March 5, 2009

(Somewhat) In Defense of Sex-Selective Abortion

Does it matter why you want an abortion? This is a topic we have been discussing a lot in grad school. In particular, we have been discussing whether or not sex-selective abortion matters. I say it doesn't. I say any time you decide you want an abortion, it's because you can't have that child at that time, and perhaps, depending on your situation, a child's biological sex might be part of that decision-making process. For example, in Indian families who still believe in the dowry custom, a girl-child might simply be beyond the family's economic means, even if they could afford a son. Also, a single mother might decide she would make a poor role-model for a little boy and doesn't have enough stable male presences in her life to provide one.

Sure, both these situations of sex-selective abortion discussed above are influenced by people's strong belief in the gender binary that gender theorists now now is much more fluid than that, but at the end of the day, every decision about whether or not you are fit to have a baby is speculative and based on your assumptions predicated on the information you have available to you at the time. I might want an abortion because I think I'd be a bad parent because I don't think I like kids. Now, if forced to carry that child to term, I might find out I was wrong. There is a chance I might be infinitely surprised by the fact that I utterly love and adore my baby, that it is the best thing that has ever happened to me; however, just because there is a chance of this (one that as a smart woman I know potentially exists), that does not mean am obligated to carry my baby to term because having it MIGHT not be the problem I thought it would be for me.

In the case of aborting due to financial considerations, saying that I do not have enough money to raise a child is also very speculative. In nine months time, I could have won the lottery, inherited money from a rich uncle I didn't know I had, gotten a promotion at work or met and married someone with an excellent salary. This does not change the fact that I do not want to take this risk of not being able to support my child and decide it's best to abort based on the knowledge I have at the time. And whatever your subjective opinion about my evidence that I cannot have a child is, it is not YOUR body, so who are you to tell me if I should or should not decide this is reason enough to opt for abortion? This is why I am not a strong critic of sex-selective abortion.

At the end of the day, my body is my own, and I do not think I should be forced to use it to make something I do not want to make. Now, if for some reason that is a female child, then so be it. I would never defend this type of sexism in the world when people say things like they don't want their tax dollars to go to schools in Southeast Asian neighbourhoods, for example, because part of the social contract of gaining society's protection is that you must play your part to protect all of it, too; however, when we are taking about a fetus, I get nothing from it being inside of me. We do NOT have a social contract. I can live without it and it CANNOT live without me; therefore, if I do not want to make it with my body, I do not have to, just as I do not have to construct a type of house I do not wish to or play a song on the piano that for some subjective reason I personally do not like.

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