According to a recent public opinion poll, the majority of Canadians are in favor of legislation restricting sex-based abortion. Three in five people who responded to the poll (including ⅔ of women) felt that there should be laws put in place that outline whether or not a woman can have an abortion based solely on the sex of her fetus. The poll showed that regardless of political party affiliation, the majority of those who responded were in favor of some sort of regulation to prevent sex-specific abortions.
The online survey was a timely one, seemingly created in response to a recent controversial Canadian Medical Association Journal editorial, which claimed that sex-specific abortion is a growing problem in the country. The author, Dr. Rajendra Kale, calls for doctors to conceal the sex of the baby during fetal ultrasounds until 30 weeks, when an abortion would be much harder to obtain.
The editorial goes on to say that while women have the right to medically-relevant information about their pregnancy, the sex of the fetus does not fall under that category, “except when managing rare sex-linked illnesses.”
Dr. Kale points to Asia for examples of how sex-selective abortions can skew population numbers.
“Female feticide happens in India and China by the millions, but it also happens in North America in numbers large enough to distort the male-to-female ratio in some ethnic groups,” says Dr. Kale in his editorial.
Indeed, many Asian countries have struggled with the affects of sex-selective abortions. Various studies have suggested that high rates of sex-selective abortions play a role in the female population deficit in countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, South Korea and Taiwan. China is currently seeing a surge in their male population, while its female population has suffered. In India, a country that had been making strides in this area, there has recently been a drop in the number of female babies being born. According to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, “Female feticide is also a moral and social issue. We appeal to people to save the girl child. The government is chalking out a multi-pronged strategy to address the problem and achieve 100 percent success.”
Back in Canada, Dr. Kale is concerned that the sex-specific abortion rates in his country will increase as the number of Asian immigrants increases in the country.
“It’s a small problem in Canada compared to India and China, for sure, but it’s localized to certain ethnic groups [in Canada].”
The editorial references a recent U.S. study that included a small sample of 65 women of Indian descent. Forty percent of these women had aborted a female fetus at some point, while eighty-nine percent of those who knew they were pregnant with a girl were planning an abortion.
Because of statistics like these, it is certainly understandable that many would jump to promote legislation that would regulate sex specific abortions. Yet at the same time, there are those that say that any restriction on abortion would lead to a slippery slope, allowing more regulations and laws to be put in place. Currently, abortion in Canada is not limited by law, and is in fact one of the few nations with no legal restrictions on abortion. In a progressive country like Canada, where sex-selective abortion is both less frequent and presents much less of an impact, population wise, than in places like China and India, are regulations the way to go, or is there another way to help prevent these types of abortion?