160 Million Missing Women: An Argument Against Abortion?

If you haven’t already, you really ought to read the argument over abortion that has been going on for about a week at the New York Times and Salon websites.

It all started when Ross Douthat devoted a column to analyzing Mara Hvistendahl’s new book, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. Hvistendahl notes that in the developing world (mainly China and India), the cultural preference for having boys over girls has led to about 160,000,000 more girls than boys being aborted.

She sees this as a Bad Thing, but because she is for legal abortion and does not believe that a fetus is a person, Douthat quite reasonably points out that she has a difficult time coming up with a morally compelling reason for her position. Douthat agrees with her that the the abortions of girls are bad, but for a different reason: abortions are bad, period.

Hvistendahl didn’t like what Douthat had to say and called him a hypocrite, etc., in this post on Salon‘s website. She writes, “Sex-selective abortion is wrong because women should account for half of the human population, and in parts of the world they now account for far less. That alone justifies moral outrage.” Really? I thought the feminists want us to believe there’s no difference between men and women. If that’s true, what does it matter if the proportions of the two sexes in the population aren’t split 50/50?

Hvistendahl goes on to write that you can still have abortion rights without permitting sex selection, that once you “choose to be a parent,” you shouldn’t be able to choose what kind of child you get. Again, this flies in the face of what I have always understood to be the pro-abortion position, since aborting kids with physical deformities, Down’s syndrome, etc., has always been one of the arguments. If I’m wrong on that, someone please correct me.

Anyway, Douthat has responded to Hvistendahl on the Times blog a couple of times: here and here. He says that sure, one can take Hvistendahl’s more nuanced position, but it will be a significant departure from how abortion advocates have always presented their case in the West. That will probably be a hard sell.

It’s an extremely interesting exchange; check it out.

About Dr. J

I am Professor of Humanities at Faulkner University, where I chair the Department of Humanities and direct online M.A. and Ph.D. programs based on the Great Books of Western Civilization. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy and a member of the faculty at Liberty Classroom.
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