Calgary Sun

July 12, 1999

Feminists in a quandary

Gender-based abortions a thorny issue that has divided pro-choice advocates

By BILL KAUFMANN
Calgary Sun

Be careful what you wish for, it might come true.

It's a cliche that could easily apply to Canadian pro-choice, feminist organizations suddenly squeamish about certain abortions.

The nettlesome reality comes in the form of devices the size of a laptop computer that can determine the sex of a fetus -- ostensibly leading to gender-based abortions generally targeting pre-born females.

Ottawa is crafting legislation to deal with the non-medical use of these ultrasound devices, and the pro-abortion National Council of Women insists the equipment's possibly "unscrupulous" door-to-door use should be banned.

"One (such abortion) would be disturbing," NCW President Elizabeth Hutchinson told a Sun Media reporter.

Strange how millions of "normal" abortions are anything but disturbing to Hutchinson and her colleagues.

But surely, if abortion on demand doesn't callously destroy human life, then why worry about the female unborn?

Is being unwanted on the basis of sex any worse than just being generally unwanted?

The female unborn can't be possibly any more of a person than all the other fetal tissue whose gender hasn't be determined.

Apparently, equal opportunity, non-specific destruction of the yet-to-be-born is far more palatable.

Would the NCW be similarly offended if male fetuses were under the gender selection gun?

Perhaps there's an admission somewhere in there, sparked by the reality of gender, that there's something innately human about life in the womb.

It's a horrifying prospect for other feminist groups who want no action from Ottawa that would outlaw the womb snoops.

It would lead us down the slippery slope to further restrictions on abortion freedoms won only after much struggle, they say.

At least those groups are being consistent; when it comes to choice over one's body, aborting on the basis of gender is one of the ultimate exercises of it.

Pro-choicers should revel at the thought of even more choice.

As an aside, Hutchinson says ultrasounds can be useful in selectively terminating fetuses that show imperfections, such as hemophilia, so parents will have an easier time raising their healthier children.

That's OK because gender, and discrimination against women, isn't involved.

Frightening.

Meanwhile, the first surgical procedure done on a fetus's brain has been recently performed at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in Nashville, Tenn.

Surgeons relieved a buildup of water on the fetal brain, using a procedure that's been used 49 times to treat spina bifida in the womb.

The babies that went under the knife were apparently wanted by parents who somehow detected some measure of humanity in them.

Of course, ultrasound could have been employed to weed out these imperfect entities -- lumping them in with the subhuman hemophiliacs.

Then again, I'm not worthy to be commenting on such issues of basic humanity because I'm a man.

I should know better.

Bill Kaufmann can be reached at 250-4128.

Copyright© 1999, Canoe Limited Partnership.