Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Abortion and sex selection

When I went to medical school, Henry Morgentaler came to give a lecture on a course on human sexuality. Many of my classmates and I peppered him with questions about is it right to abort for sex selection, for convenience for holiday etc. he inevitably said it was not right, but he believed in abortion on demand so morality made no difference. I suspect Morgentaler is morally conflicted about abortion , but doesn't say it publicly. I am told he will not do abortionas after 18 weeks. Kelly McParland also boxes in those who seem to stridently support abortion.
Abortion has been become a mass slaughter of women in the world and blacks in the US, yet the supporters of abortion seem to ignore thses issues and trumpet abortion as a victory for feminism. It is a tragedy for women.

If you believe a fetus is not a human life, the fetus becomes no different from any other unwanted appendage on a woman's body. There is no moral difference to removing it than there is to removing an unwanted mole, or an unsightly wart. It's just a bunch of flesh, with no human soul or spirit to it, so what's the difference?

Why, then, would abortion proponents object to women having abortions because they don't like the sex of the fetus? If a fetus is not human, a woman has the right to abort it for whatever reason she chooses: because she doesn't feel like going through the process; because it might interfere with her career plans; because she doesn't like children in general; or because she loves Starbucks and someone told her she'd have to give up caffeine during the pregnancy. What, no latte?

For most of us, of course, abortion is a morally serious procedure, far more complicated than having a mole removed. But if you're pro-choice, everything I've written in the paragraphs above applies.


Mike Brock said...

Well, I think the primary argument against sex-selective abortion is that it tends to be an extension of generalized sexism. Particularily in the developing world.

I can see the arguments against it in that context. Sex-selective abortion is and has created serious demographic problems in China and India.

That said, I agree with your general premise that if you believe in the right for a woman to abort a fetus, the right should not be motive tested. It should be a right that is afforded to the woman, to seek a willing medical practitioner, capable professional or to themselves to extract the fetus.

L said...

Abortion is not all about morality, so I am with Henry M on this.

Anonymous said...

The right to life is a fundamental right of humans. An unborn fetus is a human, therefore unborn babies should have the right to life. Just because he or she is in the womb does not give someone else the power to end his or her life. The attitude that so called "abortion rights" supporters hold is the same attitude that has been used throughout history to subjugate and kill weaker human beings who cannot speak for themselves.

Anonymous said...

Morgentaler likes the money apparently. I heard that he is not even a legit doctor... true?? (real conservative)

Roy Eappen said...

No that's not true RC.

Anon1152 said...

"...but he [Morgentaler] believed in abortion on demand so morality made no difference."

Morality makes all the difference--whether or not you are "pro-life" or "pro-choice." If Morgentaler was as amoral as you imply, he simply wouldn't care about whether or not women had access to safe, legal abortion procedures. But he does.

You and Mr. McParland are essentially saying that the "pro-choice" crowd is amoral; you are saying that they do not care about morality; that they are not a part of the moral community.

That seriously distorts their position. It also makes real discussion impossible. You can't make a moral argument--the kind of argument needed to change legislation in a democracy--with people if you think they exist outside of our moral community.

Perhaps that reasoning makes bombing abortion clinics (or assassinating doctors who perform abortions) more plausible. It is the sort of reasoning that makes people who are sane, rational, moral people commit such acts.

I realize the previous paragraph may look like an horrible accusation. It's not meant in that way. I'm trying to point out one of the ways in which pro-lifers and pro-choicers misunderstand each other. (And I do not think that the solution to the dilemma is simply "understanding").

One of the best things I heard Obama say during the 2008 campaign was at the Saddleback Church, when he was asked about abortion: "I think that anyone who tries to deny the moral difficulties and gravity of the abortion issue I think is not paying attention."

I think Obama gave a much better answer than McCain. McCain, was asked more or less the same question as Obama:

Rick Warren: "At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?"

John McCain: [Immediate response]: "At the moment of conception."

Audience: [Immediate response]: *Applause*

McCain didn't recognize the complexity of the issue. Nor did he recognize his previously held position on abortion. Nor did he explain in any depth why he thought one thing or the other.

Dr Roy, I have a question for you [and I apologize if you have answered it elsewhere]: One issue raised in the abortion debate is whether or not there should be exceptions "for the life and health of the mother" and/or "cases of rape or incest". I have heard* Do you believe that abortion is ever justified in those cases? Are there any cases in which it may be justified? [More specifically, are there cases in which it should be legally available].

"I suspect Morgentaler is morally conflicted about abortion , but doesn't say it publicly."
I know few details about Morgentaler. But I would hope that he is conflicted. As I suggest above, I think everyone should be.

* Though I have not confirmed. At least not to my satisfaction. If this sounds completely whacky, I'll try to find some evidence other than a few things that are easily found online.

Roy Eappen said...

I would not make abortion illegal. I would limit abortion after about 13 weeks as is the law in France and many other European countries. I would allow exceptions for the the health of the mother after 13 weeks.
In the last trimester i would make abortions very difficult to obtain. It is already. Virtually no physician will perform third trimester abortions

Roy Eappen said...

I have condemned the killers of abortion doctors. Violence against abortion clinics is also wrong.

Anon1152 said...

Dr. Roy:

Thank you for responding.

I think our positions are, if not the quite the same, then extremely similar.

But I have trouble labeling myself as either "pro life" or "pro choice". At least not as the words are generally understood today. If abortion was not an issue [or the issue] I would quite confidently (and I think consistently) say that I am in favour of BOTH life and choice. Who wouldn't be?

Ultimately, if forced to "choose" [policy wise or personally] I cannot say that abortion is right, or morally irrelevant. But I think that making abortion illegal (or having many restrictions) does nothing to help either women [or children], nor do I think it necessarily reduces the number of abortions. One thing I respected in the Obama answer I referred to earlier was that he said that, though he was "pro choice", he thought that he and the "pro-life" side could agree on the fact that there should be fewer abortions, and that everyone should work toward that end.

And I agree with him that it is a problematic issue. For example, I think that there is a problem with criminalizing [or severely limiting] abortion, but allowing exceptions for cases of rape or incest, and even for the life and health of the mother.

If a fetus, or embryo, or fertilized egg is human and entitled to human rights, then the actions or inactions of his or her parents are irrelevant. To allow that exception is to allow people/persons/human-rights-holders to be punished--indeed, killed--for the "sins" of their fathers and mothers. And if you believe that human rights begin at conception (or at some point before 13 weeks) then to allow abortion in those cases is still to kill an innocent.

As I said, I am "pro-choice", but have much more respect for "pro lifers" who allow for no exceptions. Except perhaps for the life [but not the health] of the mother, in which case two lives hang in the balance, and if the infant and mother are entitled to human rights, such as the right to life, there is no way to choose...

But I digress.

Thank you again for responding. I respect your positions especially when it comes to medical issues.



[You say that you would allow early exceptions for "the life and health of the mother". What about in cases of rape or incest? I know 13 weeks seems like enough time to know/decide. Though [at least as a regular person with over the counter products] it takes some time to actually know and confirm that you are pregnant after conception). But cases of rape and incest seem to be cases where a woman's ability to choose might be hampered. Especially in the case of young daughters impregnated by fathers. [And that sort of abuse is more common than we would like to think].

"I have condemned the killers of abortion doctors. Violence against abortion clinics is also wrong."

I am not surprised. Which is one reason I wanted to say that I wasn't accusing you in my original post. I think that the "killers of abortion doctors" are always wrong, but often, sincere. And I don't think there is enough of a recognition of that.

Mike said...


You compare answers from Obama and McCain, but I'm left feeling that you've unfairly drawn a conclusion. The fact that McCain gave a short and specific response, doesn't imply that he does not understand the complexities: it simply shows that he wanted to be extremely clear about his belief in this regard.

And, whilst you hint that he might have gone further in his response, but chose not to. And, that he's previously held an alternate position, should he (a) repetitively cover this ground each time he answers this question and (b)should we think it a problem if he's changed his mind?

If I had been asked the question, I would have given both answers, without self-contradiction, as they are not mutually exclusive.

There may be other evidence I'm not aware of to support a case that McCain is not sufficiently aware of the challenges of this debate, but the quotes you've used do not hold up (in my view).


Anon1152 said...


You're right. In retrospect I should not have said "he didn't recognize". Perhaps "publicly acknowledge" would be better. I got the sense that McCain was telling the audience what he thought they wanted to hear. [Though yes, that is what politicians do, and it isn't always bad...]

At first, I was only going to use the Obama quote. I added in the McCain quote because... I have an inability to focus and be concise.

I wanted to counter what I saw as an assumption that pro-lifers are amoral. The Obama quote captured part of what I was trying to say. The McCain quote was parenthetical at best.

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