Family planning has taken a bizarre, disturbing and unethical twist among thousands of couples in Canada, who have opted to use abortions to avoid having children of a sex they deem undesirable.
They’re abusing ultrasound to determine the sex of a fetus in its early stages.
If it’s a girl and they want a boy, or if it’s a boy and they want a girl, they can request an ‘unquestioned’ abortion, then go back to the drawing board.
Canadian codes of medical ethics don’t deal with such a practice (the authors of such codes couldn’t have conceived of where technology would lead us).
But it is time to re-examine the rules, in light of a practice that is both cruel and the antithesis of the decades-old battle for sexual equality.
This abhorrent mindset apparently migrated to Canada from cultures that deem males superior and more productive economically to the family unit than females. In China, India, Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines, millions of females in the womb are being aborted over the preference for males.
Calling it “female feticide,” Dr. Rajendra Kale, interim editor-in-chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, says such sexually selective abortions are the most severe and repugnant form of discrimination against females — and Canadians must condemn it, and stop it.
In a Journal editorial last week, Kale urged the medical community to not reveal the sex of a fetus until after 30 weeks of gestation to prevent “an unquestioned abortion.”
“When Asians migrated to Western countries, they brought welcome recipes for curries and dim sum,” Kale wrote. “Sadly, a few of them also imported their preference of having sons and aborting daughters.” And sex shopping in the womb using ultrasound “should be deemed contrary to good medical practices.”
While the number of couples in Canada requesting selective abortions, estimated in the thousands, pales in comparison to the Asian countries, that’s no reason to ignore such gender-based violence in this country, Kale wrote.
Huge amounts of money and time were invested in developing ultrasound technology to help determine the health of the fetus and possible medical complications for the pregnant mother.
The fact that the technology is also used to determine the sex of a fetus is simply an offshoot.
Recent studies of census data for areas in Canada with large Asian populations reveal unnaturally high rates of male births. This provides “strong evidence” that these immigrant families ‘sex select’ despite improved socioeconomic prospects, says Kevin Milligan, an associate professor of economics at the University of British Columbia.
Kale said such selective abortions in North America “distort the male to female ratio in some ethnic groups one-to-four.”
Canadians are known for their respect for the customs of a diversified population. But there a limits. Views that males are far superior and economically beneficial than females must not be tolerated, particularly when the means are so dramatic.
Nor is this an issue of violating women’s rights to know what’s best for their bodies. It’s not a question of the health of the child or the mother, it’s a question only of their sex.
This is selective breeding, a practice widely condemned in the Western world as barbaric.
“Should female feticide in Canada be ignored because it is a small problem localized to minority ethnic groups?” asks Kale.
The answer is obvious to Kale and should be to every other Canadian: “This evil devalues women” and should not be permitted.
Rick Zemanek is an Advocate editor.