Sex-selective abortions have hit the headlines in a big way over the last week. There has been outrage in the media over the 'mass murder' (or so it's been represented) of female foetuses, particularly in some British-Asian communities. In these groups, the Independent reports, the problem is often so severe that this has skewed the natural boy-girl ratio of the population.
Many individuals have suggested an initiative to withhold information about the sex of the child until the 30 week mark where it is no longer legal to have an abortion. The rest are too incensed to reflect upon practical solutions to the problem. But, overwhelmingly, a lot of the debate has massively overlooked how complex this issue is.
Stopping women from knowing the sex of their baby before it's too late to get an abortion may lead to less girls being aborted purely on the basis of their sex (obviously a positive), BUT it doesn't get to the root of the problem.
I'm not against abortion by any means. Modern medical practices are able to help women who, for whatever reason, aren't ready for or don't want their baby. That's incredible! Finally, we live in a society that is able to and willing for us have some control over our own bodies!
Pro-life campaigners seem to be labouring under the illusion that we should protect life at all costs. It's just illogical. We should be preserving quality of life, not the sheer quantity it. If a mother doesn't have the finances, stability and love to provide her child with the upbringing we would want it to have, why should society bully her into keeping the child?
The mother - that is, the fully conscious human being with thoughts and memories - should always come before the foetus - who is oblivious to most things, not least all the problems it is causing. The mother's wellbeing, her right to control over her own future, and lessening the impact on her relationships, is the most important factor in any pregnancy.
But back to the topic at hand. If the agency is taken away from the mother, if it is no longer her own choice to abort her baby but is a result of pressure from overbearing families, then abortion becomes another tool for controlling women's bodies against their will.
The problem with those aforementioned, well-intentioned commentators is that simply prohibiting the disclosure of a baby's sex does not eliminate the huge cultural stigma surrounding female children. The mother will still feel inadequate at her 'failure' to provide her husband and family with the son and grandson that they require, and these families will continue to uphold the unequal value that they attach to boys and girls.
Since the issue is a cultural one, the best solution is education. The idea of trying to impose our own ideas and values onto traditional communities is an unsavoury one, and I don't have any bright ideas about how to go about such a task. But I think, in this case and for the sake of progress, that it is a necessary evil.