Selective abortion

These account for only a small percentage of abortion cases but nevertheless, it is still useful to understand about them. They receive less publicity than ‘elective abortion’ but to many people, they are no less abhorrent.

So what is ‘selective abortion?’�

This form of abortion is carried out if the foetus is considered ‘unacceptable’�or if there are too many foetuses in a pregnancy, e.g. triplets.

The most common reason is ‘sex selection’: this means that a foetus is terminated on the grounds that it is the wrong gender.

In most sex selection cases the preference is for a male child so female foetuses are often aborted. This is usually done for cultural reasons, in particular in countries such as India and China. In those societies the preference is for male children as they help continue the family name and bring wealth into their families.

But families have to pay a dowry when a female child eventually marries which reduces their wealth.

It is a relatively straightforward procedure to determine the sex of a child which can lead to sex selection.

Sex selection and gender

In certain cultures, women are regarded as inferior or of lesser value than that of men. They are seen as second class citizens and are often treated as property rather than people in their own right.

These societies operate under a patriarchal system.

Cultural values and norms within these societies can result in a marked preference for boy babies over girls. Boys are seen as more valuable and likely to improve a family’s income and social standing. Traditionally, the family name is passed down through the male line of a family and this is expected to continue.

So when a boy marries he looks to produce sons to carry on the family name. Plus he also increases the wealth of his family.

But girls earn less than men (if they work at all) which means that they are less likely to enhance the family income. Plus they are expected to marry which means a large dowry and the fact that they move out of the family home.

In places such as China, the trend for one child families meant a high premium placed on boy babies whereas girl babies were seen as a disappointment or unwanted.

The result of this was female infanticide in which girl babies were left to die (left out in the open) or a practice called ‘female foeticide’ in which they were aborted. For a poor family, the thought of having to pay a large amount of money to marry off a daughter would cause a great deal of worry: whereas a son will marry and bring money into the family.

Until this changes then sex selection is likely to continue.

Multiple foetuses and abortion

This is where abortion is carried out due to their being too many foetuses. If a woman finds out that she is expecting three, four or more babies then for whatever reasons, she may choose to abort one or more of these.

Multiple foetuses often occur as a result of fertility treatment such as IVF. If a situation arises where one or more of these foetuses threatens the lives of all of the foetuses then abortion may be the only option.

This is also an option if carrying several foetuses is likely to endanger the woman’s health. If she is at serious risk then an abortion may be the only answer.

Designer babies and abortion

This is a situation in which a couple decide that they want a baby with a specific set of characteristics, for example, blond hair and blue eyes.

A couple may want a child which is highly intelligent, artistic or athletic, or conforms to a certain physical ideal. If they discover that their unborn baby does not fit that ideal then they may choose to have an abortion.

The concept of picking and choosing which characteristics you would like your baby to have in the hope of having the ‘perfect child’�has been dubbed ‘designer babies’.

As you might imagine this has attracted a great deal of criticism: this is from people who argue that a child should be loved and cared for irrespective of what they look like or how they behave.

They argue that as human beings, we all have flaws and these should be recognised and accepted rather than eradicated.

Unsuitable foetuses and abortion

Screening methods can tell if a foetus is likely to develop into a healthy baby or has a deformity. For some couples, discovering that their baby will have a genetic disorder or a disability can lead to them terminating their pregnancy.

In this case, abortion is carried out to remove a ‘defective’ or unsuitable foetus.

But opponents to this argue that terminating a pregnancy because the foetus has a disability sends out the message that disability is something to be ashamed of. It suggests that someone with a disability is a lesser human being and given the choice, should not be allowed to live.

For these people it is a direct criticism of disability and a statement of discrimination.

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