Sex-Selective Abortion: A Pro-Choice Feminist’s Worst Nightmare


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

On Sunday, The Statesman, a prominent Indian newspaper, reported a bizarre statistic coming out of the district of Uttarkashi in the state of Uttarakhand. From data collected from 132 villages in the district, it was discovered that of the 216 live births reported over the past three months, not a single one was a girl child. If accurate, such a statistic cannot be the product of sheer coincidence; it is more than likely that this is a result of female feticide, as acknowledged by state authorities.

Sex-selective abortion is a prevalent phenomenon in the country. In fact, the Indian government passed the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act in 1994, barring doctors from disclosing the sex of the child before birth for the sole purpose of combating the uptick of female feticide and the rapidly-declining sex ratio. Nonetheless, this law is poorly enforced. The reasons for the prevalence of sex-selective abortion in India are primarily cultural and economicmales are perceived as an economic asset, set to carry the family name and provide for aging parents, while females are perceived as a liability to be given away to another family after marriage, often with a ‘dowry’ price attached. To do away with these future ‘burdens,’ many opt to abort their unborn girls.

I’m convinced that ardent pro-choice feminists would condemn the news coming out of Uttarkashi as morally repugnant. Many would even call it ‘patriarchal,’ ‘oppressive,’ and ‘misogynistic.’ Yet, I’m also convinced that they are not entitled to have a moral opinion on the issue if they wish to stay consistent with their pro-choice views.

The Pro-Choice Conundrum

The traditional pro-choice position is that a woman’s ‘reproductive freedoms’ outstrip any potential rights that her unborn child might have, the latter being a non-person and often dismissed as a mere part of the mother’s body. This means that a woman can have an abortion for any reason of her choosing, a conclusion reflected in mantras like, “My body, My choice,” and in statistics that show most abortions occuring for reasons of personal (often economic) convenience.

And this leads us to ask, why would a pro-choice feminist be opposed to sex-selective abortion? Why is it wrong for a couple to choose to abort a fetus upon discovering that it is female? To avoid gender discrimination? 

By their admission, a fetus is not a person with rights, hence it is not protected by any right to gender equality. Do the misogynistic reasons cited for it make sex-selective abortion impermissible? Not if the misogyny is perpetrated against a female non-person in-utero, by a woman exercising her reproductive freedoms to their fullest extent. In addition, most of the reasons we would call ‘misogynistic,’ such as those that treat the female child as a future economic liability, could be justified as reasons of ‘personal convenience.’ The only consistent argument a pro-choice feminist can make is that abortion, regardless of the reason for which it is performed, is morally permissible; an argument that condones the barbarism of female feticide for cultural, economic, and often misogynistic reasons.

In sum, the issue of sex-selective abortion hoists the pro-choice feminist by her own petard. In her zeal to affirm the right of every woman to kill her child in defiance of an imagined patriarchy, she makes herself the real patriarchy’s finest weapon, her hands stained with the blood of Uttarkashi’s daughters.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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