The Left Can’t Let Sex-Selective Abortions Derail The Pro-Choice Movement
3:42 pm, June 2nd | by Lilly ODonnell
The latest battle in the abortion war is over sex-selective abortions. But the real issue isn’t whether or not abortion is wrong in that particular case, it’s about whether or not the left can be tricked into compromising a woman’s right to choose in any case.
A couple of days ago, a bill (PRENDA, or the Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act) that would have made it a federal crime to have an abortion based on the gender of the fetus, failed in the House of Representatives. Many people, and left-leaning publications such as Think Progress, have chalked the recent flurry of discussion of sex-selective abortions up to another back-door tactic by pro-lifers to chip away at women’s rights.
“Lila Rose, the head of Live Action, claimed sex-selective abortion is a growing problem in the United States and that the video proves it. But the facts don’t agree with Rose,” said Think Progress, explaining that there is no gender discrepancy in the United States birth-rate to support a claim that the practice is an issue in this country.
But, as Allison Benedikt of Slate.com argued, that’s not the point.
It doesn’t matter that sex-selection abortions are rare in the United States. They do happen.And it doesn’t matter how slimy and slippery slopey the anti-choicers tactics are. (Aren’t you used to that yet? They’re good!) What’s relevant is that it’s entirely irrelevant why a woman wants an abortion.
Strategically, it makes no sense to give in to this idea that there’s somehow something a little queasier about having an abortion for gender than, say, for money. These are equally legitimate reasons (or, if you are on the other side, equally illegitimate). One might make you uncomfortable in your gut, but it can’t make the movement hesitate. Because that hesitation—that pause of, well, yes this one is complicated, or, as Amanda says, this one is “unpleasant to contemplate”—makes it that much easier for so many of those other reasons (money, timing, work) to seem a little not-OK too.
I personally don’t love the idea of abortions based on gender. It smacks of China’s major gender imbalance, caused by such sex-selective abortions. But it’s not up to me to decide when and if other women should be allowed to have abortions. We can’t let the potential ickiness and negative connotations of this specific motivation to abort distract us from the bigger picture — protecting a woman’s right to choose.
And it won’t be the end of the world to accept that it will happen occasionally, for a couple of reasons.
First of all, it’s true that it doesn’t happen nearly as much here as it has in China. There is not the overwhelming cultural preference for sons, or the added pressure of a one-child policy. And second, Benedikt is right that if we balk and agree that abortion in some cases makes us uncomfortable, that opens the door for every other situation to be scrutinized. We have to remember the important and simple message: it’s a woman’s choice.