Although gender selection has existed historically in one form or another in many cultures, ultrasound and abortion technologies are bringing the practice into the mainstream. Societies that practice gender selection include: China, Korea, Taiwan, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, New Guinea, and many other developing countries in East Asia and North Africa. And since these are many of the same countries from which Canada draws its immigrants, the question can reasonably be asked: Should Canadian residents be permitted to use abortion as a tool to choose the gender of their children?
Under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act gender selection is illegal in Canada, but the Act restricts sex-selection in vitro, not in utero. And at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women meeting in March 2007, Canada helped force the withdrawal of a US-sponsored resolution against “sex-selective abortion.”
Our country’s bias is not to put any limits whatsoever on abortion, apparently to support those pro-choice and feminist groups who are convinced that outlawing gender selective abortion will undermine the reproductive rights of women.
For many of us, however, allowing parents to choose the gender of their offspring is a first step onto that slippery slope of deciding what kind of children are acceptable. What’s next, “designer babies” selected for appearance, height or intelligence?
A difficult ethical conundrum. Should we limit access to abortions in order to combat systemic gender discrimination?
Our answer thus far has been “no,” notwithstanding the general practice by doctors’ and hospitals’ to refuse to provide sex-determination testing to women who express a desire to abort a fetus based solely on gender.
The natural ratio of boys to girls has traditionally been about 105 boys per 100 girls. In India it has climbed to 113 boys per 100 girls, and up to 156 boys per 100 girls in some regions. The current gender ratio in China is about 120 boys per 100 girls, and in the more prosperous provinces it’s even higher.