Few people argue that sex-selective abortion is a “good thing”, but when we talk about what’s wrong with it, are we leaving out the women who are affected by the practice? This article in the Washington Post really raised some interesting points for me and illustrated that, just like with all abortions, nothing gets solved by law alone if the society doesn’t change. The answer to solving the sex-selective abortion problem, as always, seems to lie with addressing the needs/problems of the women who have them.
Few voiced the point that sex-selective abortions are a symptom of a larger problem: that girls are devalued because of societal norms and pressures. Many women and men earnestly fail to see the possibility of raising a daughter who can proudly carry the family name, support her parents in old age without ridicule, and live without fear of violence against her body and the associated pain and shame for her family.
Sex selection is portrayed as an “exotic” issue, even though we see the differentiated (or “specialized,” as our multi-billion dollar maternity and baby products industry would prefer) attention to baby boys and girls across U.S. society — the “tougher” mechanical toys for boys, the frills for girls; the early career suggestions subtly impressed on the young. These differences are exacerbated in some cultural contexts, where a family is “not complete” without a son and, worse, socially and economically insecure.
For women whose friends and relatives push sex-selective abortions, the debate around PRENDA was both deficient and disempowering. They heard either that their problem is not real, since it is faced only by a small fraction of a minority, or that they were unimaginably cruel, requiring punishment. The real solution lies in restructuring gender roles generally, but these women heard a demonization of their cultures specifically.