Recently, there has been much in the news about the topic of abortion for reasons of sex selection. This is the latest Trojan horse for those who oppose choice for women in accessing abortion who now claim the abortion reform supports sex-selective abortion which they term ‘gendercide’.
This is despite there being no evidence that there is a problem of sex-selective abortions in the UK, or that there would be the potential for a problem in the Isle of Man. Nor would the proposed reform enable sex-selection as, bar the psychic talents of local tarot reader David Craig, women on the Isle of Man are only able to determine the sex of their child at 18-20 weeks – well after the 14 week limit for abortion on request proposed.
So, yes – the topic of abortion is back on the agenda on the Isle of Man.
There will be a vast array of reactions to this news. Whether you support choice for women to access abortion, vehemently oppose it, or are not arsed either way as long as you don’t have to be put off your Marksie’s meal deal at lunch by graphic imagery, it is important that the facts opposing this latest attack on legal reform are public.
The argument against ‘gendercide’ sounds reasonable on the face of it. Who likes to think of a country where females are rooted out before birth? (Although if you look at the Council of Ministers you’d be forgiven for thinking we were already there).
But, as with most simplistic arguments, the one concerning ‘gendercide’ is flawed. It is these flaws that meant MP Fiona Bruce’s attempt to outlaw sex-selected abortion in the UK in 2015 did not pass, and why the Isle of Man should avoid any knee-jerk reactions to these arguments.
Evidence suggests that when introducing regulation around sex selection, racial profiling is more likely to occur. Sex-selective abortion is linked in our social consciousness to particular cultures. Therefore in practice, those from Asian backgrounds are likely to be targeted by such regulation, and women from such backgrounds more likely to be denied an abortion. Access to abortion would, therefore, depend on subjective judgements based on racist assumptions. This would result in vast inequality.
Such laws also rule out the times when abortion based on sex may be required. Some genetic conditions are sex-linked, and this approach could jeopardise a woman from having an abortion in these circumstances.
A UK campaigner looking to change the Abortion Act to outlaw ‘gendercide’ claimed that women are coerced and pressurised into having sex-selective abortions. Even in the very small minority of cases where this could be a very small possibility, and sex-selective abortion may be a reality, we have to ask ourselves if this legislation is the right approach. Will criminalising women help to address the social factors at the heart of such pressures? Hint – the answer’s ‘no’.
Amending the abortion bill to make sex-selective abortion illegal will merely increase the risk of unsafe abortion practices for women who may be most vulnerable.
The vast, vast majority of women who choose to have an abortion opt to do so as they know that it is the right decision for them. Shock, horror – women can make rational decisions about their own body.
The main problem with the idea of ‘gendercide’ is that it constructs abortion as a ‘problem’ to be solved. As a result, women are presented as inherently vulnerable, subject to coercion at the hands of evil men, and doctors are demonised as being complicit in such coercion. We do not live in a Disneyesque dystopia where all women are helpless at the hands of evil forces.
Nor does reinforcing such stereotypes of women help women to become empowered.
No, we do not want to live in a society where women are treated as the second sex.
However, any move to erode reforms around legislation enables just this by reducing women’s power to choose. Controlling women’s decisions over their body does not prevent inequality, it sustains it.
Instead, let’s call out these arguments for what they are – a last-ditch attempt to delay or erode choice for women.