Arizona moves to ban abortions based on race
and gender. According to a report in Reuters:
Under the new Arizona statute, doctors and other medical
professionals would face felony charges if
they could be shown to have performed abortions for the purposes of helping
parents select their offspring on the basis of gender or race.
Given rules on doctor-patient confidentiality, I wonder just how
someone would go about proving this, unless charges were brought forward by
relatives of the pregnant woman, or the women herself, if she felt coerced to
The women having such abortions would not be penalized.
This is not likely to deter women from making such unfortunate
decisions. Moreover, it puts the doctor in a rather more tenuous position—will
he have to get his patient to sign a waiver regarding her reasons for aborting?
Backers of the measure said the ban is needed to put an end
to sex- and race-related discrimination that exists in Arizona and throughout
the nation. They insist the issue is about bias rather than any broader stance
Sounds politically correct, but I’m
afraid it’s not as simple as that. You can’t deal honestly with one issue
without facing the other. Dig a little deeper and ask why sex-discrimination
and race-discrimination matter in this case. Consider that in Canada at least,
unborn children are not “persons” under the law. I assume this is also the case
in most, if not all of the United States. If unborn children are not “persons” (and
worthy of legal protection) then what could it possibly matter what gender they
are? Even insects and plants have gender. If embryos and foetuses are just a
cluster of cells, what does it matter what skin colour those cells will eventually
In Canada, women did not become persons
under the law until 1929, but they possessed their gender from time immemorial.
(I realize this entire concept is now up for debate, but it wasn’t in the
1920s—then we still had just men and women.) The US has a long history of
denying personhood in the form of basic human rights to African-Americans. What
eventually turned the legal and cultural tide in the favour of women and racial
minorities? Simply this: there was a realization that it is our common humanity
that binds us together, which demands (or at least encourages) mutual respect
and the recognition of basic human rights.
As much as I applaud any protection for
unborn children, the premise behind this legislation is inherently illogical.
Really, try to imagine the conversation in the doctor’s office:
Woman: I want an abortion because it’s female and we already have
two daughters. My husband wants a son.
Doctor: That’s illegal, Ma’am. For me, that is, not for you.
Woman: OK, then, I want an abortion because I don’t want this
Abortion based on race and gender = punishable
by law; abortion for any other reason
(or no reason at all) = OK. How can a human preborn non-person be worthy
of protection based on gender or potential skin colour, but not on the basis of