I’m incredibly clear about my views on abortion. I have absolute faith in the concept that a woman has full automony over her body and everything contained therein. A woman is therefore entilted to an abortion if she wants one. I don’t make any distinctions, either, between ‘good’ reasons and ‘bad’ reasons for not wanting to carry a child to term. Whether an abortion is had because of life-threatening illness or because she doesn’t want to ‘lose her figure’, it’s all the same to me. I support that decision because control over your own fertility is, for me, fundamental to women gaining full human rights. I don’t quibble about reasons.
Abortion is one of the few areas where I was happy to take a black/white view.
Couldn’t last, though, could it?
Because this introduces a distinct shade of grey by asking the very simple question: should a woman’s choice extend to aborting a foetus because it’s a girl?
Arrgh. You want to abort because it’s a girl? No, no, no!!
See? Grey areas all over my life.
This is not a choice I’ve ever really been confronted with. Here in my white-privileged bubble, women don’t abort because it’s a girl. Because here, whilst people may obsess over gender and may even get as close to the issue as obsessing over how ‘lovely’ it is to ‘have one of each’, my little patch of Patriarchy isn’t so overt in its hatred of women as to just kill them before they’re born as a matter of course. Oh, no, the Patriarchy round Boogieville is more snide than that: it likes to get the opportunity to kill a girl’s spirit rather than just the body.
There’s been quite a lot of coverage lately of the huge short-fall in females in India and the problems this is starting to cause (for example here, here, here, here, here – I could go on, but I think you get my point), and there doesn’t seem to be any doubt in any of it that this short-fall is due to sex-selective abortion (and the neglect and murder of new born girls – the only option if you’re too poor to afford ultrasound scans). And everything in me screams, No! But as the article points out:
‘Commenting on the Punjab, where selective abortion is all too common, legal scholar Mallika Kaur Sarkaria pointed out: “When the choice is between abuse and honour, ridicule and prestige, vulnerability and security, women will choose honour, prestige and security – and Punjabi women will have sons.”
‘But “When multiple choices are placed on the table – the choice to raise a daughter without a dowry; the choice to have a daughter to support her in old age without ridicule; the choice to have a daughter to carry forth the family name without shame; the choice to raise a daughter without fear that violence will be inflicted on her – the same Punjabi woman might not choose to abort her female foetus”.‘
Choice: Always complicated, never free.