The ‘right’ to sex-selective abortion

I rarely debate against personal freedoms, but here’s an article, in The Guardian, which is pushing me in that direction. It argues that a woman should be free to terminate a pregnancy if it doesn’t match her preference for either a girl or a boy.

It’s one of those arguments that seek to present all sides in an attempt to appear considered and rational, but ultimately to negate opposing views. My instinctive reaction to the idea of terminating an unborn child solely on the grounds of gender is of distaste. It feels consumeristic and causes me to wonder about the extent to which a woman seeking an abortion on these grounds alone values a new human life for just exactly what it is.

I believe that all humans are equal (and that we define our role within society by our actions), and as such, I can’t come out in favour of this argument. Aborting a pregnancy on the basis of gender doesn’t come from a place of acceptance; rather it’s a judgment on the perceived shortfalls of the unwanted gender, or a whim. In the context of making a decision about a human life, both of those decision-making criteria seem unworthy to me.

It’s a powerfully emotive issue. To arrive at a settled view, I think also about situations that trivialise pregnancy, such as the mother who is recklessly unhealthy throughout her pregnancy; who drinks excessively, smokes, takes drugs, and perhaps fails to take vital medications. Then, having given birth to a child with physical deformities and development delay as a consequence, she gives it up for adoption (or the child is rightly removed), and some time later, has another baby in just the same circumstances.

The impact upon the child is infinitely more negative than for the cruel mother who abused her unborn child and who is then enabled by the state and by society to wash her hands of accountability for having done so.

I think also about the adoptive parents I have met during my career. People who have been painstakingly scrutinised from all angles by the state in order to win the privilege of adopting a child, unwanted, or unable to be cared for by its birth mother.

These are some of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met. They are sharply aware of the value of human life, having persevered over months to prove their worth as prospective parents. These are people for whom the joy of natural conception wasn’t to be; who may have struggled through that bitter disappointment, and then perhaps again through failed IVF treatment.

Later, upon reconciling their infertility, they embarked upon the emotional assault course of an adoption assessment. After months, sometimes years, of expectations raised, hopes dashed, fears realised, and a million other hurdles, approval is finally given and a child comes into view. Last week, when I met real adopters as part of my work, they shared with me that now they are complete as a family they wouldn’t have it any other way. Out of acceptance, comes joy. It was one of the most humbling experiences I have had.

So, back to aborting that unwanted baby boy. Or girl. I’ve got some advice. Go meet some joy filled, proud parents who have adopted their children. It’ll have an impact upon you, one way or another. Then if you still want an abortion, why not carry your unborn son or daughter to term, give it up for adoption, and then set about choosing a different child, from the many who are waiting, that more closely meets your expectations?

Related articles

Sex-selection abortion ‘within law’ (standard.co.uk)

Women in UK ‘legally free to abort child on sex grounds’ (irishexaminer.com)

Sex-selection abortion ‘within law’ (kenilworthweeklynews.co.uk)

Sex-selection abortion ‘within law’ (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)

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