Distressingly, the subjugation of females is alive and well in the year 2007. Through my travels and investigations as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in the 1990s, I became all too aware of the difficulties women face around the world. Despite the United Nations’ many faults, it has been at the forefront of the battle to ban female genital mutilation and obtain equal rights for women throughout the world. The theme of this year’s session of the United Nations Population Fund was “The elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child.”
Recently, the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute released a new study regarding abortion rates in countries that legalized and criminalized the procedure respectively. The study provoked much discussion and debate among pro-life and pro-abortion organizations. Women, both rich and poor, from wealthy nations to impoverished countries, were shown to be subject of poor health care conditions and gender bias when it came to obtaining adequate health care. The two sides managed to agree on one aspect of the study. They both agreed that women, by and large, were subject to immense prejudice and disregard when it came to obtaining adequate prenatal and maternal health care.
One of the most prominent forms of discrimination against girls exists even before they exit their mother’s womb. That is the issue of sex-selection abortion. The notion of sex-selection abortion challenges the liberal concept of abortion as an innate human right. Sex-selection abortion is practiced in countries where cultural norms dictate that a man is more prized than a woman.
This past summer saw the horrific discovery of the remains of dead baby girls in the Indian town of Orissa. These babies had been bagged and tossed in a well behind what was discovered to be an abortion clinic. India has banned the practice of sex-selection abortion for fifteen years; however, as the babies of Orissa show, that has simply pushed the practice underground. Sex-selection abortion is so common in India that General Electric was forced to hold a conference there on the practice. Subsequently, GE requested that any Indian company purchasing one of their ultrasound machines sign a waiver indicating that they will not use it to determine the sex of the child and consequently abort her. China has also followed suit in outlawing the practice.
Wealthy and upper middle-class women of India and China do have an option though. They can simply come to sunny California and go to The Fertility Institutes of Los Angeles. For approximately $18,000, women can have their abortion at this self-proclaimed “world’s largest and most successful” sex-selection program. The company even offers financing through CapitalOne for those who can’t afford the $18,000 upfront, and advertises in race-specific publications. Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, the clinic’s president, in an interview with New American Media’s Mandy Oaklander, is proud to note that while five percent of the Institute’s advertising budget is aimed at Indian and other ethnic groups, they account for twenty percent of the business.
The ease with which Dr. Steinberg discusses his gruesome business comes as no surprise to veterans of the pro-life movement. Sex-selection abortion is used almost exclusively to kill females. In China and India, the practice is culturally sanctioned and here in the United States, where we believe human rights are universal, and every person is created equal, it is government sanctioned and profitable as well.
Sex-selection abortion has left mainstream abortion and feminists groups in a bind. The National Organization of Women and the National Abortion Rights Action League have been quiet on the subject. Their websites yield no substantive discussion of the practice which has resulted in millions of missing girls. Perhaps these organizations do not want to face the facts regarding abortion. Pro-abortion groups are fond of saying that abortion is a woman’s choice. She is choosing what to do with her body. How much of a choice is it really, when the women are under immense societal pressure to have a boy? How much of a choice is it for the one million missing girls a year?
The popular feminist blog Feministing.com dealt with the issue of sex-selection abortion a month ago. Samhita Mukhopadhyay writes that the “Fertility Institutes is benefiting from sexism and hatred against the birth of baby girls in India and the Indian diaspora communities.” Ms. Mukhopadhyay does not appear to recognize the irony in her statement. There is no one on the pro-life side who would disagree with her, yet groups such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood have yet to take up the cause. Abortion exists today with the tacit approval of, and in some cases the promotion by, some women. Roe v. Wade decided that abortion was more than merely legal, it was a right. When a woman travels from another country to undergo a procedure she cannot afford, to sacrifice a child her society declares she cannot have, it is time to rethink the true cost of abortion.