By Dave Andrusko
I should have known better, of course, but on first glance I honestly misread the intent of the headline at Slate.com: “Why Sex-Selective Abortion Bans Are Terrible for Women—and Unconstitutional.”
Just for a minute, I thought that Mark Joseph Stern was suggesting that killing unborn babies BECAUSE they are girls is “terrible for women,” even if some court might conclude the law is unconstitutional. (A lower court virtually always says protective legislation is unconstitutional. That’s why it is so important to have an attorney general eager to defend the law in court.)
I should have known better. Pro-life columns at Slate.com are as rare as hen’s teeth.
There is nothing original in Stern’s pro-abortion critique of laws banning abortions on the basis of sex. What is particularly interesting are two throwaway comments, intended to disarm anyone silly enough to think this represents the ultimate act of sex discrimination.
Stern starts by saying
These measures might seem to put abortion rights supporters in a tough spot: The American conversation about abortion centers around women’s equality, yet sex-selective abortions would appear to undermine that equality by perpetuating sex discrimination.
Ah…. yes. That is exactly what it does–targets girls for making the “mistake” of not being boys.
To prove that this is not the case, Stern interviewed Columbia Law School professor Carol Sanger. The “new restrictions” are “very clever”:
These laws say, not only do we think the fetus is a vulnerable entity—a “child,” even—but we need to protect the most vulnerable of fetuses. We’ll pick out girl fetuses, disabled fetuses, and say: You can’t abort them.
These laws say to women: Hey, we thought you cared about discrimination against women. If you do, support these laws, and put your money where your mouth is.
Ah…yes. As I say, these remarks are just a set up to tell Slate readers that since these laws do not come out of the feminist movement, they must come from “conservative state legislatures,” the ultimate devils. And therefore these laws are not only wrongly sourced, but merely “symbolic” because, Sanger assures the reader, “if sex-selective abortions happen at all in the United States, they are extremely rare.”
We do know that they take place in New York City’s Asian communities. Writing in the New York Press (“Sex-Selective Abortion in New York”) Rui Miao and Virginia Gunawan note
The number of sex-selective abortions performed in this country is difficult to determine. The reasons women have abortions are not officially tabulated. Major abortion clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, do not ask for reasons on consent forms. The city’s Department of Health does not list reasons in a summary of vital statistics and they do not keep statistics on numbers of females and males that are aborted. …
“It is not a subject to be talked about in the open,” said Arpita Appanagarri, the women’s health initiative coordinator at Sakhi for South Asian women, a non-governmental organization focusing on domestic violence victims among South Asian Women. “Let alone collect data about it.”
But, to be clear, if sex-selection abortions were as common in the United States as they are in parts of Asia, it wouldn’t make any difference to the Sterns and the Sangers. To ban them would be to infringe on “abortion rights.”
However, it would make a difference to most Americans, the overwhelming percentage of which oppose sex-selection abortion. A survey in Great Britain found the same results.
So, Sterns and Sangers aside, people are unnerved by sex-selection abortion. We talked about some of this last week.
The issue is not simply one of numbers. Referring to a law recently passed in Indiana, Emma Green, writing in The Atlantic, observed
But whether they intended to or not, these lawmakers exposed a set of difficult moral questions that pro-choice progressives tend to ignore in their quest to defend legal abortion. Should couples be able to abort their female fetuses—and it’s almost always female fetuses—in the hopes of having the boy they really wanted? Should a mom, ashamed at having a mixed-race baby, be able to abort because of race? Should parents give up on a baby with Down syndrome? What about Tay-Sachs, which almost always kills children by the time they turn four?
Sex-selection abortions are a particular point of weakness–make that inconsistency–on the part of pro-abortion feminist.
Stern and Sanger illustrate just how weak is their defense of this lethal discrimination.