There was a lovely little ultrasound picture of a foetus to illustrate the Independent’s splash today about the incidence of sex-selective abortions in Britain. According to the paper’s analysis of ONS statistics, the incidence of second daughters among immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh and possibly those from other countries such as India isn’t quite the same as in the population at large. Either immigrants from these groups are, more than the rest of us, having child after child until they have a boy or they are simply aborting second pregnancies where the foetus is a girl in order to ensure their next child is a boy: most probably, according to a statistician used by the Indie, the latter. The cull of pre-natal girls could have cost between 1,400 and 4,700 lives. So, parts of some immigrant communities, Pakistanis and Afghans, have plainly been unaffected by the egalitarian norms of the host culture, in which the wrongness of aborting girls, qua girls, is one of the few things to unite pro-lifers and feminists.
But the sweet picture of the foetus is a reminder of the hypocrisy of pro-choicers on this one. You can just imagine what the Indie – or indeed any of the liberal pundits – would have to say about any attempt to curtail the abortion laws as they stand; actually you don’t have to imagine – just pick up on the paper’s coverage of Jeremy Hunt’s modest and sensible criticisms of the time limits on abortion in an interview just after he took up the job as Health Secretary; it was stinging. As for Steve Connor, the paper’s science correspondent, when asked on Women’s Hour whether he’d favour outlawing sex specific abortion he said: ‘Well it’s not for me to say, I’m just a hack’.
Which leaves us with the conundrum: if you’re a feminist it’s absolutely fine to abort a foetus who’s a girl so long as it’s not done because it’s a girl. But if you abort the same foetus on the grounds of gender, it’s an offence against all right minded people and will feature as a moral no-no on Women’s Hour. Look, I’m against gendercide too. But isn’t there something funny going on here?
More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us.