Friday, July 13, 2007

It's a dilemma

I can listen to the BBC at work again--I used to listen to it when I was working for the insurance company, and now I'm happy because it's the same announcer and same format I was used to. Squee. Today's news was about a lawmaker in India proposing that all pregnant women register themselves--and having to seek approval if they want an abortion. The reasoning behind this is that many women who discover they are carrying girls will have abortions, even though this is illegal. A few years ago, a reporter from the Beeb was interviewing a woman who had just given birth to her third daughter--and the woman offered to give the journalist her baby, she was so disappointed.

I don't think this idea is going to fly, for several reasons: One, if you rely on women to register themselves for a program that is going to take away their rights, they aren't going to do it. Two, the birthrate in parts of the country already has an almost two to one ration of boys to girls: if this trend continues, girls are going to become a hot commodity (who's going to marry all these boys when they grow up, after all?) and the "price" of having a daughter will fall. I meditate on this, as someone who is pro-life, and wonder if it is legitimate to regulate women's bodies by judging the rightness of their reason to terminate pregnancy. Here in America, the court system is slowly chipping away at a woman's right to choose, and our focus is primarily on women who have "made bad choices:" the image you mostly see is women who are underage, or who haven't used birth control. (Not having access to birth control is a topic for another time...) There is a fainter image of women who are victims or rape or who have to terminate their pregnancies for medical reasons. Nowhere do you see happily married women who chose not to have children, or who have enough kids already. Now, I have not done any research into this last group, but I suspect it's out there. The picture of women who have abortions in India, however, are women who are desperate to have a son--married women who are terminating pregnancies, hoping next time will bring the desired XY chromosome.

My question is just this: is it possible for a country to make one reason for abortion illegal and keep the rest? Is it possible to say to women "You are allowed to have an abortion, but only if you can prove you're not terminating your pregnancy because you're carrying a girl." Should this be a part of the discussion? Or should we limit ourselves to term lengths and concern for the welfare of the mother? It's not a pretty picture. Now the medical discussion includes a woman's reason behind her decision, and gives the doctors and clinics involved the ability to pass judgement on it, effectively deciding what reasons are "good enough." As an educated, employed woman who is far removed from the reality of my sisters in India, I do find it upsetting that you would chose to kill your children--for any reason--but I find it far more upsetting that lawmakers and legislators are trying to take away our right to make that final decision of yes or no. If this idea does become a law, it's not going to make abortions illegal, it is simply going to drive them underground, where for enough money, no one will question why.

What needs to change is the attitude of the people who are perpetuating this myth that male children are more desirable than female children. They need to understand that a woman's worth is not measured in how much her dowry is anymore--that she can be an asset to the family in other ways, and that she can make her parents proud through achievements other than marriage. In short, India needs to realise that it's women are not a commodity to be handed over to a husband, but people who are equal in the eyes of the law. Free to be educated, free to be single, free to make their own decisions--and yes, free to have abortions. The place where lawmakers should be focusing is on the women who are choosing to abort their baby girls, to teach them that their daughters will be a welcome addition to the family--and have them, in turn, teach their daughters the same.


Samantha said...

I would like to point out that most abortions in this country are made because the woman does not want it--is not ready to have the child...financially, emotionally, or for maturity's sake; not because of health or trauma. So it makes sense that the focus is on women who make "bad" choices. It's scary to see abortion transforming into a form of birth a fall back. But at the same time, with the lack of heath care and education, where else can many women turn. This is decision that should be made between God, the woman and her doctor. One would hope a partner and other support could offer a shoulder as well. Pity our world is not always so sensitive. Two interesting sites on the issue: and

Laura said...

Nicki I think based on the opinons you've stated that you are pro-choice, and you wrote pro-life.

As for the women who have enough kids already and don't want any more I also assume they still exist because my great-grandmother on my dad's side was one of them and she bled to death after she had an illegal abortion.

I agree the culture in India is the reason the people are more interested in having girls than boys, however in the U.S. it's interesting to look at who makes the laws and the way the discussion of this issue happens among lawmakers. Who is judging these women and their choices whether bad or good - mostly men.

The reality of the situation - as you mentioned is that whatever the reason someone desires an abortion if they can't get legally they will get it illegally (witness my great grandmother).

By the way, I have a lot to say on the topic of Romania under communism when both birth control and abortion were illegal. If you want to see abortion being used as birth control come to Romania. At least in the U.S. there is still somewhat decent access to birth control in most states. Here, because of whatever cultural imprint leftover from communism most women surveyed say they'd rather get an abortion than use a condom.