Lord, send pesticide for the weed of 'gendercide' - Macleans.ca

Lord, send pesticide for the weed of ‘gendercide’

Colby Cosh on Mark Warawa’s sex-selective abortion debate


Sean Kilpatrick/CP

All righty. Since Mark Warawa has finally kicked off that grand national conversation about sex-selective abortion we needed so badly, I’ll start by asking a question: exactly which sex-selective abortions should we outlaw? I think we know how Warawa would answer, given his druthers: “All of them, along with all the other abortions.” It is odd, though, how many of the people who are eager for a “conversation” have failed to supply their own answer. We hear that there must be some law—the truly civilized places, the superior polities, all have one!—but no one ever explains with any precision what that law should capture. Let’s imagine some possible cases:

1. An East Indian woman in a traditionalist marriage is found to be carrying a female fetus, and wants to abort it owing to her preference for having a boy.

2. A Toronto feminist in a radical same-sex life arrangement is found to be carrying a male fetus, and wants to abort it owing to her preference for a male-free household.

3. A mother of three boys is found to be carrying a fourth male fetus, and opts for an abortion and an attempt at a fifth pregnancy with a different outcome in the hope of “balancing” her family.

4. A mother who knows she is a carrier of red-green colour blindness, generally an X-chromosome-linked genetic defect, prefers to carry only girls to term because she selfishly prefers to have a more perfect child.

5. A mother who knows she is a carrier of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, always an X-chromosome-linked genetic defect, prefers to carry only girls to term because she selfishly prefers to have a more perfect child.

6. A mother, living in the imminent near future in which fetuses can be gene-sequenced almost immediately after implantation, who has no actual preference concerning the sex of her child, but makes an a priori decision to abort any fetus that displays some level—perhaps trivial, perhaps only the most staggeringly serious—of known genetic defect. The result, since God has arranged matters such that recessive X-chromosome-linked defects affecting only boys vastly outnumber any other kind, is a set of abortions that are collectively and strongly “sex-selective” in favour of girls, even though the mothers are indifferent.

Case 6 is a toughie, ain’t it? Of those people who believe parents have a right to exercise some degree of reproductive choice, and they’re the overwhelming majority, few would deny that a mother has a right to say “No” at some point when faced with the prospect of delivering and raising a terribly afflicted child. We have created a world in which abortion is available to women who want to finish their university degree before they have a kid, to women who spent one night with Mr. Wrong, or to women who just prefer the inconvenience of an abortion to the agony and terror of parturition. Can we respect those choices (as we ought to) yet not respect the choice of a woman who doesn’t want to risk spending the next 20 years of her life raising one of Jerry’s Kids?

Well, you might have noticed that Jerry’s Kids were all boys. The effect of mommy’s policy of personal eugenics, of almost any exercise of eugenic choice, will be to alter the sex ratio of the human race just that wee bit. And, news flash: we are already in a world in which fertilized embryos can be screened for whatever known genetic traits you like, including sex, and selected for implantation on that basis. So to Cases 1-6 above, you can actually add Cases 1A through 6A not involving abortion at all. The evil of preimplantation gene screening, consciously sexist or not, is just as great as that of abortion if your main ethical interest is in having the “right” 106 boys born for every 100 girls.

Increasingly pro-lifers pretend to be interested in that sex ratio, which is easier than the uphill pursuit of the old policy of condemning abortion as disgusting to God. This is the game Mark Warawa is playing: you need only check his resounding words in the House yesterday, none of which were “abortion”.

Female gendercide is the systematic killing of women and girls just because they are girls. The UN says that over 200 million girls are missing in the world right now because of female gendercide. The Canadian Medical Association revealed that this barbaric form of discrimination is occurring in Canada. The statement “It’s a girl” should not be a death sentence. Gendercide is the ultimate form of discrimination against women and girls.

“Two hundred million missing girls”, some of whom were never born. Some, in fact, may never have been conceived. Think about this fun neologism “gendercide”: it treats the murder of a teenaged daughter and the abortion of a female fetus, though not a male one, as ethically equal offences—the same statistical crime, the slight widening of a tragic gap in the species. Assuming that Warawa doesn’t think “It’s a boy” should ever be a “death sentence”, he presumably includes pro-female embryo selection under the heading of “gendercide”—and, again, if it has a differential effect, if it condemns more potential beings of one sex than the other, it is “gendercide” whether sex selection was intended or not.

Here, then, is my contribution to the big conversation.

(1) “Gendercide” is incoherent religious militancy in cheap drag. (Editors certainly shouldn’t be taking sides by putting it in headlines as if it were an actual thing.)

(2) However you feel about personal eugenics, which is an accurate name for “mothers choosing babies that are likely to be better in some respect they deem relevant”, the Era Of It is arriving now and will not be wished away.

(3) Sex-selective abortion perpetrated for reasons of religious superstition is, upon all evidence, a marginal phenomenon in this country, probably a fading one, and quite likely to be an inherently self-correcting one. It makes a shabby excuse for blowing up the political truce our country clings to when it comes to the topic of abortion. (It seems remotely possible that Stephen Harper has perceived this and concurs with it.)

(4) In particular, no statute is likely to be effective against sex selection by mothers. We had one, you know, and it actually made a hypothetical exception for parents at risk of X-linked gene disease. A Liberal government devoted to “reproductive choice” criminalized sex-selective embryo implantation by means of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act; a Supreme Court found that law offensive to the Constitution; and a Conservative government closed the agency that was supposed to enforce it because it had accomplished the sum total of jack squat ever.

(5) People who wish to police sex-selective abortion had better figure out what exactly kinds they don’t like. And why. And what other reasons for a woman to have an abortion don’t cut their brand of mustard. And whether they really want their wives, girlfriends, daughters or nieces to end up as a future Case 6 running afoul of the law.

(6) Fellow-travellers of Mark Warawa who think he makes an awesome test case for parliamentary purity should consider looking for one that, pardon the metaphor, doesn’t have quite so many oopsies in its DNA.


Lord, send pesticide for the weed of ‘gendercide’

  1. Case 6 is a toughie, ain’t it?


    for the person making the choice, perhaps, although apparently not in the scenario as written. But for anyone who doesn’t want to impose their own restrictions on the person actually facing the issue, not at all.

    • They’re all easy for those of us who don’t want to impose any restrictions under law.

      • so there, then!

  2. How come all these keen ‘science’ types are hesitant to acknowledge that we are not actually confused about when life starts. Everyone who has used contraceptives is well aware of when life starts – you don’t have to believe in God to be against abortion, you just have to know a little science and not support the murder of innocent babies. I find it very odd indeed to live in a country of narcissists and sociopaths who claim to be humanitarians.
    wiki – “A zygote is the initial cell formed when two gamete cells are joined by means of sexual reproduction … A zygote is always synthesized from the union of two gametes, and constitutes the first stage in a unique organism’s development.”

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness … “

    • Does any of this address what I wrote? Also, “You don’t have to believe in God to be against abortion”? If that’s the case, I suppose you could find me like five examples of atheists who are categorically against abortion. I’ll spot you Nat Hentoff.

      • “… five examples of atheists … ”

        I don’t think this game is as hard as you think it is – male atheists are world’s largest mass murderers so I am not surprised there aren’t many famous Godless men who aren’t also keen to murder their babies but my mom, sister and girlfriend are atheists and they have not murdered anyone even tho both my mom and sis were under pressure to do so.

        It is simple, you are either against infanticide or you support it.

        • What, no boyfriend in Canada?

          • You can find pro-life atheist groups with a simple Google search. I won’t claim they speak for large numbers, but otherwise intelligent atheists can blind themselves to evidence just as surely as otherwise intelligent fundamentalists can.

            This is slightly off topic, but I find it interesting that Dr. Gosnell and his crew openly used the words “kill” and “die” even when discussing abortions on the legal side of the womb. In the recent video of Dr. Carhart, he at first seems careful not to use such words, but he doesn’t object when his patient does so, and finally he does use the word “dying” himself.

          • Clarification – the “otherwise intelligent atheists” are the majority who favor abortion despite the evidence that life begins at conception, not the minority who oppose it.

    • “How come all these keen ‘science’ types are hesitant to acknowledge…”

      How come all you keen ‘religious’ types are hesitant to make the argument that you really care about: the moral argument. Instead we’re asked to engage in one red herring after another, and everybody knows it’s a game, designed to insert a wedge into reproductive rights.

    • “We hold these truths to be self-evident….”

      I fail to see how invoking the Declaration of Independence has any relevance on either Canadian politics or abortion. I don’t think you understand what those words mean.

    • If you are going to argue against abortion in Canada, why are you quoting the American Declaration of Independence?

  3. I hesitate to comment on pages relating to abortion because they are invariably overrun by crazies who do nothing but scream at each other – there is almost never anything resembling an actual debate.
    But I do find the normally intellectually rigorous Cosh to be a bit weak on this issue. His suggestion that we have a political truce worth protecting is particularly curious: the “truce” is a complete and total victory for literally the most radical pro-choice position there can be – no laws relating to abortion whatsoever. When asked directly whether abortion should be available at any time for any reason without any restrictions, the majority of both male and female Canadians say “no”. There will be outraged screeches at this statement, but the polling data has shown this consistently pretty much forever. So the “truce” does not reflect the views of Canadians.
    My personal view is that up to 25 weeks or so do whatever you want. Once the fetus is a viable child outside the womb (i.e. if you delivered instead of aborted you would likely have a relatively healthy child) however, I have some real problems with a “termination” free for all.
    Commence outrage.

    • you meant to say pro-life, but could not have realistically meant radically pro-life. And our systems works – we have essentially zero extra-late term abortions, so treating women like adults has shown to be the best option. Once again, Canada leads the way.

      • Well, that isn’t exactly true. The government works very hard to ensure there is little data available on when abortion occur. Late term abortions certainly occur. Many of them are doubtless for very good health of the mother reasons, about which I have no qualms whatsoever. But we really don’t know.
        And that line of argument just seeks to avoid the question. Kidnappings are extremely rare too. So why do we bother with a law about that?

        • ah, the ole’ tin foil hattery on the “THEY’RE HIDING THE ABORTIONS” crapola.

          Sorry, kiddo, you just fell below the worth discussing line.

          At least you and your ilk will never ever ever set thepolicy on this important issue, though of course in your own life you may act as you wish.

          • And here are the crazies I was talking about.

            Canada’s 3 largest provinces: Ontario, Quebec, and BC, have all blocked public access to statistics on abortions. That is pretty much the only health related aggregated data you cannot get in Canada.
            So maybe you should focus on improving the quality of your intellectual arguments and basic fact gathering abilities before throwing out terms like “tin hat” and “ilk”. But I have a feeling you won’t.

          • Colby! I’m flattered you responded to my post – I’m a big fan of your work.

            The data you provide is very interesting. It appears that, excluding Quebec, there were 549 abortions done in hospitals after 21 weeks in 2011 (2.1% of abortions performed in hospitals). The data do not include Quebec (which does not report this information). It also does not include private clinics, which appear to perform about two thirds of abortions in Canada (see table 1).

            Table 1 shows that there were at least 92,000 abortion in 2011, although it states that reporting from private clinics is voluntary, so I am not sure if this is the real total. Assuming 2.1% are after 21 weeks (which is a big assumption, but perhaps the best we can do with the data available), that gives us around 1,943 in 2011.
            We have no idea why these abortions were performed, and doubtless the health of the mother was a serious consideration in many of them. But 1,943 a year is not a small number.

          • I was just on a pro-life website…abortion in Canada. They estimate the number of abortions after 20 weeks gestation in Canada as comprising around 1 percent of the total number of abortions done in the country.

          • It also appears to list 17% as “unknown”, so that’s also likely to inflate the number of abortions beyond 21 weeks. By how much, I don’t know.

          • “ah, the ole’ tin foil hattery on the “THEY’RE HIDING THE ABORTIONS” crapola.”
            Judging by the explanation for its decision to restrict public access to abortion figures, Ontario’s government should now be preparing a lengthy list of other statistics that are too dangerous to be shared with the public.

            Questioned as to why it had begun making it harder to obtain figures related to the number of abortions performed in the province, a practice that has been increasingly evident to researchers for some time, the provincial Ministry of Health responded in a statement to the National Post: “Records relating to abortion services are highly sensitive and that is why a decision was made to exempt these records.”


          • I’ve heard all the arguments but never from credible sources. I tend to smell a very big rat, like whenever an article says “Based on numbers from the Fraser Institute..”

          • And the crazy appears. You can’t even refute his point, so you take your ball and go home? Fine, but then stay home.

          • i don’t find his point proven at all and I know extremists lie. A lot. Credible source has a meaning, you know.

          • Umm, GMFD, Colby himself has provided the data refuting your statement that there are “essentially zero” late term abortions. And yet I am somehow an extremist and a liar?

          • yup, the numbers are miniscule and I count late as much later.,

            it’s over. the good guys won. go home pro-lifers.

          • I mean you can quibble a bit about whether miniscule numbers are acutally zero and whether i should have said without serious health risk, but let’s not pretend for a single solitary second this hasn’t been a waste of time invented by pro-lifers to obscure the issue and we are all worse off for giving them attention on this matter.

          • 2000 a year (conservatively) is neither essentially zero nor miniscule. Doubtless the number of abortions after, say, 25 weeks is alot less than this, but of course GFMD does not have any way to know this. In fact GMFD has supplied no data at all – just a bunch of unsupported (and demonstrably false) assertions.
            What is so vexing about discussions with zealots is that it does not matter how often they are shown to have a poor grasp of the facts. Every point made against them emboldens them further, always followed by a bizarre claim that they have won the argument, and that nothing more can be said on the topic. I do not pretend to have all the answers on this thorny subject, and indeed don’t spend much time thinking about it at all. But it would be nice to have a rational debate.
            I should also note that in any other country in the world my views would be considered thoroughly pro-choice.

          • Mike2, you have assumed it to be 2 percent but the pro-life movement has said it is 1 percent after 20 weeks gestation. After 25 weeks, the number is likely ZERO, given that a child born in a large center in Canada would be given every possible intervention at 25 weeks.

          • I used Colby’s data to come up with 2.1%. It would seem to be a conservtive estimate (see, for example, Selick’s comment above). I have never been to a pro-life web page, and I don’t know where they get their data.
            The number after 25 weeks is definately not zero. Data are certainly scarce in this area, largely because the information is generally not released. Margaret Sommerville has written quite a bit about this.
            Not sure what you mean about a child in a large center being given every possible intervention.

          • Mike2, you made a flawed assumption. You mistakenly believed that clinics in all provinces do abortions after 20 weeks. This is not the case. Because of higher rates of complication and the reason that most late term abortions are done because of complications of pregnancy, late term abortions take place in hospital. Therefore you cannot use your calculation of 2.1% of total abortions to come up with your numbers. Go to the website http://www.abortionincanada.ca. If you cannot trust the pro-lifers to provide you with your late-term abortion stats, who can trust Mike2?
            Now, not even the pro-lifers are making claims about abortion after 25 weeks in Canada for any reason beyond emergency health reasons.
            What I mean about a baby in a large center being given every possible intervention is that a baby at 25 weeks is viable but very premature. If they are born in a hospital with all the technological advances available, they will be given opportunity to survive. If they are born in a remote place at 25 weeks, they probably won’t live.

          • Mike2, if the pro-lifers are saying about 1 percent of abortions occur after 20 weeks gestation, then that means there are not many late-term abortions in Canada. Given that physicians perform them when the mother’s health is at risk or when the pregnancy is failing and they want to stop infection, I am not sure what you are trying to prove with your comment. How would a law affect the number of late-term abortions in Canada if they are done for medical reasons?

          • Colby has helpfully provided data on late term abortions, and it seems to show (conservatively) that there are about 2000 abortions per year in Canada after 21 weeks (see the analysis and sources above). The “given” you supply – i.e. that all of these abortions are for health reasons – is not a given at all. The law (or lack of a law) is clear that you can have an abortion at any time for any reason, or indeed no reason at all. So while I don’t doubt that many of them are for health reasons, we have no way to know how the numbers break out and it is certainly not regulated by the law.

          • As I pointed out, you made assumptions that aren’t accurate about clinics doing late terms abortions and therefore your numbers aren’t accurate. Of course the law states that a woman can have an abortion at any time for no reason at all. That just stops idiots from questioning her licensed physician and the accredited hospital in Canada where she has the life-saving procedure about the necessity for it. Cardiac surgery isn’t against the law either. We don’t know how that breaks out either. Maybe we should be concerned that licensed physicians in accredited hospitals in Canada are performing that procedure on patients without due cause. We could get you, Mike2, to look over some of the cases and see if the surgery is warranted. What do you think?

      • Oops – thanks GMFD – I definately meant to say pro-choice, not pro-life.

  4. ” However you feel about personal eugenics … ”
    “The Nazi persecution of persons with disabilities in Germany was one component of radical public health policies aimed at excluding hereditarily “unfit” Germans from the national community. These strategies began with forced sterilization and escalated toward mass murder. The ideological justification conceived by medical perpetrators for the destruction of the “unfit” was also applied to other categories of “biological enemies,” most notably to Jews and Roma (Gypsies).”


    • Yyyyeahhhh, that’s not PERSONAL eugenics in the sense I’m talking about. You’re sort of dumb, aren’t you?

      • I guess we all can’t be as clever as you, but you’re the one who is worried about Jerry’s Kids, not me. What other disabled children should society eliminate?

        • Obviously you have never heard of genetic abnormalities like complete trisomy 22. A fetus either dies before birth or shortly after due to a host of problems. It is a heart-wrenching thing to watch parents wait for their new baby to pass away. But you are so high up on your perch judging people, Hester, you probably wouldn’t even notice.

    • You forgot homosexuals. An oversight, right?

  5. a thought-provoking article that made me think about the issue. to be sure, it includes a few Colbyisms that are intended to fan some flames, but so be it. it made me think, and that’s good

    setting aside the broader issue of whether abortion is ‘right’, the reality is that it’s legal in Canada, and pregnant women have the right to terminate their pregnancy (with some restrictions). the lid of that Pandora’s Box, once cracked open, cannot be prevented from being opened fully. so women can (and will) choose to have an abortion for many reasons, some important, some less-so (from our point of view). these reasons have expanded to include the sex and wellness (‘perfection’) of the child, and, in the future, that latter category will expand as our science improves.

    is this good? is this ‘right’? one can debate those questions endlessly (and many will). personally, i’m not keen on selective-sex abortion, nor on excluding the fathers from the decision. but it doesn’t matter. abortion is–and should be–legal. the best we as a society can do is provide good info for mothers-to-be, so that they can make informed decisions

  6. In Vancouver, health authority policy is not to divulge the sex of a fetus until about 5 months into a pregnancy. This is another way of subverting sex-selective abortion without actually banning abortion.

  7. Great article! Gendercide (whether in favour of male or female fetuses) is a cheap way for antichoicers to appeal to emotions while displaying their total lack of understanding of the issue. I have one question for Mr. Warawa: if gendercide is sexist, why is he fighting sexism with MORE sexism? Education is the key here, not criminalization.

    I also have a question for Mr. Warawa: say, we banned sex-selective abortions. Would he be satisfied? 90% of abortions occur during the 1st trimester, when the sex of the fetus cannot be determined. Is he okay with women having abortions in such cases? Of course not. He’d love to ban ALL abortions. All of them. He’d be happy to tell women: no choice! He, as with most antichoicers, pretend to care about women while in fact seek to return us to the 40s and 50s when women had illegal, unsafe abortions.

    So we won’t be fooled. 25 MPs participated in the March for “life”: all of them conservative, only 3 of them women. The conservative party of Canada sure is no fan of women.

  8. Actually, conflating selection to avoid a disorder which avoids females or males as a result with the direct discrimination of the embryo by gender is much more clearly a dishonest and flabby rhetorical trick.

  9. Left Wing – kill the innocent (i.e. babies that are born or not) and protecting the guilty (pedos and murderers)

    Right Wing- protect the innocent (i.e. babies that are born or not) and condemn the guilty (pedos and murderers)

    Is there anything else you need to know?

  10. A problem I have is the do gooders that want every baby to be born, yet where are they to adopt all the severely disabled babies?? And how about the parents who say its their right to have this severely disabled child then put their hand out for money because they can’t afford to take care of all of their needs. And then their are the parents who turn over their teenage or adult disabled children because they can no longer care for them!! I agree that there are some women out there who get repeat abortions as if it is a form of birth control and this is wrong. But I think everyone needs to get off their high horse and not judge someone who’s shoes you haven’t been in. Could you imagine wanting a baby so bad and then finding out the one your carrying will die right after birth because it is so deformed. Should that mother not have the right to abort the babyinstead of having to carry it for nine months and then watch it die!!

    • Absolutely! Let the carnage begin, let convenience rule!!

      • Characterizing abortion as “convenient” for those who choose it is so typical of you anti-choice morally smug nutters.

    • Tough choices for all. Parents of dissabled children do need some free stuff to take care of them, provided by society, as do parents of progressives who as part of the 99%, demand free stuff from society. Abort them all!

  11. An excellent column….thank you!