The selective abortion of female fetuses is a problem around the world, and an ongoing symptom of sexism. Now a Canadian doctor has devised a foolproof method of ending the practice: just don't tell women the fetus's gender until it's too late!
Writing in the Canadian Medical Journal, editor-in-chief Rajendra Kale outlines his plan:
A pregnant woman being told the sex of the fetus at ultrasonography at a time when an unquestioned abortion is possible is the starting point of female feticide from a health care perspective. A woman has the right to medical information about herself that is available to a health care professional to provide advice and treatment. The sex of the fetus is medically irrelevant information (except when managing rare sex-linked illnesses) and does not affect care. Moreover, such information could in some instances facilitate female feticide. Therefore, doctors should be allowed to disclose this information only after about 30 weeks of pregnancy — in other words, when an unquestioned abortion is all but impossible. A similar proposal has been made elsewhere. Postponing the time when such information is provided is a reasonable ethical compromise. It would still allow prospective parents enough time to prepare the nursery.
Well sure, as long as you tell her in time to get pink or blue paint, everything's fine! Katharine Watts of Sympatico.ca supports Kale's proposal:
While it is a woman's right in Canada to continue only wanted pregnancies, exercising rights and abusing them are two very different things. Making an inherently sexist decision based on the fact that it's your right as a woman is definitely an abuse of that freedom.
Sex-selective abortion is indeed usually sexist (you could argue that it isn't sexist per se when it's used for "family balancing," but that's a different issue). I'd actually be comfortable banning it outright, were it not for the upsetting enforcement implications of such a ban (it would require that we ask all women why they want abortions). What I'm not comfortable with is withholding information from pregnant women as a way of making their decisions for them. That's hardly better than when crisis pregnancy centers give women misinformation to get them to delay their abortions until it's too late. Kale may feel that a fetus's sex is irrelevant, but it's information many women want, and information that in many cases, an ultrasound tech would have to make a special effort to withhold. There are lots of ways to increase women's social status and thus make a baby girl more desirable to families — keeping the truth from pregnant women isn't one of them.
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