Jimmy Carter was on Bill Maher’s show last week to promote his new book. And he came out with a statistic that really surprised me: more women have been killed because of their gender in the past hundred years than the combined deaths in all the wars of the 20th century. The vast majority of female killings have happened either through sex selective abortion or its more extreme cousin, sex selective infanticide.
It mostly happens in less developed countries that still place a significant socioeconomic premium on having a male child. When the mother gets an ultrasound and is notified of the gender, many of them decide to terminate the pregnancy. This is especially prevalent in China, where the one-child policy dramatically raises the stakes for prospective families.
There are even many heartbreaking cases in which the mother gives birth to the baby and upon discovering that it’s a girl, smothers the baby to death to avoid having to care for her. I can’t presume to speak for feminism, but I would imagine that anybody who considers themselves a feminist would speak out harshly against sex selective infanticide and abortion. And yet, I can’t help but think that abortion really isn’t that much different from infanticide. They’re both conscious, premeditated decisions to terminate human life in its earliest stages.
Two years ago, there was a teenager in Florida who hid her pregnancy, gave birth to a boy, and then smothered him to death. The irony to that story is that if she had just gotten an abortion, we would have never heard of her. Infanticide is illegal but abortion isn’t? I know there is a key difference, but at some point you have to accept that a fetus becomes a real, living human being.
I’m pro-choice, but as I grow older, I’m finding it harder to carry that belief. It is a deeply uncomfortable thought that we’re snuffing out life when the primary reason boils down to inconvenience. Many people will rightly condemn the decision to have a sex selective abortion. They will definitely condemn infanticide. But a sizable minority would support a woman’s decision to have an abortion because she wants to have a career first or go traveling when she’s young.
The rise of feminism in the United States coincided with the sexual revolution. Effective, reliable, cheap, and widely available contraception made it possible to decouple sex from conception. The obvious result has been the persistent and widespread devaluing of sexual intercourse. That devaluation is the core tenet of most strains of feminist thought. And its foundation is Roe v Wade, which is the legal basis for abortion laws in the US. The implicit message? Keep devaluing the consequences of sex.
I’m not sure how long society can keep up with that particular charade. Because sex is still really important. Anything that leads to babymaking tends to be kind of a big deal. Feminism in the United States revolves around how we’re supposed to treat women in the most prosperous country in the history of civilization. But if feminism is supposed to address the ideal that society should value females just as much as males, we’ve still got a long way to go.