Gendercide In The UK – Who Knew?

How do you feel about the Daily Telegraph’s undercover investigation?

In the first video, a female doctor arranges an abortion for a patient who says that she’s pregnant with a baby girl who isn’t wanted due to the fact that the patient already has a girl.  It’s okay, the doctor assures her,  “I don’t ask questions. If you want a termination, you want a termination.”

In the second video, a male doctor expresses surprise that the sex of the baby could be used as a reason.  On hearing the reason for the abortion, he says quite openly, “That’s not fair”, and even goes further, likening the situation to “female infanticide”.  Despite his clear misgivings however, he too signs the paperwork to arrange the abortion – but he writes that the mother is “too young for pregnancy.”

To me, his initial reaction sounds about right – aborting a baby girl simply because she’s a girl isn’t fair, and it’s not something that we hear too much about, not in the First World anyway.

Thanks to an enlightening article by the Economist, published in March 2010, (read it here), we know that Gendercide is sadly alive and well in our world.  Baby girls are particularly at risk due to the fact that they carry far less importance in Asian countries.

China’s infamous one-child policy has added to the problem where families, only allowed to have one child, usually opt for a boy. (Of course, apart from any ethical issues, this practice leads to a host of social ills, not least the difficulties of an unbalanced society where millions of Chinese men will simply be unable to have a family of their own).

Even though a respected publication like the Economist considered Gendercide to be an problem important enough to use as it’s cover story, it’s still seen as a Third World issue and certainly nothing that might trouble the UK abortion industry.

The Feminist Perspective

It doesn’t seem to concern the feminist groups who campaign for abortion in Ireland either.  After a week which saw the launch of Action On X, a group intent on introducing legislation based on the X Case; a public meeting in the Gresham Hotel to discuss the issue; and the introduction of a Private Members Bill by Clare Daly TD, there was little or no reaction when the Daily Telegraph started producing the fruits of its investigation a day or so later.

I’m a feminist who believes that unborn human life deserves protection regardless of his/her sex.  Don’t the Irish feminists who are actively trying to introduce abortion legislation feel the need to condemn this blatant act of sexism against the most vulnerable females among us?  It seems to me that if you’re going to work towards introducing abortion in a country, then you should, at the very least, be prepared to comment on the stories that show the darker side of the debate.

But therein lies the problem, of course. What can a feminist say about the topic of gendercide? Only that it’s wrong. That it discriminates against the unborn on the grounds of gender. That it allows society to pick and choose the number of baby girls who should be allowed enter that society. Forget offices or gender quotas. This is the ultimate glass ceiling, but it’s also the one that the feminists-for-choice won’t dare consider. If they did, then they’d have to condemn an abortion on the grounds of gender and that would allow a leak to emerge in their supposedly watertight case in favour of an all-consuming right to choose.

After all, if abortion is unfair on grounds of gender, then it’s probably unfair on other grounds too – what about disability?   In the UK abortions are legal up to birth in the case of foetal abnormality. Which might sound serious, until you consider that a “foetal abnormality” can be something as minor as a cleft palate.

Leaving It To the Doctors

For myself, I had a different reaction watching these videos. In both cases – perhaps because I was watching them, seeing their reactions – I thought about the doctors involved. Neither seems particularly impressed about the fact that they’re being asked to end a life on the grounds of gender. Yes, I know the female doctor says “no questions asked” but the thing is, she does ask questions. It’s as if that’s her mantra, the part that protects her from getting too involved in what she’s doing. But sometimes actions speak louder than words. Her questions come in the raising of an eyebrow when the “patient” says “It’s the wrong gender”; in the pause, the look that follows her question “you’ve considered your options?” There’s something resigned about the way she turns back to the desk and shuffles her papers.  The male doctor, of course, is even more outspoken in his opposition.  But still not prepared to say no to the abortion.

Perhaps it’s appropriate that these videos emerged in the week marking the anniversary of Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s death. His name was synonymous with abortion for most of his life. He claimed to have been responsible for 75,000 abortions through those he performed himself and those performed by doctors trained by him. His story is perhaps compelling because he became a strong campaigner for the pro-life cause in the 1970s after watching an abortion take place on the newly-developed ultrasound of the time.

I mention him because I don’t think abortion just affects the women and babies involved. It’s effects spread wider like ripples on a pond.

When I saw these videos, I wondered how these doctors felt when they saw themselves, agreeing to something that – like it or not – forms part of the gendercide regime. Falsifying documents. Describing it as “female infanticide” but going ahead anyway. Certainly, if they were looking for support from those feminists who insist on a woman’s right to choose, they’d be waiting some time. Which, by the way, I’m quite happy about. By distancing themselves from this aspect of the debate, the pro-choice campaigners have exposed the shocking hypocrisy of their argument. Abortion is alright, on any grounds, on any circumstances. Just as long as there’s a medical profession who’ll pick up the pieces and feel obliged to go along with the “choice” on offer. The unborn baby girl doesn’t even register on their radar.

Gendercide  - or “Family Balancing”?

They shouldn’t wait for guidance from the industry either.  In the wake of these videos,Dr Paula Franklin, the Medical Director of Marie Stopes International gave an interview where she appeared to condemn gendercide that takes place in cultures where baby boys are more highly valued, but then went on to happily describe a situation that she called “Family Balancing”, where families who have had a few boys decide that they don’t want any more.  She was quick to say that abortion on grounds of gender is illegal.  The law is clear, she said, and doctors who arrange abortions on grounds of gender are breaking the law.

But her own words weren’t very clear.  Is Gendercide wrong, but Family Balancing acceptable?  What’s the difference?  Dr. Franklin seemed to think that it depends on the culture, which is a bit strange when you consider that feminists have been working for years to achieve a situation where females acquire rights regardless of their culture.

My main sympathy in this piece, surprisingly, is with the doctors. Doctors have a vocation to help and heal. When a woman presents with an unplanned pregnancy, their natural instinct is to guide her, support her, and comfort her while they guide her to the further professional help that she needs.

So why do I feel for the doctors? Because the abortion industry in the UK has left them unable to do their job. Instead of saving life, they’re expected to end it. Expected to ignore the questions that their training and their humanity demands of them. Expected to lie and think nothing of it.  Expected to treat abortion as just another service, instead of the ethical quagmire that it represents.  Expected to shore up the knowledge of what they’re really doing until – who knows? One day they crack or perhaps, like the late Dr. Nathanson, they take a closer look at that scan which today comes in 4-D and shows unborn babies yawning, smiling and moving around.

Abortion has been legal in the UK since 1967.  Many doctors practising today don’t know any other culture apart from one that allows them to end unborn human life at the stroke of a pen.  If they listened to Dr. Franklin, they’d think that their only crime was acting in a way that isn’t “appropriate”.  No wonder they don’t know how to react when gendercide presents itself in their office, thousand of miles from the Third World but deserving exactly the same answer – a resounding “No” to the injustice, sexism and extreme unfairness involved.

As usual, abortion demands too much of our doctors.  Just like women, babies, and the whole of society, they deserve better.

Petition Against Gendercide

You can sign the Pro Life Campaign’s online petition against Gendercide here.


Why Humanity?

Anyone who’s ever visited my Twitter page @CoraSherlock won’t be surprised to hear that I have a healthy interest in the fundamental issues affecting Irish society and the way in which we as citizens try to improve it.  This blog is a natural progression of some of the 140-character-truncated conversations that I’ve had with fellow-minded Tweeters.

Why humanity?

I’ve always felt that on the so-called “divisive” issues – abortion, euthanasia, stem-cell-research – humanity is a good starting point. We all have inherent worth by virtue of that humanity and while it’s true that we can have very different opinions on these things, we’ll always share the commonality of the human experience.  In a world with so many differing views, I like to try and remember that I probably have something in common with everyone.

Comments are very welcome, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with what’s been said.

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