A reader writes:
I'm sure you'll hear a lot about this, so I'll keep my remarks short: Douthat's column is ridiculous because he imagines sex-selective abortion to be a problem of abortion whereas it's really a problem of discrimination. If we eliminated abortion tomorrow, you'd still get sex-selection under different techniques.
You think Ross's main point is unassailable? Then you didn't look at the comments in the posts you link to. There is no intellectual or moral difficulty for abortion-rights supporters who:
1. Are truly pro-Abortion RIGHTS and not simply pro-Abortion.
2. Believe unequivocally that infanticide is worse than abortion.
3. Accept the evidence that legally restricting abortion doesn't actually reduce the number of abortions, it just leads to more woman dying as a result of unsafe abortions.
The evidence suggests that the introduction of ultrasound and safe abortions has meant that sex-selective abortion has increased at roughly the same rate that sex-selective infanticide has decreased. I have no intellectual or moral difficulty in seeing that as a good thing.
Trying to ban abortions done for sex-selection would not have a significant impact on sex imbalance, because it would not significantly reduce sex-selection. A mild sanction would lead to more lying about the reasons for abortion. More severe sanctions would increase the number of adult women dying from abortion and push the level of infanticide back up. Either one would reinforce the cultural bias against women by refusing them legal agency in this most personal of choices. The only way to address the gender imbalance is to improve the status of women.
An Indian reader writes:
Let me address Mr. Douthat's sentence: "The tragedy of the world’s 160 million missing girls isn’t that they’re “missing.” The tragedy is that they’re dead." He might not be aware of this, but sex-selective abortion was a big scandal in India about 10-15 years ago. Since the government got involved, started campaigns, and enacted laws to restrict the practice, India has gone back to worrying about the rise in the traditional methods of female population control: female infanticide. The process by which live female children are either drowned or buried alive or poisoned or have their skulls bashed in or otherwise disposed off like so many unwanted puppies and kittens. Very common in America, I'm sure.
That is the India we live in. I don't know what conclusions Western liberals will arrive at, but for Indian feminists, it tends not to be a dilemma – sex-selective abortion is preferable to female infanticide – those babies being actually alive and all.
At some point we have to stop denying folks rights just because some people will take advantage of them and do something someone finds morally questionable. At some point we have to assume people are responsible enough to make decisions like this for the right reasons.
It’s a pretty terrible argument anyways. Abortion has been legal since Roe v. Wade and yet we don’t have reports of rampant sex selection abortions or evidence of anyone delivering that as a service. And you can’t even tell the sex of your child until 18-21 weeks and, according to this anti-abortion group. Less than 4% of abortions in the US happen after this knowledge could be known.
Though according to this parenting site:
[Gender detection] is most commonly done between the 18th and 26th weeks of the pregnancy, but some newer ultrasound technology can determine the baby’s gender as early as 12 or 13 weeks.
One more reader:
I don't think the issue is very hard for pro-choice advocates. One can advocate the right to choose and still be disgusted by the use to which some put that right. I don't think it is very hard for those who hate KKK white suprmecist speech to be advocates of free speech. I don't think it is very hard for those who hate drunk driving to be against prohibition.