The issue of “gendercide” has been in the news lately, as the U. S. House of Representatives failed to pass a bill that would ban abortions motivated by the preference for having a baby boy. Opponents of the bill insist that it was just a conservative ploy to limit women’s reproductive freedom.
One sad irony in all of this is that the term “gendercide” was coined by Mary Ann Warren in her 1985 book Gendercide: The Implications of Sex Selection. Warren decried this most brutal form of sexism, yet her influential philosophical defenses of abortion, such as her landmark article “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion” in the early 70s, reinforced the very pro-choice culture that has made gendercide so rampant in the United States.
There are some lessons here. For one thing, this further reveals the incoherence of the notion that the pro-choice position is pro-women. For years we have known just how devastating abortions are for the women who have them, both psychologically and physically. Now we’re seeing how the abortion culture is especially deadly for women, even before they leave the womb.
Secondly, as Sidney Callahan has brilliantly pointed out, the pro-choice culture is actually a disguised form of patriarchy in the sense that it ultimately gives more power to men, not women. The abortion culture does so by: (a) encouraging women to think of childbearing as a burden rather than as a source of life-giving power and (b) further enabling men to engage in sex with women without any concerns about long-term commitment or support.
So as bad as gendercide is, it is but one more symptom of the fact that abortion rights are anything but pro-women.