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Sex-selection abortion: the latest anti-choice ploy

Jesse McLaren

October 22, 2012

While the Tories lost the vote on anti-choice Motion 312, they used it as a launching pad for Motion 408, yet another attack on choice. Minister of Status of Women Rona Ambrose was one of 10 Tory cabinet ministers to vote for Motion 312, and said she did so in order to “raise concerns about discrimination by sex-selection abortion.” Ambrose has been pushing the UN to declare an International Day of the Girl and now it’s clear why: Tory MP Mark Warawa used it as an opportunity to introduce Motion 408, which asks “that the House condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.”
In his petition to support Motion 408, Warawa claims that “millions of girls have been lost through sex-selection abortion”, and that it constitutes the “worst form of discrimination against females”—despite no data existing on its prevalence. Motion 408 is trying to manufacture a crisis that accomplishes three goals for the Tories.
First, it is a direct attack on abortion rights, by pitting abortion on demand against human rights. Like the previous “fetal homicide” Bill C-484, and Motion 312 seeking to redefine when human life begins, Motion 408 equates an aborted fetus with a human. The logic, like any anti-abortion policy, is that to protect fetuses we must infringe on the rights of women. Already some have called for limiting ultrasounds to pregnant women to guard against sex-selection abortion, a paternalistic attitude that undermines a woman’s reproductive choice.
Second, Motion 408 is a nod to the Tories’ racist base. There is no data on sex-selection abortion besides anecdotal evidence from South Asian communities. Like Jason Kenney’s ban on women wearing the niqab during citizenship ceremonies, Motion 408 allows the Tories to make the xenophobic claim that discrimination against women is exclusively a problem of immigrant communities, and that the Tories and the Canadian state are the protectors.
Third, like the ban on the niqab, Motion 408 makes sex-selection abortion a scapegoat for the Tories’ broader attack on reproductive justice and women’s liberation. The Tories might care about “female fetuses” but they don’t care about real discrimination against women—including missing and murdered aboriginal women, women workers facing discriminatory employment insurance criteria, women refugees facing criminalization andhealthcare cuts, lesbian and trans women fighting for basic human rights recognition, mothers denied a national childcare program, women’s rights groups that Harper defunded, or women internationally denied abortion funding by Harper’s “maternal health plan.”
The campaign against sex-selection abortion is about creating a sexist and racist decoy that provides a cover for the Tories and their austerity agenda. The best way to stop discrimination against women is to build a mass movement defending abortion rights, connected to broader struggles for reproductive justice and women’s liberation. This means taking on the Tories and their latest anti-choice motion.
Join the October 20 national day of action to demand, “Reproductive Justice! Equal Access Now!” Then, for those in Toronto, join a public forum to discuss “How did we win abortion rights?“, Tuesday October 23, 7pm at OISE (252 Bloor St West), featuring Carolyn Egan–long-time pro-choice activist and leading member of the International Socialists.

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