It is unfortunate that a debate over selectively aborting female fetuses has been hijacked by politics in Ottawa. A Conservative member of parliament has tried to pass a motion that would have decried the practice, but his effort has been lost in the cacophony over whether PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) has too much power.
That side debate may be an important one in and of itself, but it is sad to see the much more important question of female foeticide sidelined over political machinations in the nation’s capital. The powers of the Canadian prime minister have been debated endlessly under both Liberal and right-wing prime ministers. One readily recalls columnist Jeffrey Simpson’s critique of the mandate of Jean Chrétien as “The Friendly Dictatorship.” The present government has faced similar criticism over its heavy-handedness almost from its first days in power.
The enormous influence of Canadian and similarly-governed Westminster model parliamentary democracies has been a reasonably well-researched subject and has filled many a tome. So, what’s new? What’s new is that a Canadian MP tried to throw light on abortions driven by a parental preference for one sex over the other. That effort was apparently stymied by PMO and the Conservative party whip in the House of Commons.
This issue is of particular interest to us because the practice – stemming from what’s commonly referred to as a “son preference” – appears to be most prevalent in Asian nations such as China, India, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam. The medical community and demographers have been tracking this trend for years, and it is no coincidence that these countries have some of the most dramatic differences in gender ratios. As against a global average of 105 male babies to 100 female newborns, the ratio can get skewed to as much as 130:100 because female babies are selectively aborted.
This imbalance has huge sociological and ethical consequences.
The issue came to national attention when the then editor-in-chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Dr. Rajendra Kale, wrote an opinion piece (Jan. 2012) calling for a ban on disclosing the gender of fetuses until 30 weeks of gestation. He warned that there were a large number of such abortions happening in Canada (and the U.S.): “Female feticide happens in India and China by the millions, but it also happens in North America in numbers large enough to distort the male-to-female ratio in some ethnic groups,” Dr. Kale argued.
“Should female feticide in Canada be ignored because it is a small problem localized to minority ethnic groups? No,” the editorial said. The editorial was aptly titled, “
It’s a girl!”—could be a death sentence.”
It’s been a dormant debate over the last year, until MP Mark Warawa from British Columbia introduced a motion to condemn the practice. It is no coincidence that an MP from B.C. is championing the motion – it is believed that most sex-selection abortions in Canada happen in that province.
Our political leaders in Ottawa must find a way to debate the perils of the Westminster power-sharing model separately from the prevalence in Canada of a practice that flies in the face of gender equality. – New Canadian Media