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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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78 Responses

  1. Nahida
    Nahida May 26, 2011 at 9:54 am |

    They’ll be sorry.

    That is all I have to say. I’m too enraged and bitter to say anything more.

  2. bhuesca
    bhuesca May 26, 2011 at 10:10 am |

    I suppose it would be inconsistent for a feminist to support abortion at any time for any reason and yet be EXTREMELY opposed to sex-selective abortion (and aborting solely because the fetus has Down’s Syndrome or could otherwise be born alive but not-able-bodied, and aborting based on the race the fetus has [will have? is race a characteristic that does not exist before birth?]) ????

  3. bhuesca
    bhuesca May 26, 2011 at 10:17 am |

    Hmmm….I wonder if a feminist can be supportive of laws allowing abortion at any time prior to labor and for any reason – and still be very disgusted and wish there were laws against sex-selective abortion (and aborting because a fetus may be disabled or have Down’s Syndrome or for reasons of race, etc.)??

  4. bhuesca
    bhuesca May 26, 2011 at 10:18 am |

    oops sorry double post

  5. andrea
    andrea May 26, 2011 at 10:19 am |

    Bhuesca,

    I think that’s why Jill said that rather than shout down and/or try to ban sex-selective abortions, we need to penetrate the deeper issue of how girls are valued less in many societies.

    Sex-Selective abortion is the result of this discrepancy in how females are valued as opposed to males.

    So no, I wouldn’t say it’s inconsistent at all.

  6. Sid
    Sid May 26, 2011 at 10:27 am |

    Sex-selective abortion may be increasing, but there has always been basal levels of female infanticide…which makes sense given that women cost much more in Indian society. You have to either change the culture and/or make people richer.

  7. bhuesca
    bhuesca May 26, 2011 at 10:37 am |

    Jill, Andrea – thank you.

    Sid – but isn’t ‘making people richer’ a relative concept? As wages rise, prices for goods and services sold/made/marketed by the wage earners rise…any way to make women/girls/female fetuses less expensive IN RELATION TO men/boys/male fetuses?

  8. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 26, 2011 at 10:42 am |

    I don’t think its inconsistent to be pro-choice and anti-sex selection. It is the pregnant person’s body and they have a right to expel intruders for any reason or no reason at all.

    But those reasons may be bigoted and that bigotry is wrong not the abortion.

    Same as a million other bigoted choice/bodily autonomy convos we’ve had.

  9. Katy
    Katy May 26, 2011 at 12:05 pm |

    To make girls less expensive than boys you have to address the dowry system. That’s a big part of what makes girls so much more expensive and also what drives wealthy families to abort. Among the well to do, dowries are sometimes expected to include things like cars and flat screen TVS.

  10. Sid
    Sid May 26, 2011 at 12:10 pm |

    bhuesca:
    Jill, Andrea – thank you.

    Sid – but isn’t ‘making people richer’ a relative concept? As wages rise, prices for goods and services sold/made/marketed by the wage earners rise…any way to make women/girls/female fetuses less expensive IN RELATION TO men/boys/male fetuses?

    Making girls/women less expensive in relations to men is essentially a cultural change.

  11. Anna
    Anna May 26, 2011 at 12:12 pm |

    I don’t understand the opposition to sex-selective abortion in particular when mothers are so often encouraged to abort those who will be born with severe disabilities. One could argue that, just as many societies need to end their devaluation of women, society also needs to end its devaluation of those who are disabled. A person’s diminished ability to produce or communicate doesn’t make them any less valuable.

  12. Jessica Mack
    Jessica Mack May 26, 2011 at 12:12 pm |

    Sid:
    You have to either change the culture and/or make people richer.

    I think this study shows us precisely that that’s not the case. People are getting richer in India, and yet it’s not changing the rate of sex-selective abortion. It’s frustrating because I think a lot of “experts” were banking on the fact that it’s poverty’s “fault” that girls aren’t valued. If people make more, get more education, etc. that will change. Wrong-o. And Jill is right, outlawing sex-selective abortion won’t do jack. Child marriage is also outlawed in India (and elsewhere), and all it means is that young girls are getting married in the dead of night, or police are being bribed. SIGH.

  13. Sid
    Sid May 26, 2011 at 12:24 pm |

    Jessica Mack: I think this study shows us precisely that that’s not the case. People are getting richer in India, and yet it’s not changing the rate of sex-selective abortion. It’s frustrating because I think a lot of “experts” were banking on the fact that it’s poverty’s “fault” that girls aren’t valued. If people make more, get more education, etc. that will change. Wrong-o. And Jill is right, outlawing sex-selective abortion won’t do jack. Child marriage is also outlawed in India (and elsewhere), and all it means is that young girls are getting married in the dead of night, or police are being bribed. SIGH.

    “Getting richer” is an expression that should be incredibly qualified, especially in a country like India that was/is so poor to being with…it might cost a lot to get an ultrasound/abortion but not nearly as much as it would to raise a girl/woman, a price I think even many of India’s upper class would not be willing to pay.

  14. andrea
    andrea May 26, 2011 at 12:35 pm |

    Anna:
    I don’t understand the opposition to sex-selective abortion in particular when mothers are so often encouraged to abort those who will be born with severe disabilities. One could argue that, just as many societies need to end their devaluation of women, society also needs to end its devaluation of those who are disabled. A person’s diminished ability to produce or communicate doesn’t make them any less valuable.

    One could argue that, indeed. And many people on here and other blogs have argued this very same thing, in light of the fact that ‘severe disabilities’ is a pretty subjective term.

    Reducing selective abortion in the case of those born with disabilities is something that can be aided with greater access to resources for individuals with and parents of children with disabilities. Again it wouldn’t be a case of Banning selective abortion, but by making it less desirable by offering other options.

  15. SephONE
    SephONE May 26, 2011 at 12:52 pm |

    “but not nearly as much as it would to raise a girl/woman”

    Sid, you keep saying it ‘costs so much’ but you’re not actually expanding on why it supposedly costs so much. Details would help, y’know.

  16. Ellie
    Ellie May 26, 2011 at 1:47 pm |

    Katy:
    To make girls less expensive than boys you have to address the dowry system.That’s a big part of what makes girls so much more expensive and also what drives wealthy families to abort.Among the well to do, dowries are sometimes expected to include things like cars and flat screen TVS.

    If dowries are a big consideration by boys’ families, I wonder who will provide all these great dowries, if rich women are the ones who can afford to detect and abort a female fetus…

  17. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 26, 2011 at 2:26 pm |

    Just to add irony to horror: it is apparently getting more and more difficult for men of marriageable age in India to find a wife, because there is an enormous imbalance of missing daughters. Nevertheless, a family getting their son married off will still demand a dowry from the family marrying off their daughter, because that’s the tradition – no matter that men are getting statistically less and less likely to be able to marry, unless they get a trafficked bride from a less wealthy part of India where, twenty years ago, families were less likely to be able to selectively abort a female fetus.

    In villages across the flat plains of north India, two decades of widespread female foeticide is already felt by thousands of families who cannot find brides for their sons. One local leader in the state of Haryana likened the lack of marriageable women to the shortage of grain in a famine.

    It is an apt simile, given that the response to the catastrophe has seen women from poorer states being traded like a commodity by bride traffickers. As little as 10,000 rupees (£125) is paid to impoverished families in Bihar, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh for a daughter who will supposedly be found a job in a more prosperous part of India. The reality is that she will be sold into a forced marriage to a family in a richer state.

    For anyone inclined to think smugly that we aren’t like that in Western countries, the male privilege that believes a single man in possession of a good fortune is entitled to a wife is, I believe, identical from dating sites to Delhi.

  18. DP
    DP May 26, 2011 at 2:32 pm |

    Sid: “Getting richer” is an expression that should be incredibly qualified, especially in a country like India that was/is so poor to being with…it might cost a lot to get an ultrasound/abortion but not nearly as much as it would to raise a girl/woman, a price I think even many of India’s upper class would not be willing to pay.

    What if someone just didn’t feel able or willing to put in the time and energy and sacrifice necessary to raise a child with severe disabilities?

    If we support a teenage girl getting an abortion because she doesn’t want to raise a child at that time, then shouldn’t we also support, say, a 35-year-old woman with 2 kids aborting a fetus that will be born with Down’s Syndrome because she’s not willing to make that sacrifice in her life?

    I fully support abortion, but I understand that it will sometimes be used to make choices not everyone agrees with. And no amount of social support or re-engineering will ever make raising a person with a severe disability like Down’s like raising an able child – they are just different things, as far as I have seen.

  19. Jim
    Jim May 26, 2011 at 2:43 pm |

    Katy: To make girls less expensive than boys you have to address the dowry system. That’s a big part of what makes girls so much more expensive and also what drives wealthy families to abort. Among the well to do, dowries are sometimes expected to include things like cars and flat screen TVS.

    You see comments quoted that basically say the families have to buy husbands for thier daughters. “Well, she cannot expect to get an engineer for less than XXXx lakh…”

    Cultural change – how about getting girls their own engineering degrees?

    Ellie: If dowries are a big consideration by boys’ families, I wonder who will provide all these great dowries, if rich women are the ones who can afford to detect and abort a female fetus…

    Eventually no one. maybe then finally the system will adjust.
    Except it may take a long, long time, as Yonmei points out:

    Yonmei: Nevertheless, a family getting their son married off will still demand a dowry from the family marrying off their daughter, because that’s the tradition – no matter that men are getting statistically less and less likely to be able to marry,

    And Yonmei, your point about rich men in the West having the same expectation of purchasing a bride is well-taken. The difference is that it is not systemic in the West any more. Men can find women to marry without having to in effect provide a dowry to their family/pay a bride price to the woman. A girl in India has fewer options of finding a husband without buying one.

  20. Lu
    Lu May 26, 2011 at 3:02 pm |

    I’ve made this point before in similar contexts. One would think that given a shortage of women, women would become perceived as more valuable and their conditions and treatment would improve. Right? If you’re having a hard time finding a wife, ideally you would respond by being a better prospect yourself—appreciate women more, don’t be a beater, don’t treat women like crap—or, on a wider scale, maybe the people of that culture would be reminded that they really really need women and might change to make it easier to be a woman in that culture. “Let’s have a daughter! Daughters are great for keeping our society going!” But sadly this never happens. When there’s a shortage of women, the system just goes farther afield trying to find other women to make up the difference. Thank you, invisible hand of the marketplace/laws of supply and demand, which in the much-hoped-for (ahem) libertarian paradise will correct these inequities and everyone will get their due. (/ sarcasm) No, in a patriarchy, all conditions, novel or not, can somehow be turned into a tool that serves the maintenance of the patriarchy.

  21. preying mantis
    preying mantis May 26, 2011 at 4:13 pm |

    “I wonder if a feminist can be supportive of laws allowing abortion at any time prior to labor and for any reason – and still be very disgusted and wish there were laws against sex-selective abortion (and aborting because a fetus may be disabled or have Down’s Syndrome or for reasons of race, etc.)?”

    You can still be disgusted, but wishing there were laws against it? Not really. ‘Cuz, I mean, we tried that. (And are still trying it, to a degree, given all the loopholes left in for “fetal defect” once “because I fucking want an abortion” isn’t legally considered a good enough reason). It worked out pretty fucking poorly, much in the same way that complete bans on abortion worked out pretty fucking poorly.

    Work toward a society where being disabled, gay, female, biracial, etc., isn’t automatically stacking the deck against you in a serious way, and you’ll see a radical reduction in women and families wanting to abort for those reasons. Banning abortion for x reason just dumps the burden of dealing with grossly inequitable treatment or expectations for certain members back onto the shoulders of one family while society gets to have its cake and eat it too.

  22. PG
    PG May 26, 2011 at 4:53 pm |

    Sex-selective abortion, child marriage and dowries are all illegal in India. This doesn’t matter because India is not a strong rule-of-law country. (Nor are many of its neighbors; the police chief job in Mae Sot, Thailand was basically auctioned off to the highest bidder because there’s so many bribes to make off the Burmese refugees/ illegal immigrants.)

    Families have different reasons to prefer daughters. Hindu families have the dowry system (note that Muslims, a large minority in India, pay bride-price instead). Rural families want boys to work the land. In both religions, women are deemed to have joined the husband’s family and literally not belong to their parents’ families once the women marry. My paternal grandmother passed when I was in India, and even though death makes the deceased’s family temporarily “unclean” (to drastically oversimplify), I could make a religious pilgrimage during that period because I was married and thus no longer considered my father’s daughter.

    As for the shortage of girls causing people to wake up and act right on their own… I doubt it. It’s a classic tragedy of the commons: everyone thinks his neighbor ought to have girls, but doesn’t want to make the sacrifice himself. See also people’s behavior in the face of environmental destruction, etc. The only way to solve such social problems is by legal mandates that are actually enforced.

  23. Azalea
    Azalea May 26, 2011 at 7:05 pm |

    A fetus is not a boy or girl. I think there is something contradictory about raising alarms with sex selective abortions while other abortions are defended hands down. Hypothetically, if those societal issues didn’t exist are you expecting that less sexism means no more or far fewer sex selective abortions? What if there still were the same amount? I ask because I know a few people who are from countires where sex selective abortions are not so rare and the reasoning is that they simply do not want to RAISE a daughter i any country. Wouldn’t it be patornizing to tell a woman that although she “says” she didnt want to carry her pregnancy to term for X reason that she REALLY wanted to terminate because of outside influence Y?

  24. Azalea
    Azalea May 26, 2011 at 7:12 pm |

    preying mantisWork toward a society where being disabled, gay, female, biracial, etc., isn’t automatically stacking the deck against you in a serious way, and you’ll see a radical reduction in women and families wanting to abort for those reasons. Banning abortion for x reason just dumps the burden of dealing with grossly inequitable treatment or expectations for certain members back onto the shoulders of one family while society gets to have its cake and eat it too.

    Why is everyone so sure the reasons most abort is due to societal pressure and not personal preference to parent a child who is overall healthy or male or straight? It sounds sexist, ableist and homophobic but how many parents claim to WANT a daughter who is disabled and lesbian or bisexual? I think we forget that each person is part of the big bad society monster and that though having a daughter in X place is terribly hard there are still plenty who personally opt to continue carrying a female fetus. There are plenty who carry disabled or deformed fetuses and parents who ADORE and support their LGBTIQ children they were part of that SAME society.

  25. preying mantis
    preying mantis May 26, 2011 at 7:17 pm |

    “I ask because I know a few people who are from countires where sex selective abortions are not so rare and the reasoning is that they simply do not want to RAISE a daughter i any country.”

    Call me a wide-eyed idealist, but I’m reasonably sure that couples just “not wanting to a raise a daughter” as a phenomenon might have an eensy little bit to do with sexism. And, you know, that drastically reducing or eliminating sexism in a country might–might!–see a drastic reduction or elimination of people mysteriously, coincidentally, no-institutional-biases-at-work-here-no-sirree-bob all clubbing together and deciding that they just really don’t care to raise a daughter right now.

    That’s not going to cover any given individual or every given instance. People do have preferences shaped by their own individual expectations or upbringing or hopes for the future. But if you have a country where sex-selective abortion “isn’t so rare” and it’s strongly biased toward female fetuses getting aborted? It’s almost assuredly not because girls and women are so very, very valued and well-treated by that society.

  26. PG
    PG May 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm |

    Azalea, preying mantis,

    People carry cultural preferences with them even when they move to other countries where social conditions are very different. There are state legislatures proposing to ban sex-selective abortions (and more bizarrely, race-selective ones), with at least the alleged justification being empirical data that indicate certain ethnic groups seem to be engaging in sex-selective abortion.

    I don’t know if this already exists, but if not, I think it’d be great to start a charity to support women in India who don’t *want* to abort but are being pressured by family to do so. The charity provides funds for those women to use the laws on the books to protect their reproductive choice, despite police indifference. For example, I saw a report on TV the other day that interviewed an Indian woman who was suing her husband because he’d tried to force her to abort their daughter; she was English-speaking and appeared to be educated and middle-class, which I’m guessing is what enabled her to take such action. Such charitable resources could make a huge difference for lower-income women’s ability to enforce their legal rights. In particular, I think this charity should lean very heavily on pro-lifers to donate, since if what they really care about is preventing abortion rather than enabling patriarchy to control women, they should be bankrupting themselves to help Indian women who are being pressured into abortion.

  27. Kierra
    Kierra May 27, 2011 at 7:39 am |

    I think people are saying that societal preferences and biases impact personal decision-making.

    Here’s my question then, what if it’s societal preference that keeps a woman from aborting a disabled child? It’s easy to say as a feminist that women should be allowed to decide with minimal societal pressures whether to carry a particularly sexed fetus to term, because it’s pretty easy to argue that that would result in a fairly balanced overall population (as judging from cultures where there isn’t strong pressure for/against either sons or daughters). However, my intuition (take with as much/little salt as you like) is that most women wouldn’t choose to parent a disabled child if the option to abort and try again was non-judgmentally on the table (because even in an ideal world, resources (time, living space, etc) available for an individual woman/family are still likely to be in some way limited). But where does this leave opponents of ableism? Are they okay with the possibility of the majority of women making that choice? It just seems like this would lead to opponents of ableism arguing the same “every fetus is sacred” line that anti-choicers use.

    *Apologies for any blatant ableism in the question, I’m still working on wrapping my head around all aspects of this.

  28. groggette
    groggette May 27, 2011 at 8:35 am |

    Kierra, if the support systems were there for people with diabilities (especially children) and society didn’t look down on people with disabilities, I don’t think most woman would prefer to abort in that case. Yes there would still be women who would but personally I’ll still defend their right to abortion for any reason, even if I find their reason abhorrent or ridiculous. No, in general I don’t think people should be pressured to do anything they don’t really want to do, whether it’s the “right” or “wrong” thing… so let’s change society to make different options feasible (abort in this case if you want to, don’t abort in that case if you don’t want to) for any woman instead of just putting pressure on her from the other side, which I don’t think anyone here is arguing for.

  29. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 27, 2011 at 8:54 am |

    Jim: The difference is that it is not systemic in the West any more.

    Male privilege in marriage is systematic in the West, Jim.

    PG: note that Muslims, a large minority in India, pay bride-price instead

    According to this writer, the dowry system in Hindu families has led to Muslim families asking for a dowry instead of offering a bride-price.

  30. Sonia
    Sonia May 27, 2011 at 9:18 am |

    Sex-selective abortion may be increasing, but there has always been basal levels of female infanticide…which makes sense given that women cost much more in Indian society. You have to either change the culture and/or make people richer.

    Actually it is the other way round. The steepest declines in sex ratio have come from states with the highest rise in per capita incomes. As incomes rise, expectations rise. Dowry isn’t just cars and flat screen TVs, it can go much higher than that. Hinduism, like all religions, is quite patriarchal at the core. Many people believe that they will not attain Nirvana unless their son completes their last rites. Women are considered ‘paraya dhan’ (other’s money) in the culture at large. There are laws against dowry and the like but like most laws, their application is decided by the society at large.

  31. Jim
    Jim May 27, 2011 at 10:27 am |

    Yonmei: Male privilege in marriage is systematic in the West, Jim.

    This is pretty vague. Male privilege pretty much vanishes in the family court sytem, both in the US and in the UK – alimony judgements (where those stiil apply), child custody awards and certainly in paternity fraud. Maternal gate-keeping and sanction for it is entranched in the culture and protected in public policy (school deciding who they notify on issues affecting children etc.) Younger women have an advantage over younger men in the marriage market. Etc.

    Feminists more than most people are aware of this situation and usually pretty firmly opposed, I find.

    Azalea, one of the drivers for a preference for sons and a concommitant lack of preference for daughters in places like China and India is that in those societies the family counts for more than the individual. In India marraige is a family matter and so the family can arrange for suitable spouses, for example. And daughters marry out, in both China and India. They join other families, not one’s own, and contribute to those families, not one’s own. The expression in China is that a daughter is “someone else’s happiness”. That doesn’t preclude investing in daughters to improve a family’s bargaining position in the marriage market – an education is after all the richest dowry anyone can bring to a marriage, that’s what the husbands’ value is based on after all – but it does make it more of a long shot.

  32. Sonia
    Sonia May 27, 2011 at 12:40 pm |

    According to this writer, the dowry system in Hindu families has led to Muslim families asking for a dowry instead of offering a bride-price.

    This is quite rare. Actually, the bride price system has undergone some interesting changes with increasing wealth in some parts of India. The bride-price isn’t explicitly demanded by the bride but a suitable price is set by community elders taking into account the groom’s education, salary, and family wealth. The bride-price also isn’t given at marriage as traditionally done (since the price is usually more than what a beginning professional can bear) but is given only in case of divorce as maintenance. This may also act as a deterrent to divorce.

  33. April
    April May 27, 2011 at 6:08 pm |

    Kierra: However, my intuition (take with as much/little salt as you like) is that most women wouldn’t choose to parent a disabled child if the option to abort and try again was non-judgmentally on the table (because even in an ideal world, resources (time, living space, etc) available for an individual woman/family are still likely to be in some way limited).

    My intuition on this is a bit different.

    If, like Groggette mentioned, “if the support systems were there for people with diabilities (especially children) and society didn’t look down on people with disabilities, I don’t think most woman would prefer to abort in that case.” I would also add that, even if there were a lot of challenges to be expected in raising a child with disabilities, many women who are pregnant have grown quite attached to the pregnancy and the expected child in the time between getting pregnant and finding out the baby would be born with a disability. For a great deal of pregnant women, that feeling wouldn’t likely completely disappear upon learning their baby is likely to be born with a disability, making it less likely they may want to abort the pregnancy.

  34. April
    April May 27, 2011 at 6:09 pm |

    (How many times can I say “likely” in a single sentence?)

  35. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 27, 2011 at 6:23 pm |

    Jim: Male privilege pretty much vanishes in the family court sytem, both in the US and in the UK

    “Privilege is: About how society accommodates you. It’s about advantages you have that you think are normal. It’s about you being normal, and others being the deviation from normal. It’s about fate dealing from the bottom of the deck on your behalf.” Your notion that male privileges are normal needs to be unpacked if you want to continue this conversation, If not, fine. Feminism 101

  36. sophonisba
    sophonisba May 27, 2011 at 7:43 pm |

    I wonder if a feminist can be supportive of laws allowing abortion at any time prior to labor and for any reason – and still be very disgusted and wish there were laws against sex-selective abortion (and aborting because a fetus may be disabled or have Down’s Syndrome or for reasons of race, etc.)?

    You are equally disgusted by men and women who want the right to select the age, sex, race or abled status of any child they adopt, and you want a law requiring that anyone who wants to adopt a child be placed with a random, lottery-selected choice. Not also disgusted, but equally.

    I thought of phrasing that as a question, but that would be tantamount to an accusation of misogynistic hypocrisy, so I thought better of it.

  37. Kierra
    Kierra May 27, 2011 at 11:46 pm |

    if the support systems were there for people with diabilities (especially children) and society didn’t look down on people with disabilities, I don’t think most woman would prefer to abort in that case.

    It’s possible, but I still think there’s a difference between society not looking down on individuals with disabilities and an individual woman being okay with the idea of bringing such an individual into being. Like it or not, the “baby” that most pregnant women have grown attached to is an idealized vision of the future. It’s a heck of a lot scarier to contemplate creating a person who is going to be disadvantaged in some way from the get-go. Though obviously, the exact nature of the disability is also going to have a lot of influence on the decision as well.

  38. Tony
    Tony May 28, 2011 at 12:24 am |

    Sid: “Getting richer” is an expression that should be incredibly qualified, especially in a country like India that was/is so poor to being with…it might cost a lot to get an ultrasound/abortion but not nearly as much as it would to raise a girl/woman, a price I think even many of India’s upper class would not be willing to pay.

    Taiwan has a per capita GDP higher than the UK, and this is still a serious problem there. And as noted, it afflicts Asian populations in the US.

    PG:
    As for the shortage of girls causing people to wake up and act right on their own… I doubt it. It’s a classic tragedy of the commons: everyone thinks his neighbor ought to have girls, but doesn’t want to make the sacrifice himself. See also people’s behavior in the face of environmental destruction, etc. The only way to solve such social problems is by legal mandates that are actually enforced.

    Precisely. The benefit to society of aborting fewer girls would be tremendous, but the benefit to the actual parents of a particular girl in question would still be negligible in a patriarchal society compared to the cost. And while we can all agree on working to dismantle patriarchal norms and work towards a society more fair to women and girls, this is the work of generations and these societies cannot afford to wait that long for things to turn around. Furthermore you would need some specific changes like husbands taking his wife’s name for this to really work, and even in the West, we have not reached that point. The difference is that in the West, it is less important to ‘continue the family line’ compared to in Asia. It may not even be fully a problem of Sexism but an interaction effect of Sexism and Family-Centered Culture.

    Tragedy of the commons, collective action problem, whatever you want to call it, at the bottom line the interests of individuals and the interests of the nation as a whole are not aligned. This calls for creative public policy to address the sex selection problem, including more rigorous enforcement and larger penalties for existing laws, public subsidies for families with girls and the like. I support some fairly draconian and authoritarian measures to address these concerns which would never fly in the US, but would be acceptable in Asia.

  39. DouglasG
    DouglasG May 28, 2011 at 1:09 am |

    Props to Yonmei for turning Miss Austen to an original purpose.

    I must admit that I’m not crazy about the idea that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife, although I have frequently gotten good mileage out of the concept of a Truth Universally Acknowledged.

    More seriously, I really don’t know whether or not to hope that sexuality ever becomes as identifiable as sex. It was bad enough being put into conversion therapy against my will as a teenager. I shudder to think of what childhood would have been like had that bit of knowledge been available before birth.

  40. Shaun
    Shaun May 28, 2011 at 3:48 am |

    Kierra, you know, if you didn’t think of disabilities as inherently negative and of disabled people’s value as less than that of able people, you wouldn’t have posted that comment.

  41. Sonia
    Sonia May 28, 2011 at 4:01 am |

    I support some fairly draconian and authoritarian measures to address these concerns which would never fly in the US, but would be acceptable in Asia.

    Wow! While this treatment would be clearly unacceptable to us Westerners you yellow/brown people need to be oppressed for your own good. /sarc

  42. Azalea
    Azalea May 28, 2011 at 6:31 am |

    Jill: I don’t think people are saying it’s societal pressure; I think people are saying that societal preferences and biases impact personal decision-making. Which is Feminism 101, right? Like, I choose to shave my legs and get bikini waxes, but if I was raised alone on a desert island, I probably wouldn’t come up with the idea myself. And there are women who don’t shave their legs, but they aren’t proof that there aren’t incredibly strong social forces at play which encourage women to shave.So here, yeah, there tons of women who give birth to female children or children with disabilities and on and on. But that doesn’t translate into “So the women who terminate pregnancies where the fetus is female or where the fetus will be a child with a disability are doing it only because of a personal preference, and would make the same choice under all other circumstances.”

    I think what I am getting at here is if you live din a place where abortion was unheard of that wouldnt prevent you from wanting to terminate a pregnancy you just wouldn’t know HOW to do it. If you went those years with hair on your legs then one day rubbed your legs and felt stubble, you may wishit were gone but had no idea on how to remove it. Someone creating a way and you knowing of that way doesn’t detract from the fact that you’ve been SEARCHING for a way. My point just being these people are taking advantage of the way and not necessarily victims of societal influence as much as they are benefactors of new technology “normalized” or openly used in their society. I wouldn’t have a sex selective abortion but I cant say the reason someone else did it was because of society rather than their own personal desire not to have a child of that sex cobined with the fact that they know the technology to terminate plus the right to do so for those reasons exist.

  43. Azalea
    Azalea May 28, 2011 at 6:42 am |

    Kierra: Here’s my question then, what if it’s societal preference that keeps a woman from aborting a disabled child? It’s easy to say as a feminist that women should be allowed to decide with minimal societal pressures whether to carry a particularly sexed fetus to term, because it’s pretty easy to argue that that would result in a fairly balanced overall population (as judging from cultures where there isn’t strong pressure for/against either sons or daughters). However, my intuition (take with as much/little salt as you like) is that most women wouldn’t choose to parent a disabled child if the option to abort and try again was non-judgmentally on the table (because even in an ideal world, resources (time, living space, etc) available for an individual woman/family are still likely to be in some way limited). But where does this leave opponents of ableism? Are they okay with the possibility of the majority of women making that choice? It just seems like this would lead to opponents of ableism arguing the same “every fetus is sacred” line that anti-choicers use.*Apologies for any blatant ableism in the question, I’m still working on wrapping my head around all aspects of this.

    Sex Selective abortions and the abortions you mentioned are on the same level as any other abortion. Terminating any pregnancy terminates the possibility of a child being born. Emphasis on possibility. Just because most abortions occur BEFORE you know the gender or disability of a fetus doesn’t make it any less or more of an “OK” abortion. I think these issues serve to kind of clip up the pro-choice movement, can’t you see it now “Feminists are ok with abortions so long as it doesn’t mean aborting females! See how sexist they are?!”

  44. Azalea
    Azalea May 28, 2011 at 6:59 am |

    preying mantis: “I ask because I know a few people who are from countires where sex selective abortions are not so rare and the reasoning is that they simply do not want to RAISE a daughter i any country.” But if you have a country where sex-selective abortion “isn’t so rare” and it’s strongly biased toward female fetuses getting aborted? It’s almost assuredly not because girls and women are so very, very valued and well-treated by that society.

    I just said this but my point was given that China and India both have populations into the BILLIONS even if a MILLION parents did this, it would be less than 1% of the entire population.

    People want what they want. There are women who , even if they were wealthy, even if everyone around them was ready to accept and embrace and asisst her in raising a disabled child simply does NOT want to have a disabled child. There are people who even in a society where girls are not treated like cattle, they simply do not want daughters. Right NOW in the USA there are clinics that seperate X and Y chromosomed sperm with the intent that parents are more likely to get the sex they want. TOTALLY FERTILE couples do this to ensure they get the gender they want to have. If there came a spike in wanting sons and as a result this technology was used much more often in planned parenthood (literally, not the organization) people who planned would have an overwhelming number of sons. However this isn’t a major concern now probably because nearly half of all children born in this country are NOT planned and if you couple that with how society here frowns upon abortion that could be a reason why parents who find the “wrong sex” haven’t made use of sex selective abortions (that and it’s illegal and the true way to know the sex [ because ultrasonographers often get the sex wrong] is through a highly invasive kind of risky amniocentisis). I don’t doubt sexism has a part on why this is happening, I just question whether sexis from societal influence vs sex preference is the reason why most of these happen.

  45. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 28, 2011 at 7:24 am |

    Kierra: It’s possible, but I still think there’s a difference between society not looking down on individuals with disabilities and an individual woman being okay with the idea of bringing such an individual into being.

    I agree. The difference is that in the first case, society is ableist. In the second case, that one woman is showing her ableism.

    Kierra: It’s a heck of a lot scarier to contemplate creating a person who is going to be disadvantaged in some way from the get-go.

    …Like women in Indian society?

    Kierra: Though obviously, the exact nature of the disability is also going to have a lot of influence on the decision as well.

    The absolute only way I agree with this statement is if the fetus has a disorder that will cause a horribly short (i.e. days-long) life filled with an obscene amount of pain. Otherwise, I think you’re probably being ridiculously ableist.

  46. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 28, 2011 at 9:03 am |

    Does a woman who takes a look at her life and her capacity and realise she does not have the ability to raise a child with a disability and has an abortion , deserve to be dismissed as “ableist”?

  47. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 28, 2011 at 9:21 am |

    Oh hi apples. I was talking about oranges. Not being okay with bringing a disabled person into being (Kierra’s words) is different from being unable to raise a child for whatever reason, including capacity. I’m pro-choice. I’m not pro-asshole.

  48. Tony
    Tony May 28, 2011 at 11:08 am |

    Sonia: Wow! While this treatment would be clearly unacceptable to us Westerners you yellow/brown people need to be oppressed for your own good. /sarc

    Sonia, thanks for the reply. My comment “would never fly” was meant to be more of a commentary about what US vs many Asian populations would accept in terms of governmental control over their behavior, rooted in a certain basic difference in culture, like the difference between common law traditions and civil law traditions. It was not meant to imply that one type of tradition was superior to the other. Your universalization of Western, individual liberty values (which equate authoritarian rules on gender selection with oppression) is certainly interesting. Come to think of it, non-Western societies have been steadily moving towards less acceptance of authoritarian heavy handedness than in the past (with a few notable exceptions), so perhaps we really are all converging on the same set of Western-originated values?

  49. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 29, 2011 at 10:15 am |

    Not being okay with bringing a disabled person into being (Kierra’s words) is different from being unable to raise a child for whatever reason, including capacity.

    If I get pregnant (hypothetically) and find out (hypothetically) that the fetus is disabled, and I take a look at my life and my circumstances and realise that I cannot raise a child as disabled as this one will be, and decide that I intend to have an abortion, then I am unwilling to bring this disabled person into the world.

    In fact, there are combined disabilities – brain damage / mental incapacity such that a child will never be self-aware, combined with physical disabilities such that a child will be living in permanent (and inexplicable) pain – that I would, even hypothetically, say I wouldn’t bring a child with that level of disabilities into the world no matter what my capacity.

    Doing your favourite scream-and-leap thing all over Kierra because she didn’t phrase her comments just right is classic Feministepolicing, and something I’m directly familiar with from you.

    What Kierra actually said was: I still think there’s a difference between society not looking down on individuals with disabilities and an individual woman being okay with the idea of bringing such an individual into being. Like it or not, the “baby” that most pregnant women have grown attached to is an idealized vision of the future. It’s a heck of a lot scarier to contemplate creating a person who is going to be disadvantaged in some way from the get-go. Though obviously, the exact nature of the disability is also going to have a lot of influence on the decision as well.

    Pretending that it’s not scary for a woman who’s sighted to know that she’s going to have to learn how to raise a blind child, that this is just an “ableist” reaction that this woman ought to be condemned for, is … assholic – speaking as a woman with visual disabilities. Supposing that my mother had known in month three of pregnancy that her daughter was going to have lifelong visual disabilities? She would still legally have had the option to abort, and being pro-choice, I support her having had the right to do so. She also has the right to feel tired, scared, unnerved, worried – whatever it is she did feel when she found out that my eyes are weird. (I get to say that. They’re my eyes.) You don’t get to tell her she’s being “ableist” for having those feelings, and you’re an asshole if you think you get to tell any pregnant woman she’s “ableist” for having a complicated set of feelings about her fetus.

    Doing your favourite jump-and-scream thing on someone because they haven’t phrased their comments just right shuts down discussion. Claiming you’re doing this because you’re “not pro-asshole”? You’re an asshole.

  50. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 29, 2011 at 1:05 pm |

    LOL.

    I’m sorry, in the future, I’ll be sure to fill my dissenting opinion with anti-American rhetoric and whining about source material. I guess that makes it the difference between “righteous indignation” and “classic Feministepolicing.”

    I’m not willing to roll over on Kierra’s ableist commentary (BTW, something she conceded herself earlier in the thread may exist in her questions) and the offense I am feeling. I’d continue screaming with you when you seem hellbent on moving goalposts and falsely attributing arguments I didn’t make and nuance to Kierra’s question that didn’t exist, but to be honest, your comment got a tl;dr skim from me because you’ve demonstrated across the board that you’re not worthy of my respect.

    inb4 blah blah, tone argument, ad hom, etc. I don’t care. I don’t respect ableist bullshit, and definitely not when the same arguments are levied against me.

  51. Shaun
    Shaun May 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm |

    Hey, Yonmei, if you abort a child because you discover the child is (or may be) blind, or visually disabled, and you’re doing so because you don’t feel the child is as “perfect” as a sighted one is–you’re being ableist. If you’re doing it because you find the whole idea of having a disabled child scary–you’re being ableist.

    No one is policing the right to an abortion here or trying to determine what individual women were or were not ableist when they had their abortion–that’s not the point. But making repeated public postings about the undesireability of disabled children to abled children–that’s ableist too. I understand that abled people need to have those conversations, and ask these kinds of questions, but that doesn’t mean the dialogue isn’t hurtful or doesn’t create a toxic environment.

  52. Natalia Antonova
    Natalia Antonova May 29, 2011 at 2:39 pm | *

    If you’re doing it because you find the whole idea of having a disabled child scary–you’re being ableist.

    Having a child with a disability *is* scary – having a child in general is scary (and even if they’re perfectly healthy when born, where are the guarantees against viruses/accidents/and so on and so forth?). Some disabilities you’re born with, others you acquire. I like the designation of “temporarily able-bodied” myself – all of our bodies will eventually start to break down, even if it takes death to do it. And as for mental issues – hoo boy. Don’t even get me started on the total unpredictability of all that.

    Yes, it’s ableist to talk about undesirability – but there are underlying issues there that cannot be dismissed with the label of “asshole”. There was a woman with a disability on my ward when I was hospitalized a few weeks ago for Pregnant Lady Problems – we stayed up late in the TV room, and she said, “In all honesty, if I suddenly found out early in this pregnancy that this kid would turn out like me, I would have had an abortion.” She told me that when she told her husband, he asked her if she was self-loathing, but as she put it, “I know my own limits – I know what’s too much.” A different person in her place may have had a totally different take on it – but that was the place she was coming from. She didn’t strike me as an asshole.

    I understand that abled people need to have those conversations…

    Well, Yonmei doesn’t identify as “abled”, from what I understand. Neither do I, for that matter.

    …but that doesn’t mean the dialogue isn’t hurtful or doesn’t create a toxic environment.

    I agree – it’s totally hurtful. I am hurting as I type this comment. This shit is hard to talk about. But it’s also the reality that many of us occupy. Just like people who occupy the reality of “I couldn’t possibly have a daughter” – I feel for them too.

  53. Shaun
    Shaun May 29, 2011 at 3:59 pm |

    @Natalia

    I gathered from Yonmei’s response she doesn’t identify as abled. I was referring to Kierra, whom she was defending.

    Asshole wasn’t my word, and I don’t think that doing ableist things makes you an asshole. I’m not really sure where you’re going with this. IAre you saying a woman having an abortion because she’s scared of raising a disabled child is justified? All abortions are justified, that does not mean the able or even disabled woman’s response–or the response of her family, partner, or doctor–is not informed by ableism.

  54. Shaun
    Shaun May 29, 2011 at 4:21 pm |

    I’m also quite tired of having this conversation constantly framed as an either/or debate, that if you’re for neurodiversity/disabled existence you MUST be anti-woman. I think the regulation of women’s bodies as a whole has far far more in common with the regulation of disabled bodies. Bodily sovereignty is a natural ground to draw alliance across, and shouldn’t be used as some kind of wedge to polarize us.

    It’s absolutely fair to have a conversation about the *dialogue* of abortion, such as how disability is used to justify something that needs no justification, or how doctors/society advise women about their pregnancies when the child is deemed to be defective. Able people ought to listen to how their words affect disabled people, especially when they release them into a public forum. This doesn’t mean that disabled people suddenly don’t care about bodily sovereignty or that anyone has a right to say whether so-and-so should have had an abortion.

  55. Natalia Antonova
    Natalia Antonova May 29, 2011 at 5:05 pm | *

    All abortions are justified, that does not mean the able or even disabled woman’s response–or the response of her family, partner, or doctor–is not informed by ableism.

    Yes. And my ultimate question is: so what? Nobody makes these decisions for ideologically “pure” reasons.

  56. Natalia Antonova
    Natalia Antonova May 29, 2011 at 5:34 pm | *

    Also, coming back to a point PA made earlier – saying that someone will be “disadvantaged” upon birth because of a disability isn’t that different from saying that someone will be “disadvantaged” because they are a woman (in India, or elsewhere). “Disadvantages” are often a red herring anyway. But yet when individual parents make that call – then they make that call. It damages society and it damages lives, but in order for the damage to stop, certain *external* factors have to shift, I think.

  57. Shaun
    Shaun May 29, 2011 at 6:48 pm |

    So… when somebody’s doctor advises an abortion your response is “So what?” Just so we’re clear? When a parent blogs about how they aborted their fetus but “it’s okay” because it was “going to be disabled” your response is “So what?”

  58. Shaun
    Shaun May 29, 2011 at 6:53 pm |

    Er, advises an abortion because of ableism, sorry. As in, automatically advises an abortion.

  59. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 29, 2011 at 7:08 pm |

    Shaun: I’m also quite tired of having this conversation constantly framed as an either/or debate, that if you’re for neurodiversity/disabled existence you MUST be anti-woman.

    It’s interesting that you put it that way, since you were certainly coming across as anti-women to me. Attacking individual women for the decisions they make with regard to their own pregnancies, the children they have to decide to have, or not, frames the debate of neurodiversity/disabled existence as something purely anti-woman. Why do it, if you don’t like it?

    There are a whole range of issues around people whose bodies don’t “work perfectly”. Choosing to frame the debate about individual women making the best choice they can for themselves and for their children, rather than about all the external factors that affect that choice, is basic misogyny: blame women, because that’s easy, don’t talk about social structures or healthcare or judgementalism.

    A woman who is pregnant who is deciding whether to keep or abort a fetus she’s been told will have a disability, is usually in a very narrow timeframe to make the decision before it become legally impossible to make it at all. A big important huge decision. Getting on the prolife horse and condemning her if her decision is to abort and you don’t agree with her reasons why, or think she framed them wrong, well, screw you and the horse you rode on.

    Natalia Antonova saying that someone will be “disadvantaged” upon birth because of a disability isn’t that different from saying that someone will be “disadvantaged” because they are a woman (in India, or elsewhere). “Disadvantages” are often a red herring anyway. But yet when individual parents make that call – then they make that call. It damages society and it damages lives, but in order for the damage to stop, certain *external* factors have to shift, I think.

    Totally agree with that.

  60. Shaun
    Shaun May 29, 2011 at 7:24 pm |

    Hi Yonmei. We’re talking about a society that engages in institutionalized discrimination across the board. This is called ableism. You may have heard something about it, or other isms, in your time on the internet. The point is about society, not individual choices.

    Let me put it in really small words for you. Getting an abortion, at any time, for any reason: a personal decision. Talking about abortion in a public forum and using toxic or ableist language to do it: not entirely a personal decision.

    Maybe a buzz word will help. If somebody posts about aborting a pregnancy because she didn’t want to have “a retard,” would you defend that too? Not the abortion. Coming on and posting that she didn’t want to have a “retard.” Because abortion is a human right, does that mean talking about it, or the worth of certain kinds of people’s existence, is also a human right?

  61. Elisabeth
    Elisabeth May 29, 2011 at 9:30 pm |

    Azalea-
    In the US and non-Asian countries where sex selection is legal, it rarely happens and if it does, selection skews female. In many Asian countries there is intense pressure to have at least one son, for a variety of reasons, ranging from cultural to institutional and economic. In poor rural areas with a patrilocal system, it is true that raising daughters is a net resource loss for a family. A family of all girls will have no one to work the land or support them in old age, and have to spend significant resources raising people who will provide labor for others. Secondly, if honoring ancestors is important and descent is through the male line via surname, then not producing an heir who will carry on the surname basically is a let down of your entire ancestral line. Child marriage was common in China pre-revolution, as parents would sell their daughters at a discounted bride price to a family with the son, the logic being the family who would get the daughter’s adult labor should bear the cost of raising her. Daughters were also sold as concubines if the family could not afford to feed all their children (These practices were outlawed after the Revolution.) In rural areas in China, sex imbalances have led to wife-sharing, wife kidnapping, and people buying foreign wives mainly from SE Asia. There are also very many men who have resigned themselves to never marrying. The government has had some success with their “Respect girls” campaign, which allows parents in rural areas to have a second child if the first one is a girl, and provides economic incentives like education tuition to parents with only girls. It’s also illegal for doctors to reveal the sex of a child before birth. In cities, many of the same pressures do not exist, and hence the pressure to have a son is much less. (In fact, I’ve been told that many people prefer daughters, since girls are seen as being more attentive to their parents in later life. In addition, it is expected that the husband’s family will provide a house for the new couple, which in a large city is exorbitantly expensive, so economic pressure actually run the other way.) When birth ratios are as high as 100:120 girls/boys, you can say that larger societal pressures are at work, rather than 100s of millions of women all personally just deciding to have sons.

  62. Elisabeth
    Elisabeth May 29, 2011 at 9:34 pm |

    Oh also, it is true that improved economic situations will take some of the pressure off, but there also has to be an attitude shift in how girls are viewed. I actually think a top down approach can work, such as the Chinese Communist Party’s promotion of women’s equality starting in the 1950s. In urban China, sex selection is very uncommon in comparison to Taiwan or Korea, societies which which are wealthier and fairly culturally similar but where sustained governmental efforts to promote women’s equality have not occurred.

  63. Natalia Antonova
    Natalia Antonova May 30, 2011 at 2:05 am | *

    So… when somebody’s doctor advises an abortion your response is “So what?” Just so we’re clear? When a parent blogs about how they aborted their fetus but “it’s okay” because it was “going to be disabled” your response is “So what?”

    Well, my mother was advised to abort. She was on medication around the time she got pregnant, and there were risks involved for the fetus, i.e. me. And this was back in the 1980′s, in the USSR – she didn’t even have an ultrasound available. The doctors turned out to be wrong, and my mother made the decision to keep her pregnancy irrespective of what they were saying – but if it had gone the other way, it would have gone the other way. So what? Really.

    I’m glad and grateful my mom kept me – being alive is pretty awesome – but she had advantages: my father was supportive, her family was supportive, she was ready to have a child, she had the belief that things would turn out OK either way, etc. Her positive feelings won over – but she certainly had the right to be doubtful and concerned at the time.

    You seem to want to have it both ways – you frame abortion as a “personal decision” and yet insist that people keep their big traps shut about what influenced said decision. I don’t believe it works that way. We already live in a world where women are routinely punished for reproducing – and punished even more so when the child they bring into this world is “not up to par” in whatever way. If an individual decides early on that they cannot handle the stress and the pain of that – I cannot, in turn, judge them.

  64. Natalia Antonova
    Natalia Antonova May 30, 2011 at 2:14 am | *

    Maybe a buzz word will help. If somebody posts about aborting a pregnancy because she didn’t want to have “a retard,” would you defend that too? Not the abortion. Coming on and posting that she didn’t want to have a “retard.” Because abortion is a human right, does that mean talking about it, or the worth of certain kinds of people’s existence, is also a human right?

    But Shaun, I think you’re talking about two different things now.

  65. Shaun
    Shaun May 30, 2011 at 3:15 am |

    @Natalia Not necessarily. People seem to “get” why using retard is bad. In my experience, able people especially (in these discussions) seem to overemphasize the slur and yet continue to talk in ways that are hurtful. If you understand that using certain words is hurtful, then you should be able to understand that certain lines of thought, even well-reasoned ones, can also be toxic. I’m telling you the way people talk about disabled bodies is hurtful to me and continues society’s degradation of my self-worth.

    It’s not about your mother’s decision to abort or not abort you, or anyone else’s really. The problem here is the whole infrastructure, not anybody’s individual choices, even if those choices themselves are influenced by ableism. A doctor advising a woman that she may want to consider an abortion for health reasons, or for risks, is one thing. A doctor giving gross misinformation about a disability is quite another.

    I realize that wanting it “both ways” is kind of a delicate tightrope to walk. But by your comment to me at 66, it’s clear to me you would agree certain types of dialogue to be unacceptable, yes? I don’t see why it’s unreasonable to expect an able person not to be ableist when she’s talking, whether it’s about a pregnancy or a co-worker or whatever.

    I get what you’re saying, I just don’t feel like we’re having the same conversation. I don’t think it’s illegitimate for a woman to abort if she’s not prepared to, for whatever reason, raise or carry that child to term. This is about attitudes, and the way that we change them is by entering into a dialogue with society, not interrogation individual women for why, they specifically had an abortion. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s okay for people (women, their partners, their family members) to talk about disability however they like.

  66. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 30, 2011 at 3:21 am |

    Shaun: We’re talking about a society that engages in institutionalized discrimination across the board. This is called ableism.

    But instead of challenging the institutions and values of ableism, you opt to attack individual women. Why do you do this, if you don’t want the debate for neurodiversity/disabled existence framed as anti-woman? Seems counterproductive.

    Returning to the individual topic: in many individual instances, the women who have sex-selective abortions of female fetuses are doing so out of the same “individual choice” that leads women in the West to “choose” to diet stringently, to shave their legs, to wear lipstick and mascara, to wear high heels and tight skirts. You can deal with that pattern of apparent individual choice clearly caused by societal institutions and discrimination in several ways, but the least productive is to attack those most powerless to change the system, which is what an attack on women for “choosing” to have sex-selective abortions is: and an attack on women for choosing to have abortions because they have discovered the fetus will have a disability with which they feel unready to cope, is not far off it.

  67. Shaun
    Shaun May 30, 2011 at 3:38 am |

    But instead of challenging the institutions and values of ableism, you opt to attack individual women. Why do you do this, if you don’t want the debate for neurodiversity/disabled existence framed as anti-woman? Seems counterproductive.

    Right, and I didn’t make repeated references to doctors and society and institutions over and over again in my past comments. Belonging to one oppressed group does not give you the right to say whatever you want about another.

  68. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 30, 2011 at 4:08 am |

    Belonging to one oppressed group does not give you the right to say whatever you want about another.

    Quite. So why attack individual women for the choices they make? You said you didn’t want the debate for neurodiversity/disabled existence framed as anti-woman – yet you joined this thread with attacks on individual women for making their decisions to abort.

    “It’s a heck of a lot scarier to contemplate creating a person who is going to be disadvantaged in some way from the get-go.”

    A woman who’s unemployed or just scraping by on day-to-day minimum wage jobs, living in substandard accommodation or homeless, especially an American woman without any employment protection, maternity leave, or healthcare, who finds she’s pregnant, knows she’ll be creating a person who is going to be disadvantaged in some way from the get-go. She still has a right to decide she’s going to have that baby regardless. She also has a right to decide that she won’t. And, as Kiera said in the sentence I quoted, she absolutely may find that prospect a heck of a lot scarier than a woman who’s in a good job with paid maternity leave and health insurance that covers pregnancy and childbirth.

    Would anyone but the most heartless prolifer condemn that woman for finding the prospect of having a baby under those circumstances a heck of a lot scarier? Or think that the woman deserves to be condemned for having an abortion because she’s scared of the disadvantages her baby will endure from the get-go? Going back to sex-selective abortion, that’s the position a woman who knows her fetus is female (especially if she’s already had one daughter) is in, in a culture which values sons far more than daughters.

    Attacking women isn’t just counterproductive in terms of framing the debate. It’s also counterproductive in terms of attacking the people most powerless to change the system. So why do it?

  69. Shaun
    Shaun May 30, 2011 at 4:25 am |

    Attacking women isn’t just counterproductive in terms of framing the debate. It’s also counterproductive in terms of attacking the people most powerless to change the system. So why do it?

    Translation: Why do you hate freedom? Making really long posts arguing against straw men and then repeatedly questioning me about it doesn’t make that straw man any more true.

  70. Natalia Antonova
    Natalia Antonova May 30, 2011 at 9:50 am | *

    Shaun, you asked why I was so casual in my approach, hence I told you my mother’s story. I grew up knowing it.

    You’re right that lying doctors are harming society – but honest doctors are there to point out a risk and to give their opinion. Some doctors want a potential life gone because they decide it’s “defective” – others are more interested in saving their patients some pain and heartbreak. And sometimes, those two desires run into each other.

    I also think there is a distinction between expressing hatred for a group of people (“I didn’t want a fuckin’ retard”) and saying “I had an abortion, because of X.” The latter can still be very painful, but it can be painful for both people with specific disabilities (or disadvantages) and the potential parent in question. I see it as a shared pain, in many cases.

    People tend to not talk about abortions, period – least of all the specific reasons for them. Still, is it classist to say “I didn’t want this child to grow up in poverty?” – millions of people grow up in poverty, after all. Is it racist for a woman to say that both she and her child, who would have been of mixed parentage, were going to be disowned and shunned – hence she had an abortion? Is it ageist to say, “I was 38 – I decided I was too old”? Elements of classism, racism and ageism are all present in these scenarios, but they serve as an indictment of how society operates. I don’t think we can eliminate them from discussion to spare our own feelings – even though I will readily admit that they are troubling in the very least. I routinely hear the phrase that “only a hero or a fool would give birth in Russia today!” What? I am not a hero, it’s disturbing to hear that. Am I a fool, then? Still, I know what they mean. All too well, tbh.

    You brought up a good point when you pointed out that many people just want a “perfect” baby. The desire itself is ludicrous when you stop and think about it. But where it often stems from is not some form of hate – society both encourages people to reproduce and severely punishes them for it. And in the case of an “imperfect” baby (which we all are, depending on who’s making the pronouncement) – the punishment is even more severe. People cling on to illusions of perfection, because we live in a scary world – for mothers in particular.

    Belonging to one oppressed group does not give you the right to say whatever you want about another.

    Intersectionality anyone?

  71. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 30, 2011 at 11:33 am |

    @Natalia

    I wonder if this is a language problem…

    When someone says, “I don’t want a _______ child.” Some people hear “_______ children are defective or less valuable.” Other people hear “society values ______ children less and I don’t have the resources or desire to fight that battle.”

    The speaker could mean either or both. The right to an abortion should be absolute, but if a person predicates that decision on the notion that some types of people are defective or less valuable than others…then they are bigots. And I do think that we can separate these two strands relatively easily.

  72. Shaun
    Shaun May 30, 2011 at 12:26 pm |

    @Natalia
    And I really don’t think most of those doctors are lying. If a doctor makes a sexist/gender essentialist comment, are they lying or simply repeating what they believe?

    I understand what you’re saying. No, I don’t think a woman who doesn’t want to raise a child in poverty is being classist… and I don’t think one who isn’t prepared or doesn’t feel able to raise a disabled one is being ableist. There ARE ways to talk about it.

    Wanting a perfect baby, on the other hand is an ableist way of thinking. Someone who doesn’t feel prepared to raise a disabled child isn’t being ableist (ymmv I guess), but she may be informed by ableism, either subtly (through media) or overtly (doctors, relatives)–which is to say, she might feel differently if she had better access to information. Saying that most women would always choose to abort potential disabled children and try again, as happened waaaay upthread, is an ableist way of thinking and is the result of an ableist society.

    Generally people don’t say that about blue-eyed children, or girls (in our culture), and these are considered different because there’s considered to be something objectively defective about being disabled. This is is ableism.

  73. Shannon
    Shannon May 30, 2011 at 2:42 pm |

    I think one of the problems with discussing ableism is that it encompasses way more differences than sexism or racism does. For me, I wouldn’t think twice about having a deaf or a blind child. I might take a deep breath before going through with a child with Down’s syndrome or other similar issue. But what about a child with cerebral palsy? I have two relatives with this disease. One functions more or less independently, working and living alone. The other has required constant care for the last 40 years. This includes spoon feeding and diaper changing. She’s never spoken nor does she use sign language. I’m 100% sure that my aunt loves her daughter, but I wonder if she would have voluntarily chosen this life for herself.

    If I’m completely honest, I cannot imagine a world in which 100% of women who discover that they are pregnant with a child like my cousin would always choose to keep the baby. Regardless of how accepting society is, regardless of how much outside support is available. Some would yes, and some already do. But I don’t think it’s fair to tar a woman who would choose to abort a fetus in a situation like this as ableist.

    I went to school with a brother and a sister with cystic fibrosis. The sister died our junior year and the brother died my senior year. They both lived a fairly normal life, up until they died before graduating high school. Here too, I don’t think it’s appropriate to judge a woman who would decide she didn’t want to witness her child dying before her as being ableist, or simply lacking access to information.

  74. Bq
    Bq May 30, 2011 at 9:23 pm |

    let me guess, in which parts of the peanut gallery pearl-clutches and erases the entire rich history of women’s activism in india. mods, please step it up against some of the intense western chauvinism, racism and facile cultural stereotypes up in the comments thread (esp Tony’s comment, what a doozy).

  75. Natalia Antonova
    Natalia Antonova May 31, 2011 at 1:46 am | *

    I liked what was said in this thread about children being an idealized version of the future. A crude way of thinking about having children is this – you’re passing your genes on. You’ll be gone, but those genes may continue, pass on to your grandchildren, etc. A lot of the language around reproduction reflects this in a really weird way that’s stripped of the biological realities of having children. It’s a “greeting-card language” that, I think, encourages ableism.

    But neither do I think there’s anything bigoted with wanting a “perfect” child, per se – depending on your resources, the cultural norms where you live, etc. I think it’s an understandable desire, given, once again, the world we live in. It takes a whole lot of inner balance to admit that no, none of us are ever really “perfect”. And most parents aren’t going to be benevolent people who will joyously welcome any and all possible challenges – as dictated, once again, by resources and cultural norms. TBH, this may be a good thing – it’s horrible when people decide they are “stuck” with an “inconvenient” child for whatever reason, be it physical or cognitive ability or gender or any such thing.

    …which is to say, she might feel differently if she had better access to information.

    And access to resources. It’s not just a means of rearranging your mindset, as it were. We keep talking about dialogue and acceptable language – which is important, yes – but few people pause to give a crap about dialogue when they face struggling to keep a roof over their heads while dealing with medical bills. We’re not going to get society restructure itself by merely changing the way people talk about abortion (if they talk about it at all – most people don’t).

    I think Shannon is correct – different disabilities impact families differently, and it also depends on the people in question. How we relate to our own bodies and ourselves in that sense is also important. Everyone has their own inner thresholds.

  76. Yonmei
    Yonmei May 31, 2011 at 2:16 am |

    Shannon: But I don’t think it’s fair to tar a woman who would choose to abort a fetus in a situation like this as ableist.

    But a big part of the problem here is that women are not supposed to put their own needs ahead of their children – even fetuses that aren’t born yet. We know this – it’s the prolife big justification, no woman gets to decide she wants her own life (or even her life) once she’s pregnant.

    One of the few legal challenges to abortion in the UK that did not come from an MP trying to change the law, nor from anyone related to the woman involved, was a woman who had been born with a cleft palate, had it fixed by surgery, and who found that a woman had been allowed to have an abortion past the 24-week limit because the fetus had been discovered to have a cleft palate. Medical privacy ensured the investigator could discover no more. (She was a prolifer who was specifically looking for pregnancies that had been terminated after 24 weeks in order to make a cause, but I’ll admit that she was probably genuinely personally hurt to discover this specific case.)

    A cleft palate is a weirdness that can range from relatively minor, major but fixable by surgery, all the way to unreconstructable combined with brain damage and other internal problems. The doctors testified that in their view the damage had been severe enough to offer the woman a late abortion, which she had accepted, and the judge ruled in favour of the doctors. The case still gets cited by prolifers (which is how I know about it) as an example of how selfish and gullible women are when they have the ability to choose late abortion, and what liars doctors are because we see people allthetime who have cleft palates that have been repaired by surgery.

    I work with a guy who had a cleft palate. He’s had a whole series of operations on his face – the last one, which was a few years ago, went nastily wrong and meant major surgery to fix the problem caused by the operation. It’s not a small thing, even when repairable, and when I read about this case, I could see that cleft palate could in extreme cases be a valid reason for deciding against having the baby: a child that would likely have to be fed intravenously for its entire life, that would be unable to see or speak, and that was brain damaged enough that all the child would likely be aware of was pain/no-pain. And there would be pain.

    Every woman has to decide for herself whether bringing a baby to term under those circumstances would be worth it for her, not only whether she thought it would be worth it for the baby.

    For me, Shannon, the key point on “worth it for the baby” has always been brain damage – it’s been hypothetical in my case, I’ve never been pregnant. I don’t want mean a person with Down’s Syndrome – I mean if the fetus is so damaged in their brain structure that it’s possible to know that the baby if born will never understand more than pain-nopain.

    If the fetus isn’t brain damaged, still: the woman has a right to consider her own life, her own abilities, her circumstances, and judge for her own life, not think she must sacrifice the life she wanted to have to becoming a permanent carer for her child, or see her child die before her, or be labelled a bigot.

    We keep talking about dialogue and acceptable language – which is important, yes – but few people pause to give a crap about dialogue when they face struggling to keep a roof over their heads while dealing with medical bills. We’re not going to get society restructure itself by merely changing the way people talk about abortion (if they talk about it at all – most people don’t).

    Agree with that too.

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