The International Day of the Girl and the curse of sex-selective abortion

By We Need a Law

October 11 marks the annual International Day of the Girl, a day to highlight the needs and challenges faced by women and girls around the world. Among other inequalities and injustices, one violation of human rights continues to face Canadian girls year after year: sex-selective abortion.

“We know that sex selective abortion happens in Canada,” said Tabitha Ewert, Legal Counsel for We Need a Law. “Research is clear that in certain communities, in families with girls, additional girls are aborted. We see a disproportionate number of boys. This devaluing of women at the earliest stages should concern all of us. Promoting equality of women needs to start when they are most vulnerable.”

Countries around the world, including India and China, experience serious gender imbalances due to sex selection and have taken steps to condemn and prohibit sex-selective abortion. Canada, however, continues to ignore – and even fund – the practice.

“We need to keep bringing this up,” said Ewert, “because everyone should be appalled that healthy Canadian baby girls are being aborted simply because they are girls. In a culture where biological sex is not supposed to define or limit anyone, sex-selective abortion should cause an uproar the government cannot ignore.”

The Assisted Human Reproduction Act bans sex-selection of embryos for in vitro fertilization (IVF), with the exception of screening for sex-related genetic disorders. But once that embryo develops into a fetus, there is nothing stopping an IVF client from using abortion to try again for the desired sex.

Last year we did a display with 50,000 pink flags in a park in Surrey, B.C. to draw attention to this injustice. This resulted in many great conversations and hundreds more Canadians being made aware that this is an issue in Canada. This year, pink flag displays will be happening in both Manitoba and Ontario to highlight sex selective abortion targeting girls in Canada.

The International Day of the Girl is not only about issues facing women and girls outside of Canada. Called a “women’s issue,” abortion does indeed impact women far more than men – from the very earliest stages. Let’s work to defend girls right here at home.