Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Taking on Sex-Selective Abortion

Indian women take on the sex-selective abortion issue.

Mumbai (AsiaNews/Agencies) - About 225 women, members of the first all-female village council (gram sabha) of Haryana, have decided to set up vigilance committees to stop selective abortions and female feoticides. According to their proposal, each of the 14 districts of the village of Bibipur (Jind district) will have its own committee, made up of three women and one man with the task of monitoring and controlling pregnant women. The move is significant because Haryana is one of the Indian states in which the practice of gender selection is most widespread.

The women made their proposal in the presence of the sarpanch (village head), Sunil Jaglan, who gave full approval to the project. "From this moment", he explained, "the anganwadi (a sort of health worker, ed.) must record every woman in the second month of pregnancy. Up to now, the state, by law, already records pregnant women from the fourth month. Our hope is that lowering the limit will serve as a deterrent, and that other villages will follow our example."

A woman named Birmati explains that the gender test costs 5,000 rupees (70 euros) and the same again for an abortion. She suggests:
If the same money were instead deposited into a fixed deposit at the birth of the baby, the family would not need to worry about her future. When she grows up, the bank can provide them with sufficient financial support for her studies and for a good marriage.

In Canada, an editorial in the Calgary Herald is calling for an end to 'entertainment' ultrasounds.
An ultrasound is a medical procedure, not a party trick. Its long-term effects remain unknown and Health Canada warns about possible risk for a woman and her baby. Health Canada recommends "diagnostic fetal ultrasounds should be done only when the expected medical benefits out-weigh any foreseeable risk." That's a sensible rule for any pregnant woman.
Here at DJ! we've covered the weird fascination fetus fetishists have with ultrasound several times. They believe that forcing women to look at pulsing images of their innards will dissuade them from abortion.

To that end, the Knights of Columbus have a program to raise funds to buy equipment specifically for fake clinics.

Multiple ultrasounds are a relatively recent phenomenon. Back in the day, there were few machines and they were reserved for high-risk pregnancies. Even now, current guidelines recommend two ultrasounds per uncomplicated pregnancy.

So, while prochoice people are generally not in favour of pregnancy regulation, I personally wouldn't have a problem with outlawing non-medically necessary ultrasounds. Especially if that included non-medically necessary but coercive and manipulative ultrasounds offered by the fake clinics.

Of course, regulating non-medical ultrasounds -- it's done in several Excited States -- is not the whole answer to sex-selective abortion. Women, whether on their own or pressured by family and cultural expectations, will seek and no doubt find ultrasound operators willing to risk whatever sanctions for a few bucks.

More important is elevating the value of women in the benighted communities where this goes on. Maybe the community teams and a very practical idea like Birmati's could go some way towards altering people's perceptions of women.


Anonymous said...

I disagree. If one is pro-choice, one accepts that whether to carry a pregnancy to term or not is *always* a woman's fundamental human right, even if you or I or someone else hates the reason for choosing to terminate. Anti-choicers in Kansas recently passed legislation permitting Doctors to withhold any information from a woman if it might lead to an abortion. Outlawing "entertainment" ultrasounds would be the same thing. Surely the appropriate response to the appalling practise of sex-selection abortion lies instead in your final paragraph. In the meantime, we have to let women choose. Always.

Kayvee1000 said...

Not sure on this one Fern...

There is currently a palpable attack on women taking place by the ‘far right’ both in Canada and the United States, challenging our reproductive rights, which is a basic human right of autonomy over our own person. The system has been working very well without any law in Canada since it was struck down from the Criminal Code; regardless of the baseless so-called ‘scientific’ propaganda presented by the pro-life forum. When compared to actual numbers and Canada having no law, Canada fares far better than our neighbor to the south(1).

I believe selective abortion is primarily a cultural issue within Canada, as we are a multicultural country. The abusers of such atrocities of gendercide, and even worse infanticide are India and China. These women and children are the victims. This again does not address the real issues of patriarchal societies (including Canada), again telling women what to do with their bodies, and that boys are more valued than girls. These are deeply ingrained customs that cannot be legislated out. These issues can only be addressed through discourse and education.

As was exposed on CBC June 13, 2012, there are unethical medical practitioners that will, and always will, whether there is a law or not, perform gendercide. This is the nature of greed over principles. My questions would be by eliminating selective abortion, will we see an increase in infanticide in Canada within these groups? What kind of life will that girl have, knowing she was not wanted for the mere fact that she is a girl? Do we not need to have answers to these questions first, before, again ram through another law and deal with the consequences later?

On a final note, I have to admit I was disturbed by the timing CBC chose to raise this topic to begin with. I saw this expose as a Red Herring to the already enflamed issue of abortion currently taking place in North America. There is a divide and conquer political will in this country, of which MSM is bought and paid for by this new Corporation called Canada.

Sources Cited:

1) http://drjengunter.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/what-happens-when-there-is-no-abortion-law/
2) http://www.gendercide.org/case_infanticide.html

Sixth Estate said...

The trouble with your position is that it's also legal to have any other non-medically necessary diagnostic scan -- provided you pay for it out of pocket, at a private clinic, if you can't get a doctor to order it as a necessary service. Are you going to take away my right to buy an MRI scan my doctor says I don't need?

I can't afford one anyways, and it's a hypothetical question, but it's also a serious question, because you'd have to ban pregnant women from getting abdominal ultrasounds while other people were permitted to do so, not just ban them from getting ultrasounds for sex identification. Otherwise, it will take both pregnant women and ultrasound techs about three seconds to find the loophole.

fern hill said...

You're not the only one disturbed by Fetus Focus Week on CBC.

fern hill said...

I see this whole -- yes, red herring -- 'female feticide' deal as a coming wedge. Potentially huge.

I've blogged on this topic a lot and have always stood for no regulation/not a problem in Canada.

Regulating ultrasound providers is NOT regulating abortion. There are sound reasons to be wary of multiple, lengthy fetal ultrasounds.

Sixth, I'm not aware of any dangers of MRI. Are there? But of course, you're right. Being pregnant should not affect one's status.

Ideally (ha), the professional association of ultrasound techs would agree to carry out only ultrasounds ordered by a doctor. And impose some (probably totally useless) sanctions on those who don't follow the rules.

I see this as a tactical move. Pro-choice can stand for the safety of baybeez as well as against sex-selective abortion in patriarchal communities.

Plus, it knee-caps the fake clinic people.

Of course, people will get around it, but it looks like action on a non-problem and shuts the fucking fetus fetishists up on the 'Where are the feminists???11!!' bleat.

liberal supporter said...

Tracking pregnant women was a feature of the Ceaucescu regime in Romania. Gynecological examinations were done in all workplaces on women of childbearing age. A detected pregnancy would be recorded and tracked. The lack of a baby after the appropriate time required explanation to the police.

fern hill said...

It remains to be seen how things might play out in India. I seriously doubt there'd be anything draconian/ceaucescuian. I would hope that a combination of community support and disapproval would start to change people's minds.

Sixth Estate said...

I don't imagine the risks from an MRI are any more or less serious than the risks from an ultrasound, if we're talking about an adult, since neither of them involve ionizing radiation. That's why I picked MRI as opposed to CT scans.

If you're referring to risks to the fetus, I'm honestly not up to speed enough on current research to know how solidly understood those risks are.

Personally I have no problem banning pretty much all private medical services if they're provided in the public sector under medically necessary circumstances, so your solution isn't necessarily an ethical problem for me. I just wanted to make sure of what you had in mind here, because it would bother me if we were going to carve out prohibitions specifically for pregnant women that can be easily circumvented.

I guess maybe you're right that some sort of perception of action is needed. I just feel like we're wandering into the "sneak a hidden camera into Planned Parenthood" territory here without actually addressing the root problem.

fern hill said...

In Canada, this really isn't a problem. So, there's no need to address it from any societal point of view. The various communities are well aware of it and the progressives among them are working to educate and encourage and discourage. All that good stuff.

I'm not a member of such a group and don't feel I have anything to add. But I am a feminist and a prochoice proponent and I don't like the way this non-story get spun to our detriment.

As for risks to fetuses, there isn't much definitively known because of the ethics of research. I mean, one can't ultrasound the heck out of some fetuses with a control group to study the differences.

But ultrasound involves vibration and vibration causes heat. There are some supposed links to ultrasound and autism. But then autism is linked to everything.

Anonymous said...

I think we should shift our focus to the women who appear in ERs with the shit beat out of them because they produced yet another girl, or because they are female.

Sixth Estate said...

If nothing else, I kind of doubt India has the capacity to implement this sort of scheme on a grand scale. So it's kind of an irrelevant analogy.

Kayvee1000 said...

I had no idea that CBC had outdone itself on a repertoire of various exposes, as I only caught the June 13th episode on the National. I had held out all hope for CBC to provide real, unbiased reporting. I now know that CBC has fallen into the clutches of the Right Wing CPC propaganda machination, along with all other MSM in this Country. Only use for ever watching MSN news, which unfortunately now includes CBC, is to get the weather forecast.

I'm not sure whether it was your response or Niles that CBC at least had the proper etiquette to print your counter response...that parliament should be addressing the real issue here, which is the truncating of rights(1), which is exactly what is happening in this Country.

I feel like we are entering the vortex of Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale within the context of George Orwell's 1984 novel.

I have enclosed the link for CAW's counter protests against the 'Abortion Caravan' currently underway:


(1) June 11 response http://scathinglywrongrightwingnutz.blogspot.ca/2012/06/bloviatin-on-cbc.html

e.a.f. said...

The women in India have made a progressive choice, not just for women but for men. China, with its one child policy has seen an increase of men. china now has a problem of 30 Million men who can't find wives.

children of any sex are valuable. I never did understand sex selection. Some cultures may think the son will look after his parents in their old age, but not if his wife doesn't want him to. Better to have a daughter, who loves her parents or as the old saying goes:

a daughter is a daughter for all your life,
a son is a son until he takes a wife.

Sixth Estate said...

It's fairly easy to understand if you try to put yourself in the head-space of a culture which is both (a) deeply patriarchal and (b) to at least some extent assigns gendered economic and prestige value to children. It's more than simply a narrow utilitarian calculation of which child is more likely to give personal care to the elderly: it's also socioeconomic advancement and advantage, etc.

It's not that such societies don't want women. Everyone in the society would agree that there should be enough women available for future marriages to be arranged smoothly (sorry to put this so crassly). It's just that no one wants to raise the girls themselves. It's what economists refer to as a collective action problem: the society agrees there should be women in general, but no one reaps any personal benefit from raising girls.

In such circumstances, banning sex-selective abortions or sex identification ultrasounds is less important than shifting cultural values towards a more feminist point of view of gender. At least in my opinion.

deBeauxOs said...

Crassly put, yes but it's evident none of us discussing here - including Sixth Estate of course - supports the practices so succinctly and aptly described.

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