Sex selective abortions are a hair-splitting topic on the abortion rights spectrum. While a woman choosing abortion based solely on a child’s gender surely leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, the legal right to do so persists.The Daily Telegraph took a few doctors’ temperature on such an intersection of awful and WTF with a “purely journalistic operation” that resulted in no charges whatsoever for the doctors who obliged.
The Sunday Times reports that back in 2012, a secret undercover preggo lady sting operation was conducted:
…the paper had sent an undercover reporter with pregnant women to a number of doctors, asking for a termination explicitly on the grounds that she did not want a girl and informing them a scan had shown the unborn child to be of the unwanted gender.
At some of the clinics the doctors made clear it was illegal to have abortions solely on the grounds that the child would be of the âwrongâ gender, but at others there was no such punctiliousness. One consultant, Prabha Sivaraman, who works for NHS hospitals in Manchester, told a pregnant woman: âI donât ask questions. If you want a termination, you want a termination.â
Another clinic BirminghamÂ reportedly did ask to clarify. But it didn’t change the doctor’s willingness:
âThatâs not fair . . . Itâs like female infanticide, isnât it?â But when the pregnant woman asked if she could put a different reason down on the official form, he said: âThatâs right, yeah . . . Iâll put âtoo young for pregnancyâ.â
None of these sex-selective abortions were ultimately performed, a factor that reportedly influenced theÂ Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to let those doctors off the hook after an 18-month investigation that included video, citing not “enough evidence to prosecute.” CPS also reportedly added that itÂ âwould not be in the public interestâ to prosecute..
I can see this logic in the sense that if ladies in search of sex selective abortions don’t get those procedures at this clinic, what’s to prevent them from seeking them out illegally? Or on their own? Isn’t it in the clinic’s best interest to treat these women than risk them going elsewhere?
Nevertheless, I echo the sentiments ofÂ some of those who have protested CPS’s decision:
Last week the Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston (a doctor) protested against the CPSâs decision:Â âIâm not anti-abortion, but selective abortion of girls harms women and reinforces misogynist attitudes.â In similar vein, the Channel 4 news presenter Cathy Newman said that while she was pro-choice, âanyone who seeks to end an unborn babyâs life because itâs the âwrongâ gender is perpetuating a practice that is . . . morally repugnantâ.
“Morally repugnant” is a description that often follows abortion, regardless of the circumstances. But the reasons often propelling a sex selective abortion, particularly as they pertain to culture, are baseless ideologies, archaic gender existentialist holdovers, smugly described as “socially unenlightened” by some. These specific procedures tend to stray from the abortion rights mantra of Rare, Safe, and Legal. But to that same point, are we to be policing women’s healthcare if it strays from our personal feelings about gender? At what point are we permitted to get all up in each other’s uteri about the choices we make? The “when a human life is involved” line has long been crossed by pro-choice advocates.
Meanwhile, the conversation about preventing sex selective abortions has a tendency to land in equally problematic discussions about women’s health, as one Canadian doctor once proposed withholding the sex of the baby from mothers, a very scary hypothetical. Infantilizing “untrustworthy” women by withholding medical information — about their own bodies no less — is the Margaret Atwood novel I frankly don’t want to live out.