Abortion opponents in the US are talking about the horrendous numbers of sex selective abortions in some Asian nations, especially India and China. Kristen Walker Hatten, for example, writes at LifeNews.com about the “horrifying, misogynistic third-world practice of gendercide.”
But she doesn’t offer any plans for transforming the cultural conditions that lead to such wide-scale abortion of baby girls, before or after birth, except to legally ban it. Never mind that in India, for example, there are already legal restrictions on sex selective abortion. And yet it continues, because violence against girls and women at all phases of life persists.
Walker Hatten concludes that if you don’t support a legal ban, you don’t care about the problem. She asks, “Where are the feminists?” when both prolife and prochoice feminists have been speaking up and agitating for years. She seems even less informed about feminists from within India, for example, who both support abortion rights and seek to abolish sex-selective abortion in conjunction with other lethal practices against girls and women. She would do well to familiarize herself with Rita Banerji of the 50 Million Missing Campaign, for one.
Walker Hatten is also quite problematic when she speaks of gendercide as a specifically “third-world practice” that has spread into the US via immigrants. In the process, she trivializes or renders invisible and inaudible any resistance from within Asian countries to sex selective abortion. She simultaneously obscures the violence against women and girls that is also epidemic in the US culture and contributes to the incidence of abortion there and in many other countries, according to recent scientific literature.
Her argument, like that of many other US abortion opponents, draws, however intentionally or not, upon a centuries-old view of brown, non-Christian, “uncivilized,” “unenlightened” people as uniquely guilty of barbarities against women–and white Christians as their “civilized,” “emlightened” saviors from their misogyny. As if violence against women and girls was not a curse of all religions, cultures, and nations; how else is it that one in three females worldwide has been subjected to gender-based violence?
But her argument, like all too many arguments from US abortion opponents, doesn’t help to abolish female feticide. Such antiabortionists hold one part of humankind responsible while letting another part off the hook, or off too lightly. And their accusation that feminists don’t care cuts off the possibilities of cooperative action with feminists, whether prolife or prochoice, who do care profoundly, and in fact have been seeking and working for much deeper, more decisive solutions than a legal ban for a long time.
We agree with Walker Hatten, of course, that female feticide is horrifying and should be abolished. We also believe that unless prenatal lives are generally treated as if they have inherent value, it is much more difficult to make a case, whether legal, ethical, or cultural, against aborting one specific group of fetuses.
But we cannot accept her blanket accusations about feminist indifference or complicity, let alone the attitudes regarding race, religion, culture, and nationality that arguments like hers encode, intentionally or not. In fact, if we didn’t care about abolishing gendercide, why would we risk the wrath of the US antiabortion movement as such?