A recent Angus-Reid poll reveals that a majority of Canadians are in favor of legislation restricting gender-based abortion. Somewhat counter-intuitively, women were more in favor of restricting abortion rights on this particular basis than men. Sixty percent of those polled (including both genders) supported such legislation, but 66 percent of women supported it.
Why ask this question all of a sudden, and in Canada, no less? The flashpoint seems to be an editorial last week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, which claimed sex-specific abortion is a growing problem. The writer argued for withholding information on an unborn child’s sex until the 30th week.
The poll also asked about legislation restricting access to abortion based on other factors. There was somewhat less consensus here, with only 51 percent of those surveyed supporting restrictions based on the stage of the pregnancy (which is far more medically relevant than sex).
Taking into account party lines, the division was more or less what you’d expect, at least in terms of the Green Party being least supportive of any regulation on abortion, and the Progressive Conservatives being most in favor of it, with the remainder falling in between. However, the actual spread is surprisingly narrow. The most liberal party is 47 percent in favor of some regulation, and the most conservative is 57 percent in favor. Compared to the United States, it seems this is not such a terribly polarizing issue for us.
Back to the editorial that, apparently, prompted this poll: what constitutes a “growing” problem? The lack of numbers makes it difficult to weigh in on this matter. It’s clear that many people find the idea of selectively aborting a fetus based on its sex offensive, even if they otherwise support a liberal interpretation of women’s reproductive rights. But what are the practical consequences? Is there a significant medical danger in the increase in early-term abortions? Or is it something else?
In China, the preference for a male child has led to millions more sons being born than daughters. The shortage of girls below a certain age (dating to the advent of China’s one-child policy in the ’80s) is quickly becoming a family problem now that many of these preferred sons are unable to find wives.
The birth disparity is believed to result from a combination of preferentially aborting girls and infanticide. But, despite our large immigrant population, I’m not aware of a strong cultural bias in Canada preferring children of either sex.
According to this National Post article, many Canadians who take measures to plan the sex of a child are not preferentially valuing boys or girls more, but simply trying to balance their new child with the one(s) they already have. Many parents, it seems, want to have at least one boy and one girl, not just one or the other.
If this is indeed the case the majority of the time, I can tell you that, statistically, we should expect no future imbalance in the ratio of females to males, based on this behavior. Whether people find this type of abortion-based family planning upsetting, however, is an entirely different issue. I’ll keep my opinion to myself in this case.
Photo credit: National Institute of Health