I’m still suffering from severe morning sickness, which is making life particularly difficult in terms of writing and blogging, because for some reason I am yet to fathom, more than about 10 minutes in front of a screen, be it computer, tablet or phone, sends me hurtling towards the bathroom, which makes life a little tricky when you are trying to cobble together some additional income from freelance writing.
All of which means I’m a little late to the party when it comes to the topic of sex-selective abortion, which this week as been at the top of the UK pro-life agenda, with the Crown Prosecution Service deciding that it is not in the public interest to prosecute doctors who were discovered by the Daily Telegraph breaking the law, in that they were happy to approve second trimester abortions on the grounds of the sex of the unborn baby.
There isn’t therefore much to add to the excellent post by Catholic Voices which points out that this decision not to prosecute shortens the path to a eugenic society, but it’s certainly worth visiting this Facebook page which gives some guidance as to how to write to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, who has also expressed his concern.
One question that is troubling me as the mother of four beautiful girls, who is in all likelihood experiencing her last pregnancy on health grounds, is whether or not there are those who would justify a decision to abort this baby if we were to discover that it was another girl? In my particular situation, which is probably more typical of the Western mindset, an abortion would be justified not because a girl is deemed to be of lesser value as in other cultures, but simply because we have this skewed notion of a perfect or balanced family. Someone has, in all innocence, asked me the question ‘are you just going to keep going until you get a boy’, a notion that is incredibly hurtful as it implies that there is something wrong with my beautiful girls, or that I am in some way dissatisfied and will remain unfulfilled until I have a child of the opposite gender.
Were I to have four boys, the issue would be exactly the same, it would be assumed that I am somehow desperate for a girl, the issue is not about feminism or misandry, although I have to say that my observation is that most women would like a daughter at some stage, most men a son, the desire for a specific gender seems to be more entangled with individual gender identity issues than with a cultural norm. There are various myths about raising genders, many of which are nothing more than projection or whimsy, i.e. that girls are easy as children and nightmarish as teenagers, and many parents seem to want to have a same-sex offspring in order to cultivate a rather unhealthy friendship type of relationship. Some women crave daughters to go shopping or get their nails done with, some men want sons in order to take to the pub and play football with, wanting their children to be an extension or better version of themselves.
So before we are too disparaging about cultures that are unapologetic about a strong gender preference in children, we also ought to examine our own cultural attitudes towards gender selection and perhaps think more carefully before embarking on thoughtless banter, such as “another girl oh no, how disappointing, you really need to give him his boy” which is what a former parishioner said to me as I limped into Mass, 4 days post c-section proudly holding my baby girl, delighted to have made the Easter vigil.
There will be feminists out there who would experience dissonance were I to announce that I would abort this baby on the grounds that it was a girl, torn between disgust at the patriarchal attitude implicit in the decision, but also supporting my right to choose and have control over my own body. On the other hand there will be feminists who would condone such a decision on the spurious grounds of mental health, claiming that if a girl would cause me such mental distress and given that this could well be my last opportunity for a baby, then I should be free to choose, having already done my bit for the sisterhood. Others would take an unashamed attitude, reasoning that the reasons behind abortion are irrelevant, it is my decision that should take precedence. Wanting to abort a baby is a good enough reason in and of itself.
Admittedly it is enormously distasteful and more than a little traumatic to be hypothetically discussing whether or not I would be justified in killing my unborn child. But it goes to show that far from being concerned with equality, the nature of modern feminism is to do with supremacy. Recently I was interviewed by the broadcaster and theologian Vicky Beeching, on whether or not it was possible to be a pro-life feminist, to which one feminist replied ‘no, because the rights of a woman come before those of a foetus’. Whereas any pro-lifer worth their salt, will tell you that the two lives are of equal value. One should not be sacrificed for the other and even in those extremely difficult and rare cases, where a mother’s life could be put at risk, every effort should be made to preserve both lives. No pro-lifer would advocate for a law which would entail a pregnant mother being denied life-saving medical treatment, even if it were to mean that her unborn child may die as a result.
This type of militant feminism doesn’t strike me as being concerned with the rights of equality or the most vulnerable, what a woman wants, she must have, regardless of the impact upon other people and regardless of whether or not the killing of a baby girl contributes to and reaffirms a culture of misogyny. I’ve also yet to hear this argument framed in terms of whether or not it’s acceptable to abort unborn baby boys on the basis of gender. Whether or not it is a widespread practice is irrelevant, if it’s not okay to kill a girl on the basis of gender, it’s not okay to kill a boy and as Fr Lucie-Smith highlights, it’s a small step from denouncing sex-selective abortion to being pro-life. Perhaps that’s why the silence from the feminists has been overwhelming.
The question should not be is it possible to be a feminist and pro-life but rather is it possible to be a feminist and support the killing of your unborn sisters, simply because they happen to have been created female? What kind of ideology is it that will throw one more baby girl down the sluice in the name of female emancipation?