Feticide in Canada

A distributing article in the Globe and Mail today raised the issue of feticide in Canada and the highly controversial opinion that withholding the sex of a fetus past 30 weeks could curb the rates of abortion based on sex.

The editorial in the CMAJ notes a small U.S. study of 65 immigrant Indian women that found that 40 per cent had terminated pregnancies of female fetuses and that 90 per cent currently carrying a female fetus had pursued the idea of abortion.

But the proposed solution – limiting disclosure of fetal gender until 30 weeks – is already causing significant controversy and ethical concerns in the medical community, which asserts a woman’s right to have access to that information.

As a woman, I could not imagine terminating a pregnancy because of the sex of the fetus. However, I am incredibly fortunate to know that I have the right to terminate a pregnancy if necessary and because of that, a pregnancy brought to full term would be joyful and cherished – not to mention how welcome and wanted that child would be in my life. It would be brought into a world full of love, and as much safety and security as I could possibly assure.

Many women do not have such choice, for some not because they do not have legal access of abortion but because their family’s values will not allow that to happen. In the same token, many women would not bring a female fetus to full term because they understand all too well the violence and discrimination it would suffer merely for being born a girl.

I understand that doctor’s have limited ability to stem this in their professional life and exploring the notion of refusing to divulge the sex of the fetus until after 30 weeks is one direct way to slow female feticide. Perhaps bringing more women into the world slowly but surely will work to stop discrimination. Though, perhaps stopping a woman from getting an abortion will condemn that the child she bears to a life of suffering. Clearly, there is no simple solution and no action without a dear cost. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists acknowledged this:

“The SOGC feels strongly that it is the cultural values and norms in specific segments of the Canadian population that must change to ensure that females are not confronted with procedures and intolerant environments before or after they are born.”

The greater issue here is not should we, as a society, demand the disclosure of the sex of a fetus or a child – though that debate is important and has many critical aspects. At stake is the way we as a society continue to allow persons and groups to devalue women and do nothing to stand against it. That we do not demand better from ourselves and our government. That we simply stop the process of raising children to believe it is only their gender that defines them and it is their gender that will define what they do with their lives. It is these persistent attitudes that allow women to be treated lesser than men, that allow and permit violence and discrimination against girls because they are not considered are worthwhile as boys.

There is something to be done aside from not disclosing the sex of a fetus. It is demanding that the sex of a fetus is inconsequential to the value of the fetus and the value of its person. That a female child is something to be celebrated, not dreaded. That all children deserve to be loved in equal measures because they are innocents in a world that judges them based on something they cannot control and cannot even articulate.

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