Shouldn't a Ban on Sex-Selective Abortions in America Be a No-Brainer?
In Sacha Baron Cohen's (Borat and Bruno) new movie The Dictator, his film-wife tells him she's pregnant in one scene. His response: "Are you having a boy or an abortion?"
This line is only funny if you like shock comedy. It packs a punch because it's true.
It's a well-documented fact that sex ratios are skewed to biologically impossible levels in countries like China and India because of gender-based abortions. From 1981 to 1986 alone, Chinese women underwent 67 million abortions because of the one-child policy, a government act designed to limit the population growth of the world's most populous nation. Thirty years later, it's still fueling China's strong cultural preference for boys, and perpetuating an unimaginable number of girl-child abortions.
India, with its oppressive (though technically illegal) dowry system, continues to devalue girls and leads to millions of abortions when an ultrasound reveals a female fetus. In both countries, sex-selective abortion—and even ultrasound used for the purpose of determining a child's sex—is illegal. Even so, the problem persists. Boys are simply more prized than girls.
Mara Hvistendahl, author of Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, traces the many problems associated with a world where more than 160 million girls are missing, largely because of sex-selective abortions. "Gender imbalance has been treated as a local problem, as something that happens to other countries," she says. "The gender imbalance is a local problem in the way a superpower's financial crisis is a local problem, in the way a neighboring country's war is a local problem. Sooner or later, it affects you."
In America, sooner or later was last week.
Republicans tried to rally support to ban sex-selective abortions in our country when they introduced the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) to the House in late May. The time seemed right.
A recent Gallup poll showed that a near-record half of Americans consider themselves "pro-life." Those who described themselves as "pro-choice" declined to a record low 41 percent, compared to 47 percent in July 2011.
In a Washington Post guest blog post, Catholic writer Ashley McGuire attributes this attitudinal shift in part to modern technology, which has helped humanize the fetus. With various pregnancy websites, smartphone apps, and 4D ultrasound now readily available, mothers can track their baby's development from the moment of conception. "She learns her baby's heart starts beating at a mere 21 days after conception (before many women learn they are pregnant). She meets her baby on the ultrasound screen at eight weeks as opposed to at the end of nine months," says McGuire.