The Case for Sex-Selection Abortion Bans: Part 1

Typically, when a couple hears the news that they are pregnant both father and mother are overcome with joy. This joy expresses that they have helped bring a being into existence that is more valuable than the universe itself. How the words of Scripture ring true: “Certainly sons are a gift from the LORD, the fruit of the womb, a reward” (Psalm 127:3). It is unfortunate that many do not recognize the reality of the child as gift. Even more horrifying, many do not see the image of God in the child that has been made, regardless of the child’s gender. So tragic was the sweeping scope of Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton that it allowed a woman to kill her unborn child for any reason, including for reasons of sex-selection.

Gendercide is nothing new. The ancient Romans certainly practiced a form of it with sex-selection infanticide. Rodney Stark highlights this practice within his book The Rise of Christianity when he quotes from an ancient letter from a pagan named Hilarion to his pregnant wife Alis: “I ask and beg you to take care of our baby son, and as soon as I receive payment I shall send it up to you. If you are delivered of a child [before I come home], if it is a boy keep it, if a girl discard it” (pg. 97-98). The attitude of this letter was not just an isolated chinesecase either. It was culturally acceptable at the time to leave a child to the elements in order to die if the infant did not meet the expectations of the pater familias. Since many of the Roman and Greek cultures preferred having baby boys, many infant girls suffered the tragic results and so were left to die by exposing them to the elements. The child is not seen as a child of God, but rather like an unwanted gift that can be routinely discarded if it doesn’t meet the parent’s desires. Furthermore, it stresses an imbalance between the sexes—that somehow males are more valuable than females. And, as history has shown, gendercide tends to specifically result in femicide. Female sex-selection infanticide took place for hundreds of years within the Roman Empire and it is only with Constantine that the practice of infanticide began to be criminalized.

However, while the Roman Empire began the process of prohibiting this gruesome practice, it practically went unabated in other parts of the world and in some places continues to this very day. Instead of infanticide, though, it is abortion that has become the normal method of killing young girls. China, which is but one modern example, has practiced this for generations. It has become such a problem that it has caused massive population gaps between the genders. A recent article highlighted the effects of China’s “one-child policy”. The normal ratio between the genders is 105-107 men to every 100 women. Tragically, because of the accepted tolerance of gendercide within China, the ratio is 118 males to every 100 females. It is estimated that by 2020 there will be 30 million single Chinese men of marriageable age that will have trouble getting married precisely because of the gender gap.

While the ratio numbers are intriguing, sex-selection abortion has also contributed to another disturbing reality; specifically the sin of human sex trafficking. Because of the lack of women in certain societies, along with the lack of chastity and a lack of respect for the human person, forced marriages and sex-slavery are becoming more problematic. While daughters may not be highly valued in these societies, marriageable women are a highly valued “commodity”. As a result, many men try to lure women from poor countries to China with promises of grandeur, such as making a better living wage. When the women buy into the lie, they are then sold to the highest bidder where many of these women become prisoners in their “husbands’” homes. The US is not immune to this catastrophe either. Again, with lures of a better life, women can be manipulated into the hands of traffickers who are posing as legal businesses. Furthermore, it is not unusual for some sex traffickers to cater to certain ethnicities, adding racism to the already egregious sin of forced prostitution.

Even more troubling is the evidence that sex-selection abortion is happening in the US as well. It is unfortunate that abortion advocates try to make the claim that this is not really happening by pointing out there is no specific data that confirms this. The problem with their argument is that when it comes to statistics regarding abortion they are notoriously unreliable since neither the majority of states nor the federal government have any laws mandating abortion statistical reporting. Furthermore, a recent article within the American Conservative pinpoints many of the other problems with their argumentation. Data suggests that sex-selection abortion is very likely taking place, especially within certain communities where there is a cultural emphasis that places a higher value on having a son. What the US is likely facing is a birth dearth within certain segments of its society. The gender gap that would result would feed into the eager hands of sex-traffickers who wish to make a profit.

While it is troubling that these practices take place, it is even more troubling when a Christian engages in these sorts of practices. The intentional destruction of a child, forced marriage, and sex outside of marriage are all affronts to the dignity of the sacrament of marriage. As Jesus says, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). Notice that Christ is not asking, but rather commanding. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, reemphasizes this very point when he recently stated in Poland, “Courage! God does not take away anything, but fills us with grace if we trust him. I encourage you to entrust yourselves to Divine Providence and not be afraid of accepting [the] children whom God wants to give to you.” God intentionally gives a child with a specific gender; it is the parents’ duty and privilege to respect that gift.

Joe Kral has been involved in the pro-life movement since he has been in college.  His MA in Theology was completed at the University of St. Thomas where he specialized in bioethics.  From 1996-2003 he was the Legislative Director for Texas Right to Life.  During that time he was also a lobbyist for the Department of Medical Ethics at National Right to Life.  From 2004-2007 he consulted the Texas Catholic Conference on pro-life legislative initiatives.   In 2006 he was awarded the “Bishop’s Pro-Life Award for Civic Action” from the Respect Life Ministry in the Diocese of Dallas.  He currently serves as a voluntary legislative advisor to Texas Alliance for Life, is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, taught as an adjunct professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas, teaches as a Forward Toward Christian Ministry instructor for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, is a member of the Knights of Columbus, and is doing doctoral studies at Harrison Middleton University where he is specializing in the ethical and legal theory of St. Thomas Aquinas. He has been married to his wife, Melissa, since 2004 and they have 2 children together. They attend St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Sugar Land.
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