8.2.12

"Medically Abetted Mass Feticide"

I don't know what the world would look like with approximately 10-20% more men than women but, according to Nicholas Eberstadt, some of us may find out. With such charming phrases as that in the title of this post, Eberstadt points to alarming trends in birth ratios in some of the most populated countries in the world. The bottom line is that strong gender discrimination, enacted through 'sex selective feticide' (aborting female babies), is beginning to shift world population trends and what will result from this long term and unplanned social experiment is almost completely unknown.

There seems to be a recurring theme here. On "2012.01.30 Worth Visiting" I posted a link to a disturbing article about abortion in America. On "2012.01.22 Worth Visiting" I mentioned a documentary about the three most dangerous words in the world: "It's a girl." Eberstadt's article adds statistical weight to this trend, and he notes that abnormal birth ratios are showing up all over the world, always in favor of boys. 

There are two issues here: abortion and the devaluing of girls. For now, the only way medicine can help parents determine the gender of their child is by allowing them to kill children of the unwanted gender. In the future it may be that we can make such choices in a much easier fashion. However, the very limitation of medical means speaks to the strength of this preference. That we are willing to kill our daughters rather than raise them is a much different choice than if we, hypothetically, were able to choose the gender of all of our children. Of course, those in favor of abortion will not see it this way, since we are not killing a daughter but a fetus, a being who, as yet, is not human (despite ultrasound imaging...).

I won't pretend I don't have a religious bone to pick in this discussion. Before we get there, however, it should be obvious that as a long term plan the skewing of birth ratios to such a degree as is unsustainable. As men become grossly numerically dominant I can imagine any number of scenarios playing out. Perhaps the shortage of women will cause them to be prized, causing a serious shift in cultures which have hither to placed a much higher value on male children. This could naturally reverse the abortive preferences of parents and either rebalance birth ratios or send us into a series of pendulum swings between gender preference. Of course, changing cultures is no easy thing to do and many other factors come into play in the meantime. As women become more prized this can lead to good consequences of treating them well but it could also lead to the negative consequence of treating them as commodities. Given the overt commodification of sexuality, especially female sexuality, already present in our world... Then again, strong desire for fewer and fewer woman on the part of grown men may make it even more dangerous to have a daughter, thus strengthening the trend. A downward spiral? A pendulum swing? Who knows.

Regardless of the morality of abortion, culturally driven sex selective feticide is wrong. Though I am unaware of medical professionals offering any kind of official statements, some have responded. In getting the first ultrasounds for both of our children here in the lower mainland the nurse was not allowed to tell us the gender of our child. I asked why, and in both cases was informed that too many parents make abortion decisions based on gender and so the decision has been made that nurses withhold that information. Despite this being only a minor barrier (private ultrasounds are available for a relatively low price) it does make a statement.

Speaking more personally now, abortion is also wrong. We are, in fact, killing our children. I write this as a Christian, not as someone trying to assert moral absolutes which I expect everyone to see and follow. But as a Christian, I think we need to be reminded that the 'abortion issue' has not gone away. We should not seek, as a response, to change laws (though I do applaud Stephen Woodworth's current attempt to force Canadian legislature to examine the one question in this debate Canadian systems have steadfastly refused to look at: when does a fetus become a human being?) but rather to change the hearts of those in our fellowships.

South Korea may be a beacon of hope in this regard. Eberstadt points out that they are, so far, the only country to have recovered from abnormally high male to female birth ratios. He also points out that while the picture is complicated, and other factors were involved, it was largely faith based communities which moved civil society to value daughters.

Ultimately, my hope is in the Lord. Over the years I have discussed moral issues with many people, from environmentalism to abortion, and I always reach the same conclusion. Real change must come from within, and the one who will effect that in us is the Holy Spirit. 

3 comments:

Amelia said...

Thanks, Andrew, for putting it that way - that we should not seek to change laws but to change hearts. Since the law is my field, I find it rather bizarre that Christians, or any special interest group, would lobby the government to change the law rather than try to change their communities from within. The law is not a good vehicle for creating change - it generally only changes to reflect the widely-held views of society. If society disagrees with a law enacted by government, it is often eventually struck down by the courts or a subsequent government. Lasting change does not come about by changing the rules, only by change in one's heart and inner life.

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Mr. Gauss said...

I agree both as a Christian and Human Being. "Not knowing when life begins" is a disgusting argument in justifying killing the innocent and using gender as a determining factor is more like sub-human.
I hope and pray that by discussions such as yours, people will have their hearts changed.
Good work.