Mommy, what did you do during the war?

from Unitus blog“Daddy, what did you do during the war?” is the challenge in question form that the baby boomer generation rhetorically put to its fathers. When raised by an adult who has never known war, the question comes off as a smug accusation. Yet it serves the salutary function of reminding us that we can expect to be asked one day to render an account, and to be judged on how we acted when confronted with the great life and death issues of our day.
With the question in mind of what should be done during a war, let us consider the untraditional but very bloody war that is being waged today in Asia against unborn girls. The introduction of sonogram technology in Asia has resulted in the practice of aborting girls there en masse. In China, for example, recent statistics indicate that for every 100 girls that were born, 117 boys were born1. It is said that if this disparity continues, by 2020 -- only 14 years from now -- there will be 40 million more men than women in China (which correlates to millions more girls than boys killed)2.
from Unitus blogIndia has a similar problem. One study that includes a survey of the literature notes that Indian demographers have found a “stark shift towards excessively masculine sex ratios at birth between 1981 and 1991 from near normal” to as high as 124 boys per 100 girls in urban areas3. Why is this happening? The study reports that in India “[l]ocal studies and surveys show that the use of new techniques to detect the sex of the foetus followed by the termination of a female pregnancy has become common among educated and less educated, rich and poor and in rural and urban areas.” This same study reports that “[d]emographic studies in China, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam since the mid-1980s have uniformly shown an increasing rise in the proportion of male births and confirmed that access to sex identification and abortion facilities is widespread and permits new forms of intervention before birth.”4

One should not imagine that these millions of unborn Asian girls are being aborted in the first trimester of pregnancy. Nearly all the abortions that are done to “weed out” girls in Asia are gruesome late term abortions of viable or nearly viable babies. We know this because generally a sonogram exam cannot determine the sex of an unborn child before the 16th week of pregnancy and in some cases cannot do so until the 20th week or later.
The practice of aborting only girls focuses thought on the victims of abortion and gives those victims an identity. They are not just “foetuses,” they are girls. Few would deny that the use of abortion in the service of search and destroy missions aimed at girls subjects girls to a terrible injustice. But what is the injustice? Is it the discrimination or is it the abortion? Even a moment's reflection leads to the inescapable conclusion that the real injustice is not that girls are selected but abortion itself. What is worse, wanting a boy or killing a girl? The only way to preserve both the "right to an abortion" and sex equality is to kill more unborn baby boys. This of course would not save a single girl but, rather, would only increase the killing of boys to even the score.

One would think that feminists would have something to say about sex selection abortion given that its victims are almost exclusively female. However, while there have been women who have spoken out about the matter, the war on unborn girls is on the far, far back burner of the agendas of activist women on the left -- if it is on those agendas at all.
from Unitus blogHillary Clinton’s remarks to the plenary session of the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference On Women are an example of how the issue is not on the radar screen of American left-leaning activist women when it comes to international feminist concerns. In those remarks Ms. Clinton said “it is time to break our silence” and speak out about wrongs directed specifically at women, such as infanticide, the sale of women into prostitution, violence directed at women whose dowries are deemed too small, the rape of women as a tactic of war, domestic violence, and coerced abortion5. While alluding to a “history of silence” concerning these problems, Ms Clinton choose to remain silent herself about the use of sex selection abortion to effect the slaughter of millions of unborn girls6.
But what can feminists like Ms Clinton say about sex selection abortion given their commitment to the so-called “right to an abortion”? Some feminists on the left say, not very loudly, that sex selection abortion is wrong, and is permissible to outlaw, because it discriminates based on sex. However, they cannot vigorously assert this argument without jeopardising the “right to an abortion” because the logic of the argument completely undermines that so-called “right.” If an unborn girl has the right not to be discriminated against, she necessarily also has the more fundamental right to life. And if unborn girls have the right to life, it necessarily follows that all unborn children, whether male or female, have the same right.
Others have also noted the silence that surrounds the practice of sex selection abortion and the reason for that silence. A paper published by the U.S. President’s Council on Bioethics states that the practice is “a particularly pernicious form of sex discrimination” but notes “with some sadness” that “almost thirty years of progress on the matter of sexual inequality has not led to any firm public policy proposals to put an end to sex control in the United States or abroad.”7 According to this source, the reason for this is that “it was widely argued by many feminist-oriented scholars as well as other liberal thinkers that any legal or policy actions taken against abortion for sex control would put the abortion right itself at risk.” 8Given the renowned commitment of pro-choice feminists to abortion and the far- reaching pro-life implications of any argument against sex selection abortion, it is sadly predictable that pro-choice feminists raise no loud protest against the extermination of the female gender in Asia. Men and women bear equal responsibility for ending this extermination (and all other abortion). But if feminism means anything it means protecting interests that are unique to the female gender. And what greater interest does the female gender uniquely have than that of being defended against systematic extermination? Incredible as it may seem, pro-choice feminists believe there is a greater interest and that that greater interest is abortion -- the very means by which the war of extermination against the female gender is being conducted. What other conclusion can be drawn from their silence concerning sex selection abortion? The practice of aborting girls in Asia supplements an older tradition of infanticide that for millennia was practiced against girls and disabled children. It is beyond ironic that there are feminists who aggressively support a means of extending and perpetuating this barbaric ancient tradition on a mass scale.
The silence about what is happening in Asia is not consistent with any ideology that seeks to protect the female gender but it is entirely consistent with the “it’s all about me” ethos that underlies the ideology of abortion. So that an American woman can be sure that a child will never impinge on her “lifestyle” or career plans, nothing must be said of the slaughter of countless millions of girls in India, China and elsewhere in the world. And so it is that when faced with a genocidal war on girls -- not a figurative war, but a real war where real, live eighteen and twenty week old girls are being singled out and killed in very large numbers solely for the sin of being female -- pro-choice feminists are AWOL.
Mommy, what did you do during the war?
Daniel Mansueto is an attorney and the President of the Board of Directors of the East Los Angeles Pregnancy Center.
(1) Staff Working Paper of The President’s Council on Bioethics, discussed at 1/03 meeting.
(2) Laurel Bossen, Forty Million Missing Girls: Land, Population Controls and Sex Imbalance In Rural China, ZNET (October 7, 2005). Martin Walker, "The Geopolitics of Sexual Frustration", Foreign Policy (March/April 2006), p. 61.
Elisabeth J. Croll, Amartya Sen’s 100 Million Missing Women, Oxford Development Studies, Vol. 29, No. 3 (2001), p. 228.
Croll, "Amartya Sen’s 100 Million Missing Women".
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Remarks For The United Nations Fourth World Conference On Women.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, "Remarks For The United Nations Fourth World Conference On Women".
Staff Working Paper of The President’s Council on Bioethics.
(8) Staff Working Paper of The President’s Council on Bioethics.


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  • Daniel Mansueto