when abortion on demand was unloosened in the United States and Canada, respectively. The most vivid way for a mother to access that mother lode of information is via a sonogram. Only the most ardent ideologue, Kay maintains, can fail to see that requiring a sonogram, as Texas and many other states now do, is simply making informed consent informed.

In “Frying our logic circuits over the abortion issue,” Selley primarily addresses a different kind of selective abortion: when the baby is found to have Down syndrome. But he first notes that “Canada’s official abhorrence for sex-selection was enshrined in law in 2004, when sex-selective embryo implantation was banned.”

A dyed in the wool abortion advocate, Selley nonetheless can’t miss the absurdity.

“You can’t discriminate against adults with Down Syndrome any more than you can discriminate against women or black people. So if you bestow human rights on some fetuses, how do you justify not bestowing them on all? Why protect a fetus at risk of termination because of its gender, but not a disability? The commonly made distinction is between nature’s course and an abnormal burden, but it’s not an argument you’d want to make to the parents and friends of people with Down Syndrome. And it’s irrelevant, anyway, in a human rights discussion.”

After several more “on the one hand” (“In fact, progressive Canadians have no iron-clad obligation, legal or moral, to support absolutely unfettered abortion rights”) and “on the other hand” ( “Or, back to Mr. Kale’s proposed policy, would Canadian parents be likely to accept being kept in the dark as to their baby’s sex, in order to restrict other parents’ access to abortion? I’d have thought no on both counts”), it all comes down to the pro-abortionist’s last line of defense: “In any event, the prospect of forcing the birth of unwanted babies — a major pro-choice argument — is hardly appealing.”

More unappealing than aborting 90% of babies diagnosed to have Down syndrome? More unappealing that aborting hundreds of millions of girl babies for the “crime” of being female? More unappealing than treating our own offspring as disposals?

I think not.

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