Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Why are sex-selective abortions wrong?

Commentor Anonymous, who believes that women have a right to abortion (up to 20 weeks) opposes sex-selective abortion-- aborting more girls than boys.

"... Sex selective abortion should be banned. Some European countries have discussed the possibility of withholding the sex of the fetus in all cases if antenatal screening is performed. Couples I have known having antenatal screening, if offered news of the fetus' sex usually decline preferring to be 'surprised'."
Preferring males to females is a cultural problem, only to be solved by removing all discrimination against females...

Why would an abortion supporter oppose sex-selection abortions?

I'll not dwell on the Constitutional issue-- perhaps Roe supporters just found an "anti-sex selection clause" in the Constitution, right next to the "abortion is a right clause" and the "separation of church and state clause". Penumbras emanate.

Let's just look at Anonymous' two possible moral arguments:

Is sex-selective abortion wrong because it skews the population, or is it wrong because selectively targeting girls for the trash can seems unfair?

If it is because sex-selective abortion skews the population, then what if sex-selective abortions killed boys and girls equally? Some families abort their girls, some abort their boys? No population skew. That would solve the problem of population balance.

But that is to implicitly suggest that the current problem with femicide could be solved by killing more boys. Is that what pro-abort anti-sex selection folks really think would be a moral solution to population imbalance-- more dead boys, so they equal the number of dead girls?

Or do pro-abort-anti-sex-selection folks think that sex selective abortion is inherently wrong, regardless of population skew?

If so, why would the decision to kill a child in the womb be any more heinous if it were because the child is a girl (or a boy) than if the decision to kill was because the child was inconvenient or conceived unintentionally or handicapped or merely unwanted?

Police officer: 'Did you kill your daughter because she was a girl?' 
Woman: 'Oh no. I would never do that. I killed her because she would interfere with my social life (or my job or my finances or she was handicapped or because I just felt like it).' 
Police officer: 'Oh, well that's different. Have a good day.'

If you want to understand the intellectual and moral sewer of the pro-abortion stance, look no further.


  1. Very well put, Dr Egnor. How can sane people rationalize killing one unborn baby, and not the other. If discrimination is illegal for both women and the handicapped ... then what is the difference?
    Your police analogy fits PERFECTLY.

    I find that one of the reasons this issue is converting so many armchair pundits is because of the ability to select the sex so young.
    How can you determine the sex of a non-person? If the foetus has already developed hands, feet, the beginnings of eyes, ears, and a nervous system - it is clearly well on the path to becoming an infant.
    This simple, subtle point has revealed a an unsettling truth to the masses: An aborted baby isn't just a 'lump of flesh' the mother possesses. It is already a complex, growing, HUMAN BEING. This point was expertly raised by TRISH the other day on this blog. It is the most common objection I hear among my own peers.
    They are realizing, once again, they have been duped by the 'experts'.
    Add to this the permitted targets for elective abortion have just been widened to healthy girls... but wasn't abortion supposed to HELP women and improve their condition? How does thinning their ranks and killing off generations of them help ANYONE?

  2. Yeah, you hit it, Egnor.

    I've often asked those "personally opposed" pro-choicers, and the "abortion is a tradgedy BUT..." pro-choicers to better explain themselves, but I don't usually get clarification.

    Why are you personally opposed? Is it because it's a ruthless act of violence against the most innocent of all creatures? Ding, ding, ding! You're right, it is. And that's why being personally opposed isn't good enough. We restrain people who want to kill toddlers, adolescents, and full grown adults. Restraining people who want to kill the unborn is absolutely no different.

    Why is it a "tragedy"? Is it because it amounts to a mother killing her child? If it were simply the removal of a non-living, non-human blob of flesh, would it still be a tragedy? Would anyone care? If one abortion is a tragedy, is it not appropriate to call fifty-five million abortions a holocaust?

    But when you probe deeper into their disingenuous, focus group tested answers, you get only more of the same. It's crap and they know it.

    Here's my answer to Dr. Egnor. Abortion is always wrong, unless it's to save the life of the mother, which is a rare case indeed. Sex selective abortion is more wrong because it is not only murder, but also sexist murder, which belies the baloney "pro-woman" nonsense of the abortion industry. Killing children makes one anti-child, not pro-woman. And when you consider the fact that they're willing to kill unborn females simply for being unborn females, their "pro-woman" credentials become that much weaker.


  3. If the unborn are not really people, how then do they have a sex?

    We're not removing non-living creatures. We're killing little boys and little girls. Little girls disproportionately, of course. But it's not like having your tonsils removed.


  4. OK,

    I know conservatives don't like to nuance. Prefer to see everything in black or white, not shades of grey.

    I don't think that abortion should be mandatory. But I do think that a woman (even a man) has the right to decide what happens to her (or his body). I support the right of women to decide whether to have an abortion.

    I'd prefer if abortion wasn't necessary. Adequate contraception should prevent most unwanted pregnancies, but occasionally it fails, and there's also rape and incest, so a backup is necessary.

    Some religious commentators on this blog disagree with contraception too.

    Sex selective abortion is wrong because it skews the sex ratio, creating social disorder decades later, and it also sends the message that a future child is wanted, but not a female, that femaleness is an abnormality to be aborted.

    Calling a fetus a child is just stupid. A fetus of 24 weeks gestation has developed a nervous system just about capable of beginning to feel pain. Certainly infinitely less than the capacity of the adult and juvenile animals we slaughter for food, who approach their demise with fear and distress. I'll tell you what; when you picket abattoirs, I'll picket abortion clinics ...

    I don't think women have an absolute right to abortion. Personally I would set the limit at 20 weeks, after which there has to be an indication, generally a health risk to the woman (what is your opinion of the Catholic Church excommunicating a nun for agreeing to an abortion in a woman with pulmonary hypertension - which is a serious life threatening condition?)

    Some rights are limited. People have the right to drink alcohol, but they don't have the right to drink and then drive a motor vehicle (or pilot a passenger jet). Similarly, I don't think that women SHOULD have the right to have a late gestation abortion or a sex selective abortion, for personal reasons (regardless of whether it's legal or not). But that's a personal opinion. I don't push it on anyone.

    If you think abortion is wrong - then fine, don't have one. But don't inflict your opinions on others.

    1. "I'd prefer if abortion wasn't necessary."

      It isn't. In all but a handful of cases, it's chosen, not compelled by necessity. That's why they call themselves "pro-choice." There's a choice involved.

      I'll get to the rest of your comment later.


    2. And by the way, is this Bachfiend?


    3. How is slaughtering someone in the womb not inflicting one's opinions on others?

  5. bach,

    "Calling a fetus a child is just stupid."

    Consider the obvious:
    A human embryo can only become a human foetus.
    A human foetus can only become a human infant/child.
    A human child can only become a human juvenile.
    A human youth can only become a human adult.
    A human adult can only become an old/senior/geriatric patient.
    The only thing that will prevent this development is untimely death or being killed.
    So, calling a human foetus non-human and inferring it's 'termination' is not killing is not just stupid. It is far worse than stupid could ever hope to be. It is malignant.

    "A fetus of 24 weeks gestation has developed a nervous system just about capable of beginning to feel pain."

    So killing a sedated or anaesthetized human would not be killing? Or do you mean the foetus will live somehow, because the it feels no pain? What does pain have to do with it? Besides, are you saying that pain and the mapping of the nervous system is a settled science - that there will be no revolutions in this field, no new gains?

    "Certainly infinitely less than the capacity of the adult and juvenile animals we slaughter for food, who approach their demise with fear and distress. I'll tell you what; when you picket abattoirs, I'll picket abortion clinics ..."
    In the very recent past, we (many locals) protested the opening of a mega-battery farm operation in a region that has been traditionally high quality/low yield 'free range' livestock. That is cattle, hogs, fowl etc that are allowed to live in fields and open areas, and to a 'full' (still fairly young) age. The meat tastes better, is generally better for you. The free range/low yield process employs more people. and does not come with horrible moral implications of mass slaughter. It doesn't get anyone rich or generate massive tax input, but it keeps local people in their homes and with their families.
    No brainer. We won out.
    We kept these operations out of our Counties in doing so. I attended three meetings/protests personally.
    So, let me know when you get your third picket line done.
    No need for proofs, as intend to furnish none of my own.
    I'll take your word for it.

    "If you think abortion is wrong - then fine, don't have one. But don't inflict your opinions on others."
    Our opinion doesn't kill millions of the most innocent human beings each year.

  6. CrusadeRex,

    Nope. You didn't picket an abattoir. When you do that, then I'll be impressed. Free range animals still get killed, and they have more capacity than an early term fetus to feel pain. An aborted fetus is unwanted. It won't develop to viability unless the host agrees to continue with the pregnancy. It's her choice, not mine. I don't make her choice, neither should you. If you think that there's an afterlife and that sins in this life will be punished there, then why worry? The fetus, according to you, has an unblemished soul and will go immediately to heaven. The woman will go to hell and be punished for eternity ...

    It's a win-win situation if you're right. Personally, I think you're meschugge.

    1. This may come as a shock to you, but I have no intention of impressing you, Bach.
      None what so ever.
      I knew you would not accept my action (or any action) as a counter. I simply wanted you to repeat your comparison of killing livestock (other animals) with the killing of a human foetus.
      Such a statement says more about your position than I could ever hope to. Repeating it drives it home.

      This is also typical:
      " If you think that there's an afterlife and that sins in this life will be punished there, then why worry? The fetus, according to you, has an unblemished soul and will go immediately to heaven. The woman will go to hell and be punished for eternity ."
      This kind of thing is why your beliefs are linked to autism. So utterly childish and simple. So completely NOT what faith is about. Sad, really.
      Re the straw man (hell): We are writing about TAKING lives here, not religious doctrine on the 'afterlife'.
      What happens to living human beings (the foetus) is our concern. I would redirect your thoughts to the topic at hand, as the theological points obviously completely elude you.

      "It's a win-win situation if you're right. Personally, I think you're meschugge."
      I am crazy because I believe life has demonstrable immaterial force connected to it that transcends death, but you blithely compare the slaughter of livestock to the killing a human being in the womb - and your position is the sane one?
      Maybe THAT is sane to a person afflicted with your 'world-view'.
      If that is the case I am glad you think me crazy, meschugge, loco, or whatever you want to call it.

    2. @crusadeREX

      I'm surprised you're beating that dead horse re: the University of Boston study on Autism links to Atheism you pulled off the Daily Mail then had to find online to give yourself credibility as a purveyor of research for whatever secret stuff you do but can't talk about with all the real scientists and finger-on-the-pulse clued in Canadians you can't name the names of. You pull it out with a snide remark and tacit expectation that everyone knows what you're talking about. It's especially curious given your previous dismissal of religious and political interpretations from known "liberal" colleges, but this time there's fodder to be thrown around so it's fine. Your presentation of this argument as proof actually ignores the interpretations of Rajib Khan when you quoted him on your own blog as well as ignoring the other hypothesis from Dr Caldwell-Harris and Dr McNamara (which is right there in the abstract) that the same type of high functioning Autistics who are religious can construct their own religious beliefs though shy away from organized belief structures. No comment on your blog as to whether these beliefs, if harmful, would necessitate a caregiver to step in. Possibly it's implied in your piece, but you'd have to read between the lines for that. Really hard. So hard that you'd actually make up your own version of events to fit your argument. Oh wait.

      -This isn't Bach

  7. Sex selective abortions are wrong because they lead a disparity in the sexes. Because females are aborted more than males in some countries it’s reasonable to assume those countries will suffer because of the excess of sexually frustrated unmarriable men.

    If both males and females where sex selectively aborted in equal numbers I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

    I don’t believe in the soul, and I don’t believe that conception automatically makes you human. When I consider what it means to be human, none of the characteristics that I come up with are shared by a blastocyst, embryo, or even a fetus. That being said, I can certainly appreciate the fact that the developing fetus is becoming more human like all the time, and the latter a pregnancy is terminated the more morally questionable it becomes.


    1. @KW:

      So you believe that the moral evil of selectively killing girls can be ameliorated by killing more boys.

      Pro-aborts leave me gasping.

    2. @KW,
      A human embryo or foetus is called 'human' for a reason. It has nothing to do with your personal definitions.
      They ARE human and can ONLY be human. That humanity stretches from the moment of conception to the last gaps of life.

  8. KW:

    If a human embryo isn't a human being, what is he/she? Are you suggesting a new biology, in which parts of women's bodies spontaneously turn into people at some time during gestation?

    Are you a conception denier?

    1. Peter Singer, I think it was in 'Practical Ethics', in his chapter on abortion (and he looked at both sides of the argument, and agreed with you that certain pro-choice arguments, including the claim that a human conceptus isn't human, are just nonsense).

      His conclusion was that a human conceptus, at least not until it's reached a certain stage in development, isn't a person.

      I disagree with you taking your worldview, that there's an omnibenevolent god, an immortal soul, an afterlife, a mind that exists independently of the brain, hylemorphic dualism, etc etc etc, and using it to try to impose your ideology on the rest of us. An ideology made up by fallible humans based on incoherent and inconsistent scripture written by unknown authors (with the exception of the genuine letters of Paul) almost 2,000 years ago.

      It denies the facts, as illustrated in many books such as Phillip Kitcher's brilliant book 'the Ethical Project', that ethics is a human invention, devised by humans for humans for the benefit of humans.

      And that humans, as rational animals, can't sit down and decide what is good or bad (I think we can. People like you make me doubt it).


    2. mregnor,

      Thank you. I regard it as a compliment to be called a 'jerk' by you. I stated your ideology, not the ideology that rules us, and devises our laws. You won't believe me, but societies before Christianity did have laws banning killing of fellow humans (they just had trouble defining who a human was, considering members of other tribes not actually to be human) because a society that condones killing of fellow humans doesn't survive.

      You don't actually defend innocent life, unless you are a strict vegan, who doesn't wear leather or fur.

      And a fetus isn't a person, so fetuses aren't people.

      People who want to impose your worldview on others are called dominionists.


  9. Hypothetically, if I where a woman and had to choose between killing my dog and aborting an early fetus, I would likely save the dog. A human fetus and a dog fetus are virtually indistinguishable early in development, and compared to either, a dog is far closer to sharing the human experiences of fear, pain, and suffering.


    1. So you believe that the right to life entails some kind of achievement test.

      I disagree. I believe that all human beings have a right to life. Period. No exceptions.

      I believe the viewpoint that human beings may be killed because they are not sentient, really young, really small, etc. is abhorrent.

    2. It comes down to the definition of human being (or person).

      What if instead of Terri Schiavo having a liquefied brain, her entire head was lost in an accident and her body from the neck down was being kept alive with advanced medical thecnology, would that body be a human being? Would there be any point in keeping it alive? I don’t think so. What do you think? Might the soul still be in there?


    3. Cathechism of the Catholic Church:

      2278 Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of "over-zealous" treatment.
      Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted.
      The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.

  10. I'm pro-choice, but totally agree with you. There is a real tension in the way liberals deal with this issue.