Tom Gilson

Sex-Selective Abortion: Whose Rights Are At Stake, Anyway?

The proposal:

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., an outspoken pro-life advocate, is preparing to do battle again on Capitol Hill.

On Tuesday, he’ll chair a House hearing in support of his latest legislative effort, the Prenatal NonDiscrimination Act (PreNDA). The measure would ban abortions done on the basis of gender or race.

“It would simply say that you cannot discriminate against the unborn by subjecting them to an abortion based on their race or sex,” Franks says.

The response from Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“This bill is a cynical and offensive attempt to evoke race and sex discrimination when actually it’s about taking women’s rights away,” said Northup.

She says that protecting young girls from sex-selection abortions is “about taking women’s rights away.” We don’t know whether she has a position on racial discrimination. I suppose she probably does. I’ve done a web search on her name and on the name of the House bill, though, and I can’t find anything on that.

Anyway, I find her response patently absurd. I could even consider it comical in a way, if I could get past its injustice, its coldly hypocritical cynicism, its rhetorical manipulativeness, and its deadly background and intentions. She’s claiming to defend the rights of women, but she’s willing to throw baby girls under the bus for them.

Clearly she’s not supporting females’ rights. She has a particular and exclusive interest in the rights of “women,” meaning, females old enough to bear children. Of course that’s why we protect individuals’ rights, isn’t it—so that we can take care of the physically mature and able, at the expense of the weak? No. That’s as upside-down, legally and historically, as any view of rights could possibly be.

I can’t imagine what she thinks about girls’ rights. I’m thinking about, say, nine-year-olds.

Something seems unseemly and inappropriate about that question, as if it really shouldn’t be asked. I’m trying to track down why it feels that way. Maybe the question is sexist. I can’t imagine what would be wrong with that, though, when the rhetoric is already sexist (“women’s rights”). Is it age-ist, then? But Northup approves of age-ism—it’s only those who are of childbearing age who have “women’s rights”—so that ought to be okay, too. Sexism is fine. Age-ism is fine. Killing babies is fine. What’s not fine anymore?

The abortion rights lobby has always been about the powerful trampling on the defenseless. Formerly its members could play it the other way around, as if it were about protecting women, as the historically politically underprivileged sex. How do they think they can maintain the pretense now?

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8 thoughts on “Sex-Selective Abortion: Whose Rights Are At Stake, Anyway?

  1. I think you should re-think Nancy Northup’s response and whether it is absurdly and hypocritically cynical after all.

    Just look at how quickly and easily your own article transitioned from her response to talk of sexism, age-ism, racism – there in lies the obvious strategic purpose behind the bill. Imagine how the rest of the political discourse will go.

    I have to admire this bill for the sheer political strategery – its a heck of a clever move. Pro-choicer’s lose the rhetorical advantage if they oppose it, and their views can be easily cast as racist, sexist, etc (just see above). And I’m sure those who drafted the bill *knew* pro-choice advocates would oppose it.

    And on the off-chance that pro-choice proponents supported the bill, they could be called a similar kind of hypocrite – if they don’t think its right to kill a black fetus, why is it right to kill a white fetus, etc. Its a maneuver in the rhetoric war. A lose-lose for pro-choice.

    I think Nancy’s response was not cynical enough!

  2. Ok, but I don’t see anything internally incoherent about women’s rights (or person’s rights) and the belief that its acceptable to terminate a pregnancy, female or male, depending on the underlying principles involved.

    Pro-choice folk who claim that a pre-sentient fetus does not have morally significant personhood, would not be self-inconsistent or hypocritical in opposing this bill (or any other abortion bill that restricts the right to terminate early term pregnancies) on the grounds of women’s rights.

    For some abortion advocate with the belief that from the moment of conception and onward a fetus is a morally significant person, I’d agree that its hypocritical and self-inconsistent – but I know of few of those.

    Now there might be more to say… if we were in a society where female pregnancies were routinely terminated for sex selection purposes, there are certainly some women’s rights issues to address. That would be a society that places inadequate value upon certain persons for irrational reasons (their sex). But such deep and systemic cultural sexism issues would probably be better addressed somewhere else other than abortion, depending on the circumstances.

  3. I’m afraid I have to agree with d on this one. She is being very consistent to the position she espouses based on the failure to grant personhood to the unborn. I find that stance to be logically unsupportable and morally flawed, but she is being true to her position in what she argues. She is also correct in assuming that the bill being proposed is not to be considered at face value only, it is a backdoor attempt to recognize the unborn as male and female persons with inherent rights on that basis. Again from her perspective that is a cynical ploy.
    Again, just to emphasize, I find her position reprehensible, but she is consistently reprehensible.

  4. “consistently reprehensible” in an “ever-present” now = hell

    “consistently reprehensible” = consistently opposed to one’s nature… a nature created by God

    Definition of “nature” = a complex of powers which are properly coordinated to focus on one object as its end (telos) (Aquinas ST I-II, q1.a2.c). This is the broadest (most general) definition and holds true for ALL substances: rational living, non-rational living, or inanimate objects.

    Nota Bene: this definition “locates” the orientation toward an end within the nature itself as opposed to within a relation of the nature to something external. And this is why sault doesn’t get it: he thinks Hell is God “punishing” creatures, when in fact the creatures are punishing themselves because… wait for it… they DON’T want to be themselves, i.e., they don’t want to be the creatures God made them (broken but on the way) and (more importantly) what He WANTS to make them. His Grace perfectizes nature–it never destroys our natures. WE are the ones who destroy our natures through sin. Sin is dehumanizing first and foremost to the one committing the sin. We sin (in the moral sense) since we are the only creatures on earth that can alter our natures: we can change from human to inhuman–literally.

    God is not “outside” us. Augustine’s take is beautiful: God is closer to us than we our to ourselves. Our attempts to push Him out of ourselves leads to disaster. HE is the IS that maintains us in existence; we are the ones trying to run that show… to become gods ourselves. He wants us to become LIKE him (i.e., theosis), but we cannot become Him because nothing contingent can become Existence Itself.

    The gates of Hell are closed from the inside.

    This whole canard about God “punishing” creatures because he’s pictured as an external force trying to get us in line like some cosmic drill sergeant is stupid. Really. Talk about reducing God through some emotionally-convenient anthropomorphism. Sheesh! The 10 Commandments were issued NOT as a set of rules but to impress upon us that HE made us in a certain way, and if we reject that way (err Way), we reject our own selves by rejecting Him.

    Why is that so difficult to understand? Why is the comfort of attacking a straw man so intoxicating? Why are their atheists?…

    … because we’re ALL broken, and Love Itself wants something infinitely better for us.

  5. Thanks, Charlie… and again, apologies for the intemperance from before.

    Not to restart that thread here, my comment above relates closely to one of the (current) deep-seated errors in ID: a denial of natures (= design directly accessible to the MESs) means God is viewed through the occassionalist lens. Some IDers even admit there are natures, but they view that issue as largely irrelevant and 9 times out of 10 they view it inchoately. No, I don’t want to pursue it… but, man did that come out in this past weekend’s conference, if one was reading between the lines.

  6. While not fully relevant to the immediate discussion, the following is nonetheless relevant to, IMHO, sault’s misplaced worries over natural evils under the rubric of God “permitting” natural evils to exist.

    St. Augustine’s point on this is wise: he views moral evils (privations of moral good) as being the only “real” evils, i.e., the privation of a moral good is the primary analogate to other evils: natural evils are evils only by analogy. In other words, the only true evils are the ones that ruin the soul:

         I think I’ve said enough about moral and spiritual evils, which are to be guarded against above all, to show that the false gods did nothing to keep the people who worshiped them from being overwhelmed by such disasters, but instead made the ruin worse.
         Now I see I must speak of those evils that are the only ones heathens dread: famine, plague, war, pillage, captivity, massacre, and such disasters, which I’ve already written about. For evil men think that the only evil things are the ones that don’t make men evil. Nor are they embarrassed to praise good things and yet remain evil among the good things they praise. It grieves them more to have a bad house than a bad life–as if it were man’s greatest good to have everything good but himself.”
         (St. Augustine, City of God, 1:14)

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