Canadians Want Legislation to Regulate Sex-Specific Abortion

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.

Related stories:

Canadian Doctor Speaks Out About Anti-Choice Violence

Unsafe Abortions on the Rise

Abortion vs. Unwanted Pregnancy: The Impact on Mental Health

Photo credit: National Institute of Health


Ashley D.
Ashley D.4 years ago

A birth defect is no proper reason for abortion. Ludwig van Beethoven was born with a potential hearing defect that became apparent in his adult years. Would society then have terminated him and deprived us of one of the world's greatest composers?
I look around my previous churches and I have witnessed children with special needs being lovingly cared for. All foetuses are gifts from God.
I am not convinced by the rape argument - why? If rape is a violation of a woman, aborting the resultant foetus (if it develops, not necessarily so owing to the violent nature of rape) is a second violation. I am reminded of the testimony of a twellve-year old girl who was raped by her babysitter: he went to jail and she went on to have his baby. I believe she even forgave him ..

Ashley D.
Ashley D.4 years ago

Sex-selection? It has echoes of China's 'one-child' policy and only boys at that. On the other hand to start terminating male foetuses that's exactly what the late King Herod did ..

John Z.
John Z.4 years ago

Jackie A. Rape and birth defects are no crime of the child and warrant not the punishment of execution. You might find this story edifying:

Jackie Agusta
Jackie Agusta4 years ago

This is disgraceful. It's one this to have an abortion because you were raped or because the unborn child has a birth defect but simply to pick what sex you prefer, no, I'm sorry I'm as open minded as the next person but I can't get on board with this :-(

Darla Stokes
Darla Stokes4 years ago

This is such a straw man, not unlike the uproar over late-term abortions years ago. Put forth something that's so shocking that even those who are usually pro-choice will recoil, and you get support for laws that restrict a lot more than you thought it would.

Even if we all did agree that abortion for gender selection is wrong, does it really need to be a law? How would such a law be enforced? Would doctors need to become mind readers? Certainly no woman would be stupid enough to admit wanting to abort for gender selection if it were illegal. The only way to even try to enforce it would be to treat all pregnant women as suspect, and not allow them to see their own ultrasound exams, which would require legal consequences for medical personnel who aren't diligent enough in keeping gender information from pregnant women. And what about Aunt Betty, who says that since you're craving sweets, you'll have a girl? If you get an abortion after she says that, does she go to jail, too?

Chad A.
Chad Anderson4 years ago

This is a difficult question. I am against restricting abortion. In South Korea where I live, this has been a big problem to the extent that something like 30,000 Korean men a year are importing brides from less-affluent East Asian nations. Canada has recently taken in a lot of immigrants from places like Korean and China where the preference for male children has been strong and imbalances have appeared and I do not doubt that this has come up as an issue. Even if it has happened on a small scale, it is a major ethical issue and I would support legal intervention that was carefully crafted to deal with this issue without impacting the broader rights, but I am not sure how this would be done.

Jeanne P.
Jeanne Posthumus4 years ago

Also, How many times could or would a parent go through with an abortion of the child for what ever reason? How would that be regulated.

Jeanne P.
Jeanne Posthumus4 years ago

Think about this. Let's say parent(s) go forth with an abortion based on the child's gender. Was it based on a health issue. Like the child would be born with a terrible disease that would only be present in either male or female? I guess in that respect yes. If the abortion was wanted for a vain or social reason then , NO. Also, how would you regulate something like this.

Jeanne P.
Jeanne Posthumus4 years ago

I dont know. Abortion, for a good reason? But what is a "good" reason? First it was because of raped women or health issues, but now this? Yikes! I leaned NO, because I am prochoicem but then again, when does it go too far? I think its getting there.

James R.
James R.4 years ago

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