Gender-Based Abortions: A Slippery Slope

The right to choose, to me, has always meant that a woman can have access to abortion for any reason she wants. Not just for circumstances of rape and incest, but for her own, personal reasons that she is at no obligation to disclose. Sometimes it’s the health of the mother, or the health of the fetus. But what if it’s for a more superficial reason—like the gender?

These so called “gender-based” abortions have been the subject of some debate in Sweden, when recently a women chose to end two pregnancies after learning that the fetuses would be female. According to the Local, and English-language Swedish newspaper, she already had two girls, and was apparently uninterested in having a third. During each pregnancy she requested an amniocentesis—a test on the chromosomes of the fetus to determine if there will be any abnormalities—and to know the gender of the baby. While the results of the amniocenteses are unknown, each time she requested to terminate the pregnancy.

“Doctors at Mälaren Hospital expressed concern and asked Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) to draw up guidelines on how to handle requests in the future in which they ‘feel pressured to examine the fetus’s gender’ without having a medically compelling reason to do so.”

This week, the board ruled that women cannot be refused an abortion up to the 18th week of pregnancy, no matter why they choose to do it. And whether or not you agree with her reasoning, the ruling is sound. It is a woman’s right to have an abortion, no matter how flawed the logic of that woman may be.

We have to be absolute in defending the right to abortion, without parsing the reasons behind it—otherwise, it’s a slippery slope to restricted access. All I can do is disagree this woman, and hold the personal belief that her use of an abortion to control the gender of her children is wrong. But as far as legality, her choice should be protected. No matter what.

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  • invalid-0

    Um, sex is male and female. Gender is masculine and feminine. You’re talking about something different than what you’re probably going for. I’m not one of those people who routinely gets up in arms about that sort of thing; knowing the difference just makes sense on a site like this, though.

  • invalid-0

    ..given how hell bent that government is in ensuring nearly any action or behavior a woman chooses. Heck, she should have the option of infanticide if she considers it to be an ugly kid (maybe it looks too much like herself)

  • invalid-0

    The abortion was prohibited until round in Japan.
    Because it was the product meyo increase yaseyono times as a national policy, I was natural.
    Therefore I was made to bear the woman whom it did not want to bear, but it was unpleasant society looked coldly on when it bore a fatherless child.
    A law called the after the war dominant protection law was done, and a condition was belonging to it, and it came to be possible for an abortion, but it was a control of the population that these increased rapidly after the war, and it was means to prevent that a disabled person was born again.
    Even if there was the profit instruction by the group of obstetricians, I hear the establishment of this law.

  • invalid-0

    The biggest issue here for me is, how is it that we think we can really determine, much less judge, a woman’s reason? It’s impossible to get to know a woman’s entire situation, as much as we try in the clinical environment. “I don’t want a girl” might mean “I don’t want a girl”. Or, “I don’t want a girl” might mean “my husband’s family will have my murdered for failing the family if I do not have a boy”. As a physician, I think it is *far* beyond my right, or even my capabilities, to determine what means what – no matter how much I try to get to know my patients and understand their circumstances.

  • jodi-jacobson



    Thanks for another provocative post. I agree with the comment above that in this case we are talking about sex selection abortion. The words "sex" and "gender" are widely misused and erroneously used interchangeably.

    But i think that the more salient point you raise is why women have sex selective abortions.  In this case, it seems like an anomaly in a social setting in which this is not known to be widespread.  Elsewhere, such as in India, sex selective abortion is widespread, which has led to calls for restricting abortion.  The reality, however, is that sex selective abortion in the case of India and other countries where it is widely practiced is merely a symptom of the much deeper inequities between males and females, where girl children are seen as a burden, often face widespread discrimination, infanticide, and violence and also are subject to recieving far less health care and food than their male siblings.  In these cases, abortion is not the issue.  the issue is the deeply ingrained misogyny in these societies.  


    thanks so much, Jodi Jacobson

  • progo35

    I’d just like to remind everyone that this is SWEDEN we’re talking about, not India or China. Comparing the situation of women in Sweden to that of women in China when it comes to gender is like comparing apples to oranges. I could see someone in China thinking, "my family will disown me if I if have another girl," but not in Sweden, which is an extremely progressive nation. In Sweden, it is more likely to be a case of the family’s preference. Both cases are horrible but take place within vastly different social contexts.
    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    In Sweden, sex-selective abortion is a different animal than it is in India, China or any other country where males are considered to be of vastly greater value than females. Perhaps this Swedish woman only wants a certain number of children or knows she only has the resources – emotional, physical, and financial – for one more child and she and her husband want a boy, since they already have two girls.

    Frankly, it’s none of my business why any woman wants an abortion beyond ensuring it’s what she really wants, that she isn’t being coerced, and that she knows her options.

  • invalid-0

    Is no one here even slightly bothered that we are speaking of terminating, killing a child because of it’s sex? It’s a small step from here to deciding that the ending of life can be treated in the same dispassionate, callous manner? In that case, who will make the decision? Your husband/wife, a government bureaucrat, maybe your children? At least the one’s you didn’t abort?

  • invalid-0

    I love how your absolute insistence on protecting women’s rights completely ignores the fact that in gender-selection abortions, it’s mostly GIRLS being killed. Way to take care of the next generation of women.
    Your hypocrisy is stunning. You speak of abortion as though it’s merely a clinical procedure in which no one dies.
    Women deserve better than abortion. Much better.

  • emma

    It would be interesting to know the circumstances, and what factors would inform a woman in Sweden to decide upon a sex selective abortion. Adding here that I think if this is happening often, it is more important to figure out what is happening in society that’s leading women to undergo sex selective abortion. It’s the sexism within the society that needs to be addressed; the abortion aspect of it is of less concern to me.

    I’m curious now…might try calling a friend in Sweden later.

    ETA: Ambien is pulverising my brain a bit. Sorry for incoherence.

  • invalid-0

    Women deserve better than abortion. Much better.

    So what do they deserve, then? To be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term? Yeah, that’s a lot better for them (*eyeroll*).

  • invalid-0

    Actually, they do deserve that. They created the baby,it is their responsibility. It’s sad that women don’t think sex creates a child. They only think unprotected “irresponsible” sex creates life.

    Plus, if you look at the medical figures, women’s breast cancer risk goes up. As does the chance of pelvic inflammatory disease and a perforated uterus. As well as placenta previa, which could endanger her precious “wanted” children. Oh yeah. Abortion is the 5th leading cause of maternal death, too, because of the damage it does and the complications it creates in future pregancies. How do you like that chestnut?

    And from a historical standpoint, our sister suffragettes though abortion the worst thing in the world. Another way for men to exploit women, they believed. True enough, men – Larry Lader, Bernard Nathonson, Alan Guttmacher, and the VP of NOW [a man!] – Lead the way for decriminalization for abortion. Why would men lead the way for a women’s issue, if not to turn it upside down to exploit them?

    So you pro-choice ladies, make sure to thank Hitler and Stalin – the first world leaders to decriminalize abortion- because without their belief that human life is a commodity, and without their forcing such laws on their sattelite nations, you might not have the right to be just a gruesome as they are. =]

    • invalid-0

      Now your approaching a moral ground that starts to get iffy. Forcing a woman to carry a baby to term for having (1)recreational sex (2) failure of contraceptives (3) or desiring to postpone child bearing; seems to be more punitive than anything. The idea of forcing a woman to have the child based on the idea ‘knowing sex leads to children,’ is a completely moral argument that is invalid. You cannot force your morals on anyone just as they cannot force theirs on you. First, having sex w/o contraceptives is not illegal, so (1) who are you issue a punishment for such the moral decision of not using contraceptives and (2) do you not think it is laughable to issue a punitive baby?