What the International Gendercide Crisis Must Teach America About Abortion
One month ago my wife and I did something that would be illegal in some parts of the world. We had our third child, and for the third time we had a girl.
It was one of the most joy-filled moments of our lives, but for millions of parents, having even a second or sometimes a first daughter is an impossibility. In China, India, and other parts of the world, girls are unwanted. They are viewed as having no value to the government and little value in society or even to their own families. The result has been widespread gendercide, the systematic and deliberate destruction of girls, typically through abortion. Sometimes through infanticide.
Some estimates say the world is missing over 200 million girls thanks to the practice of gendercide. Most of those come from China and India, where they eliminate more girls every year than America has births.
Since 1979, China has had a one-child policy, and boys are the preferred of the two choices for mostly economical reasons. The government penalizes families monetarily for having more than one child and also takes part in forced abortion and forced sterilizations if the women don't take care of it themselves. This obviously has created an unbalanced male population, and some of the side effects have been increased child abuse and sex trafficking.
In India the government officially frowns on gendercide, yet they turn a blind eye to it. They outlawed using ultrasounds to determine gender because it led to so many abortions of girls. However, they ignore that the practice still goes on.
One study of 8000 abortions in India, for example, showed that 7999 of the aborted babies were girls.
In India, the problem is plain economics for families. Arranged marriages work in a way where the parents of the bride have to pay a large dowry to the parents of the groom. Having boys creates wealth, while having girls diminishes it. The girls who do manage to live often are born into a family that rejects them. In fact, one of the most common names for girls in this situation in India is a Hindi name that means "unwanted."
The once ignored problem of gendercide is just starting to get attention in media, culture, and even among a few politicians. In fact, a new documentary was recently released called It's a Girl! that looks at sex-selective abortions and infanticide of girls in depth. The movie is a heartbreaking expose, painfully declaring that the three most deadly words in the world are "it's a girl."
The film is sparking a growing conversation in America. The filmmaker has even screened the film to feminist and pro-choice groups in hopes of getting everyone unified against gendercide. But we should take this conversation a step further: we should be asking if the elimination of female babies in other nations can teach us about abortion right here in America.
By asking questions about the commonalities gendercide shares with abortion in America, we might all learn something. Following are five thought-provoking questions, the answers to which require pro-choice Americans to question how they can support abortion in America while being against gendercide elsewhere.
You may find the first question and quote along with it a bit disturbing.
5. If gendercide is wrong, then why is abortion in America also promoted to poor and minority communities?
Gendercide affects all incomes, but it is felt hardest among the poor and minority communities in many parts of the world. Poor families in India will become poorer when they try to marry off their girls, but wealthier if they marry off boys. So gendercide is more frequent among the poor and traditionally lower-caste minorities in India.
In China, men carry on their family's wealth and are expected to take care of their family as their parents grow old. There is no social security from the government, so the only real retirement security is sons. Therefore, poor families desperately need their one government-allowed child to be a boy and not a girl. If the legal one child is not a son, it could lead to utter ruin for the poor in their elder years.
In America, abortion is also connected to being poor or a minority.
According to the pro-abortion-funded Guttmacher Institute, even though African-Americans make up only 12% of the population, they account for 30% of abortions. Hispanics make up 16% of the population, but 25% of abortions. And other minorities make up another 9%.
These are a pro-abortion group's numbers. The unbiased CDC's numbers are even a little higher.
At least 64% of all women getting an abortion in America today are minorities. And while non-Hispanic white abortion rates are decreasing, abortion among black and Hispanic Americans is continuing to go up.
Abortion is also linked to poverty. A whopping 42% of women obtaining abortions live below 100% of the federal poverty level. Another 27% live at 101-200% of the poverty level. So more than two-thirds of all American abortions are obtained by poor women.
Over the last decade as abortions dropped in America by 8%, they grew by 18% in poor communities.
Of course, abortion providers like Planned Parenthood target their facilities at both poor and minority communities -- terribly disturbing considering Planned Parenthood's founder Margaret Sanger was a virulent racist, a proponent of eugenics. She believed in eliminating the poor and minority communities in America through contraception and sterilization. Today, Planned Parenthood targets those very communities with abortion services (though they obviously reject that it has anything to do with eugenics).
Consider: abortions have decreased in America the last few years, yet Planned Parenthood's abortion numbers continue to rise.
In 2005, CNS News' Randy Hall wrote about his research on the location of Planned Parenthoods:
In nearly two-thirds (62.5 percent) of the comparisons, the communities with a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic had a higher percentage of blacks than the state did as a whole.
It appears the biggest abortion provider is purposefully focusing on poor and minority communities. Returning to international gendercide -- one of the reasons it is disturbing is that it unfairly affects the poor and minorities. Well, abortion in America has that same problem.
Shouldn't all of us be disturbed that so many of the children we are losing are from these communities?
The following question is related to this one in terms of economics.
4. If gendercide is wrong, then why is low income or lifestyle hardship an acceptable reason for abortion in America?
The vast majority of Americans are against sex-selective abortion: a 2006 Zogby poll revealed that 86% of Americans believe abortion based on gender is wrong. Even pro-choice groups have declared they are anti-gendercide.
But why does gendercide exist? Why do families or governments kill off the girl babies in these countries? Is it because they just hate girls?
Economics is a major, perhaps primary, cause of gendercide. If a Chinese couple knows they will have no financial security in their old age without having a boy, then their choice to abort girls is based on economic hardship. In India, poor families will only become poorer with girls; boys lead to wealth.
Girls equal poverty, and that is why we see so much sex-selective abortions.
To put it simply, these mothers can't afford to have a baby girl. So why are we against gendercide if it helps these families financially? If you still feel gendercide is wrong, then why is abortion ever acceptable if the main reason people give for having an abortion is economics?
According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, at least 75% of abortions are obtained by women who say they simply can't afford having another child.
If you add in other reasons women give -- like inconvenience, pressure from parents/others, job issues, etc. -- the number is actually much higher. So, by far, the number one reason for abortion among American women -- and this data comes from a pro-abortion research group -- is economics.
Keep in mind that unlike China and India, America has social security, America has welfare, America has Medicaid, and America has countless charities and organizations to help the poor. And the poor in America are already wealthy compared to the poor in China or India.
If gendercide is wrong when gendercide exists because of financial burdens, isn't it fair to argue that financial burdens are no excuse to allow abortion in America? If girls shouldn't be killed in China or India because they make families poor, then should girls and boys be killed in America because they make finances a little tighter for American parents?
The next question is about human equality.
3. If gendercide is wrong, then why is aborting babies with potential special needs right in America?
Remember, almost 9 in 10 Americans believe that abortion based on gender is wrong. Why? Girls do not have less intrinsic value than boys. The most left-wing feminist or progressive will loudly declare that you shouldn't abort girls (or boys for that matter) because you think they are of less value as a human being.
In fact, the term "gendercide" was coined by American feminist Mary Ann Warren in the 1980s. Warren was a devout pro-abortion activist and writer. She died three years ago, spending the last 30 years of her life defending abortion. However, she understood the evils of gendercide and was one of the first people to write about it:
Gendercide would be the deliberate extermination of persons of a particular sex (or gender). Other terms, such as "gynocide" and "femicide," have been used to refer to the wrongful killing of girls and women. But ... sexually discriminatory killing is just as wrong when the victims happen to be male. The term also calls attention to the fact that gender roles have often had lethal consequences, and that these are in important respects analogous to the lethal consequences of racial, religious, and class prejudice.
Warren believed gendercide was wrong because it eliminated boys or girls (usually through abortion, mind you) based on gender roles, racism, religion, or economics. The idea was that all humans are equal. So to abort or kill a girl or boy based on perceived inequalities is wrong.
I wonder what Warren would say about the prevalence of aborting children in America with potential disabilities or handicaps today. Aren't those with disabilities or special needs of equal value to humans without physical or mental handicaps?
If the answer is yes, then how can we allow the genocide of such children in the womb in America today?
Today's medical technology has given parents the ability to test and see if there is a strong likelihood that their baby may have some form of disability or special needs. The result of such technology has led to a startling number of abortions. We don't have all the statistics, but where we do, the numbers are shocking: there is an 80% to 95% abortion rate for children who are predicted to have Down Syndrome.
In Northern California, Kaiser Permanente has admitted that when parents learn their child probably has cystic fibrosis, there is a 95% abortion rate.
It is quite easy to see similarities between China's view on girls in the womb and American views of the disabled in the womb. While the most dangerous words in South and East Asia are "it's a girl," in America they are "your baby might be born disabled."
I have discussed these issues with Marc Sherman, program director for AccessABILITY Center for Independent Living, Inc. Sherman has been diagnosed with C5/C6 quadriplegia. He makes the clear connection between international gendercide and American abortions of the disabled:
The disabled have rights just like women or minorities. (It's the) same as if these parents wanted to abort a child because of gender or race. It’s the same thing as in China where you have women aborting children because they are females and not males.
Many parents in the United States who are told that their child may have a disability are even encouraged to abort. This logically amounts to a new form of eugenics.
Doctors and medical staff often urge moms to abort their potentially disabled children because they are seen as less desirable. And we've even seen parents win multi-million dollar lawsuits because they weren't told their child was disabled, and they missed the opportunity to abort their now-living child.
In 2003, a Gallup poll revealed that over 55% of Americans believe abortion should be legal if the reason is physical or mental impairments.
Such a view exactly equals the statement: "the disabled have less value."
It's the exact same reason gendercide exists elsewhere. If it's wrong with gendercide, then how can it be right for the disabled?
You will likely find the next question to be most disturbing.
2. Did you know gendercide exists in America today, and abortion providers allow it?
Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers and featured in the film It's a Girl!, bluntly told the Washington Times last month:
Gendercide is happening in many places all over the world, including the United States.
Obviously we do not see gendercide in the millions like in India and China, but it is shocking to realize that it appears to be happening in the thousands here in America.
You may be surprised to learn that though almost 9 out of 10 Americans oppose gendercide, it is legal in the United States. You can abort based on gender in almost every state. There is no federal law against it. (Recent attention has led to new laws being proposed.)
Part of the reason for gendercide in America appears to be due to increased immigration of Chinese and Indian women into America the last thirty years. One recent research article showed that statistically, at least 2,000 women are missing in California due to gendercide. Most of these sex-selective abortions were by Chinese and Indian women in California between 1991 and 2004.
A major growing area for sex-selective abortions is IVF (in vitro fertilization). It is becoming more and more common for clinics to have their customers pick out only male embryos and kill the female embryos. It is impossible at this point to know how many embryos have been destroyed because of parents' desire for one gender over the other. However, it appears the vast majority would choose males over females, and that this will become a growing problem in America. A Duke law report reveals:
One survey reported that 34% of geneticists stated that they would perform sex selection for families seeking to have a son, and another 28% said that they would refer the couple to a doctor who would. Dr. John Stephens’s clinics in California, Washington, and New York already offer couples the opportunity to undergo prenatal testing for sex selection. Twenty-five percent of American couples surveyed have said that they would utilize these sex selection techniques. And although Western societies attitudes towards women differ significantly from other parts of the world, the demand for male offspring is still apparent with 81% of men and 94% of women stating that they would desire to ensure their first child was a boy.
Last year, the pro-life group Live Action did an undercover video expose showing multiple Planned Parenthoods helping patients figure out how to get abortions based on gender. Lila Rose, the founder of Live Action, said:
The search-and-destroy targeting of baby girls through prenatal testing and abortion is a pandemic that is spreading across the globe. Research proves that sex-selective abortion has now come to America. The abortion industry, led by Planned Parenthood, is a willing participant.
Here is a video of one such example:
Planned Parenthood says they don't agree with sex-selective abortions officially, and fired the employee in that Live Action video. Yet they promise they won't judge women who get them and will be happy to provide the service. The Huffington Post reported that response in an interview with a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman last year:
This spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America also told The Huffington Post that the organization condemns seeking abortions on the basis of gender, but its policy is to provide “high quality, confidential, nonjudgmental care to all who come into” its health centers. That means that no Planned Parenthood clinic will deny a woman an abortion based on her reasons for wanting one, except in those states that explicitly prohibit sex-selective abortions (Arizona, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Illinois).
If our nation clearly stands against gendercide, then we should be wary of the fact that it is a growing problem in America.
We should support legislation outlawing it, and we should question why America's biggest abortion providers aren't condemning the practice in their own clinics.
This leads to the final question.
1. Why aren't more American feminists and progressives standing up against gendercide?
Gendercide should be one of those rare issues that we can all agree on -- and we do in theory, but not in practice.
Most American feminists and progressives either remain silent or even slip up and sound supportive of gendercide at times. Why? It may be because they too realize the very links mentioned here that international gendercide shares with abortion in America.
In the summer of 2011, Vice President Joe Biden took an official trip to China. He spoke at a university and then made a public statement of support for the one-child policy in China which has led to gendercide. He said:
Your policy has been one which I fully understand -- I'm not second guessing -- of one child per family.
Biden would later backtrack on that statement, but it revealed something in the heart of some on the Left. To be consistent with their pro-abortion views, they can't speak too loudly against gendercide. In fact, they may even agree with certain parts of it.
One of the biggest tells regarding the Left's desire to support abortion no matter what, and the link that stance has with gendercide, is found in a recent Slate article by Sital Kalantry. Kalantry realized a lot of pro-choice groups and progressives were responding positively to the gendercide documentary It's a Girl!. Kalantry picked up on the clear connections between gendercide and abortion, so she attempted to dissuade progressive and pro-choice groups from supporting the film.
In her article It's a Trick, Kalantry tells of her frustration that pro-choice groups haven't caught on to the "pro-life message" that "is subtle enough" that they almost "got away with it." She notes that the filmmaker is pro-life and has worked with pro-life people before, and therefore Kalantry believes the message and the film should be rejected. She warns pro-choice and liberal groups to stay away from this film, even though she admits there is nothing overtly pro-life in the movie.
So what's wrong with the film? Kalantry recognizes that the connections from gendercide to abortion in America are there. And it scares her. And she warns other liberals that it should scare them. Therefore, according to Kalantry, progressives and feminists should stand against anti-gendercide legislation in America. She writes:
Although no one supports sex-selective abortion, pro-choice groups correctly worry that such laws could be misused to restrict abortion more broadly.
And there you have it. Those who proclaim they are committed to helping the poor, women, and the abused are choosing to be silent on a problem that strikes the poor, women, and the abused.
Why? Because it's logically impossible to defend abortion while being against gendercide. So her suggestion is to not oppose gendercide.
If you are truly anti-gendercide, then consistency requires that you cannot be pro-choice in America.
Time will tell if the pro-abortion Left can continue to silence or at least lessen public outcry against gendercide, and specifically sex-selective abortions. As our world continues to grow smaller and we learn of more injustice in other nations, we may just wake up to our own injustices right here at home.