By Richard Bastien

Two well known representatives of Canada’s liberal elites, Ujjal and Raminder Dosanjh, recently argued in the Ottawa Citizen that abortion based on sex selection is a morally reprehensible practice that, unfortunately, is becoming more widespread as a result of the marketing of gender ID kits, which enable women to find out the sex of their baby at an early stage of pregnancy.

While arguing that abortion based on sex selection is nothing less than “female feticide”, which is “a practice rooted in misogyny”, the two authors note emphatically that they “firmly support a woman’s right to choose as paramount”. What is thus implied is that aborting a baby on account of his gender is repugnant, but doing so on any other ground is legitimate. (Unlike most other Western countries, Canada has no restrictions whatsoever on abortions and the latter are entirely covered by the public health regime).

This represents a major breakaway from Canadian conventional wisdom on abortion, which holds that all abortions should be deemed legitimate. Indeed, over the past quarter century, it has been taken for granted that abortion is a procedure over which no one should pass judgment. To question a woman’s right to unfettered access to abortion is generally viewed as the epitome of political incorrectness. Canada’s Supreme Court has even gone so far as to declare that a baby is entitled to legal protection only once he is completely out of his mother’s birth canal, which means that as long as so much as one of his toes is still linked to his mother, the doctor may, with her consent, chop off the infant’s head with total impunity. This is the Canadian way! What is being questioned, in short, is a basic tenet of our contemporary political culture.

But the disparaging of sex selection abortions is much more than a breakaway from Canadian conventional wisdom. For what we are being told is that the discriminating factor between permissible and non-permissible abortions should be their purpose, i.e. abortions based on a preference for a baby boy rather than a baby girl should be considered as “heinous acts of violence and hatred inflicted on women”, while abortions based on any other preference should be viewed as legitimate.

The interesting point here is that one cannot argue that certain types of abortion, i.e. those based on sex selection, are “heinous acts of violence and hatred against women” without implicitly recognizing that abortion involves the killing of a human being. Indeed, it is precisely because some abortions are targeted at female human beings that they are being denounced as heinous. And since a female human being is, by definition, human, it follows that what is at stake in an abortion is the life of a human being.

This might seem fairly obvious to some. But what is special is that never before in recent Canadian history has any pro-abortion argument ever acknowledged that abortion involves the killing of a human being. We now have it on the authority of both a former Liberal Minister of Health and of a leading woman’s rights activist that what the pro-life movement has been saying for decades and what its opponents have consistently denied is, in fact, true.

But this raises other questions. For example, if abortions based on sex selection are “heinous”, why aren’t other types of abortion equally so? The answer given by the Dosanjh couple is: because sex selection abortions are based on a deep-seated cultural and political bias in favor of males and against females. In other words, sex selection abortions are bad, not because they involve the killing of human beings, but because they violate gender equality.

But what does gender equality mean if not that male and female human beings are equally human? Is it not precisely because being human trumps being male or female that we believe in gender equality? Is the fact of being human not more fundamental, more important, than that of being either male of female? Yet, what is being argued here is that being female has some kind of precedence or superiority over being human. Gender trumps humanity, rather than the other way round. Some abortions are wrong because they destroy, not human beings per se, but rather a gender subset of human beings. Thus in arguing that abortion based on sex selection is abhorrent and abortion based on other grounds is not so, one subordinates humanity to gender and thus negates the foundation for equality between the sexes: the fact that males and females are equally human and are endowed with the same dignity.   

In short, the argument put forth against sex selection abortions illustrates one of the deep flaws of the pro-abortion logic. It also implies that abortion involves the killing of a human, as the pro-life movement has consistently argued.

Richard Bastien, League director for the national capital region, is an Ottawa-based  freelance writer and a member of the editorial board of Égards.  This article appeared in The Ottawa Citizen, April 21, 2008.