Tag Archives: abortion

Are abortion views sexist?

Indian girls are born on 500,000 fewer occasions per year than Indian boys (2006).(Photo: Steve Evans)

Indian girls are born on 500,000 fewer occasions per year than Indian boys (2006).(Photo: Steve Evans)

Abortion isn’t too bad according to half of Americans, and most of liberals and the irreligious and that bunch. The fetus never really got as far as being a child, and virtually nobody thinks failing to have children is as bad as murder.

Selective abortion of female fetuses, on the other hand, is horrific according to both ends of the ideological spectrum. And the reasons given are almost always to do with it being  bad for the females who aren’t born. It’s “discrimination“, a “gross violation of women’s rights“, “an extreme manifestation of violence against women” . As my pro-choice friend (among others) complains, ‘There are all these females who should exist and are missing!’

So confirmed females have a right to exist if they are conceived, and have suffered a grave loss if they cease to be, but fetuses who might be male may as well not exist? This is either hypocritical or extremely sexist. Why are the same people adamant about both views often?

They both appear to be applications of general pro-female sympathy. When supporting the pro-choice side, the concern is for a woman’s rights over her own body. When condemning gender-specific abortion, the concern is for the females who won’t be born. Siding with the females becomes complicated when females are conspicuous as aborters one day and abortees the next. So it looks like this isn’t hypocrisy via accidental oversight, but policy choice biased by sympathies to a specific gender. If ‘whether an aborted fetus has been done a terrible wrong’ were the important point, we should expect to see more consistency on that.

When I asked about this previously my friend suggested that the motivations were importantly different in the two cases. Aborting someone because they are female is wrong. Aborting someone because you don’t want to look after them is compassionate. This doesn’t apply here, even if it were true. Gender specific abortions are common for economic and other pragmatic reasons too, not because people hate females especially. Moreover one could argue consistently that gender specific abortions are bad because they harm to others who do exist, such as the males who will go lonely. This is rarely the claimed source of outrage however.

The most feasible explanation for this inconsistency then is sexism in favor of females being a big motivating force. You probably don’t approve of sexism in picking job applicants or political candidates. Do you approve of it in picking policies which determine countless lives or deaths?