During my Sunday morning drive out to CFB Suffield on Dec 18 last year, I was listening to Michael Enright of CBC Radio’s Sunday Morning talking with Canadian author Mara Hvistendahl about the phenomenon of selective-sex abortion or “consumer eugenics” in certain Asian and SE Asian countries.

You can hear that interview here:

Ms. Hvistendahl claims that as many as 160 million pregnancies of female fetuses have been terminated in those countries once their gender became known. The reasons for this practice include the greater prestige of having male children in these cultures. Living in Beijing for 11 years, Ms Hvistendahl began to notice that boys far exceeded girls everywhere she looked and that les to her research and book.

Ms Hvistendahl argues that medical technologies designed to male pregnancies safer are enabling the practice of gender selection, a practice that Western manufacturers of these technologies are quietly abetting.

I recalled this interview today after coming across this piece in The National Post.

In this article, Michael Viatteau reports on an article in The Canadian Medical Journal urging doctors to conceal the gender of a fetus from all pregnant women until 30 weeks. I do not know I’d the author the this journal article cites Ms Hvistendahl’s book, nut he clearly has the same concerns about widespread gender imbalance as a result of this practice.

Besides worries about skewed demographics, it seems to me that a more pressing need for Canadians is that we have an ethical debate around prenatal sex selection. Is it a cultural practice that we should tolerate as an officially multicultural society? Is the practice protected under Canadian law, or, more specifically, lack of law governing abortion? Can we say that sex selection is part of a women’s right to control her reproduction when the practice shows the hostility towards women within certain cultures in multicultural Canada?

Given the state of play on the abortion issue on Canada, I am not optimistic that we have any way of answering these questions .

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

0 Responses

  1. Padre,

    To be honest, it never even occured to me that sex selection was possible. In retrospect, it shouldn't surprise me.

    Thank you for the post, Mrs Kinch and I talked about it for hours.

  2. Mike,

    Thank you for the link, which I found very interesting (including the Christopher Hitchens tribute).

    As you mention, this is a challenging issue, which impacts on feminism, multi-culturalism and personal choice. Precipitating that discussion regarding pre-natal selection, and raising some of the issues which are relevant, also risks resurrecting issues which throw back to a colonial past – at least where we might be focusing on China or India.

    However, notwithstanding appreciating and attempting to understand those challenges, my own personal view would be that the practice of pre-natal choice (absent any medically-orientated intervention) is something which is wrong. One may adopt an opinion regarding abortion and whether this is morally or ethically defensible, and if so in what circumstances (such as, for example, in circumstances of actual medical risk or rape). But pure gender selective abortion, regardless of cultural circumstances, seems to my mind to be indefensible as well as socially dislocating in the medium to long term.

    And what is deeply depressing to a father with a daughter (like me) is the joy those families will have lost in raising a little girl.

    Thanks for the post. It certainly got me thinking.