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How anti-choice lobbyists are posing as defenders of women

Senator John Madigan’s attempt to exploit sex-selective abortion mirrors similar efforts overseas — despite any evidence it’s a problem. Crikey looks to the US for Madigan’s cues.

The effort by conservative DLP senator John Madigan to return abortion to the political agenda in Australia mirrors an apparently concerted international campaign to use the issue of s-x selection as a way for anti-choice advocates to reassert state limitations on abortion.

Madigan has promised to introduce a motion to halt public funding of abortions used for s-x selection purposes, despite admitting he has no evidence that s-x-selection abortion occurs in Australia. The practice is specifically prohibited in Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia, and National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines also warn against the practice.

Abortion for gender selection is considered a major problem in China and India; in some provinces in those countries in the last decade the ratio of male-to-female infants has reached over 1.2 to 1. However, there is little evidence that it is an issue in Western countries, although there have been claims that some minority communities still practise it.

Nonetheless, anti-abortion groups have used the issue to try to re-establish state bans on abortion. The issue has the added attraction that anti-abortion groups can pose as defenders of women in arguing for bans on “gendercide”. Madigan’s is only one of a number of efforts to place the issue on the agenda in Western countries.

Canadian MPs are scheduled later this month to debate a motion from a Conservative MP to condemn “discrimination against females occurring through s-x-selective pregnancy termination”. Like Madigan, the MP pushing the motion, Mark Warawa, admits he has no evidence that s-x-selection abortion occurs in Canada.

A fortnight ago, the upper house of Kansas’ legislature strongly supported a ban on s-x-selection abortion, backed by the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life; again, there is no evidence abortion to choose one gender over the other occurs in the state.

In May last year, Republicans in the US Congress sought to introduce a ban on s-x-selective abortions, while an anti-abortion group released a heavily edited video purporting to be of a woman seeking a s-x-selective abortion from a Planned Parenthood clinic. The bill (called PRENDA) failed, and the video was dismissed as a hoax.

This might be one of the most disingenuous bills to ever to come to the floor of the House,” one Democratic congressman said. “This is not about women’s equality. PRENDA is simply another attempt by choice opponents to obstruct women’s access to reproductive healthcare.”

The Obama administration opposed the bill. While the bill prompted some debate about the extent of s-x-selective abortion in the US, there is little evidence it occurs on a widespread basis. A bill to ban it in Ohio was introduced in the state legislature in that state at the end of 2012.

One method of anti-abortion groups is to claim racial minorities practice s-x-selective abortion. In January, a UK anti-abortion House of Lords MP, Lord Alton, claimed evidence that Indian communities in the UK were practising it. S-x-selective abortion is already illegal in the UK, but the MP called for a “fundamental debate” about abortion.

The recurring pattern of legislative attempts to ban or voice disapproval of s-x-selective abortion — under the guise of protecting girls and women — despite a  lack of evidence of any widespread problem and existing prohibitions, illustrates how this is a confected issue of the anti-abortion lobby and the, almost invariably, old white men who back them (Warawa is 62, Alton is 61, Trent Franks who wrote PRENDA, is 55) to re-assert state limits on abortion rather than address an actual problem. Madigan is not different.

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  • 1
    Andrew McMillen
    Posted Tuesday, 5 March 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Excellent article Bernard.

  • 2
    Roger Clifton
    Posted Tuesday, 5 March 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t it amazing how many people will allude to some vaguely awful consequences of choosing your baby, but how so few of them can say what those consequences are?

    John Wyndham in his novel, “Consider her ways” explores a world in which there are no males at all. There is no horror story here, not even for the people who want to believe that the ways of yesterday will continue forever.

  • 3
    Andybob
    Posted Tuesday, 5 March 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    If we’re going to pass laws against things that are already unlawful and aren’t practiced in Australia then I think suttee, ritual cannibalism and bear baiting should get a guernsey.

  • 4
    Alex
    Posted Tuesday, 5 March 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Bernard, how DARE you!!!! I have never been so offended in ALL my life!!! To call someone “old” when they’re just 55 offends me to my absolute core! That’s barely old enough to drink without throwing up! I demand an apology!

    On second thoughts, I’ll just have another beer and get over it. It’s not really all that offensive, I probably just get out more, and I will when Mum says I’m old enough.

    Cheers, Alex (on the wrong side of 50).

  • 5
    AR
    Posted Tuesday, 5 March 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    This is why I subscribe - an issue of concern, an unholy alliance of strange bedfellows co-opts an idea, with all the subtlety of a red herring inside a Trojan Horse yet only a venue such as Crikey would give chapter & verse of the facts involved.
    BTW, a gender bias of 1.2 to 1 means 5 females for six blokes. Not a recipe for stability.

  • 6
    Posted Tuesday, 5 March 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Fundamentalist Catholics like John Madigan are as bad as fundamentalist Muslims. They both live five hundred years in the past.

    An excellent article about a despicable group of people.

  • 7
    Achmed
    Posted Tuesday, 5 March 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    This is a bit crass. I saw a placard at a pro-abortion protest in the USA.

    If abortion is murder then oral s-x is cannibalism.

  • 8
    Space Australian
    Posted Tuesday, 5 March 2013 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic article, well done!

  • 9
    Harry1951
    Posted Tuesday, 5 March 2013 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    It’s another pointer to the conservative agenda if/when an Abbott government is elected. Abbott will enable this sort of attack on a abortion. What a devious strategy!

  • 10
    AR
    Posted Tuesday, 5 March 2013 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Achmed - it would only be cannibalism if swallowed, otherwise it would common or garden Onanism,as per the ungrateful,dog-in-the-manger in Genesis.

  • 11
    Posted Tuesday, 5 March 2013 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    ACHMED: Until I saw AR’s comment, I thought you’d made that up. I grovel.

  • 12
    CML
    Posted Tuesday, 5 March 2013 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Men like Madigan (and others of his ilk) need to see the results of back yard abortions as I did in the 1960’s and early 70’s before we became civilized and allowed the professionals to deal with the problem.
    Far from their professed role of “defenders of women”, anti-abortionists condemn mostly poor women (those with money have always been able to find a solution to their unwanted pregnancy) to severe injury, and occasionally, death when they seek to end a pregnancy for whatever reason.
    In decades of caring for women in Australia who choose to have an abortion, I have never heard of anyone terminating a pregnancy primarily on gender issues. On the rare occasion that this happens, it is always because the gender of the foetus causes it to have an inherited and severe disease/disability, which may not be compatible with life. Parents make this decision following medical advice, and usually, with great sorrow.
    How anyone can object to that, beats me.

  • 13
    Christopher Nagle
    Posted Tuesday, 5 March 2013 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    The thing is that the anti-abortion crowd are never going to go away because the issue for them will always be that nobody has the right to kill a human being, no matter how small they are.

    The myth that a life hasn’t started at conception got traction because we live in a consumer society where everything is about free choice. So a life that can’t be seen, or socialized with, can easily be rendered into a commodity, a piece of bio-stuff, that can be eliminated at will.

    A zygote isn’t just a ‘piece of tissue’ like tonsils or saliva. It is an activated lifeform that is growing in exactly the same way as an adolescent ‘grows’. Everything that person will ever be is ‘there’, growing out of its own genetic template as an autonomous creature, feeding and putting out waste as it will do for the rest of its life.

    The zygote’s mother is a services, gas, nutrient and building block supplier and that is all. The zygote is entirely in charge of its own growth and development. He or she never shares blood supply with mum. Mum stops at the portals of the placenta. It is the territory of another life and he or she does belong to anyone except him or herself. Mum is a steward and nothing more.

    She is, like anyone else, entitled to defend herself against a pregnancy that will injure or kill her. And society has the right to determine that the child is sufficiently defective and/or damaged to justify termination.

    But she has no right to kill her child, no matter how small, by designating him or her as ‘sub-human’. That is as much of a lie as designating Jews the same way.

  • 14
    Fiona Lee
    Posted Tuesday, 5 March 2013 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    It’s quite similar to the way the supporters of Conroy’s Internet filter connected the issue to p__dophiles and therefore, the protection of children. So implying that if you didn’t support censorship, you were for the p__dos.

  • 15
    Posted Tuesday, 5 March 2013 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    CML: I hate to depress you but John Madigan and his fellow travellers would just say “It is god’s will.”

    How dare these people dictate to and try to rig election outcomes for their own archaic believers who are, dare I say it; not in the majority. And, how dare the males in the community tell women how to run their reproductive organs.

  • 16
    Jesse mandragoria
    Posted Wednesday, 6 March 2013 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    Everything that person will ever be is ‘there’”

    well i guess it takes someone with the intelligence of a zygote to write something like this and take it seriously. not sure if you think you’re anything more than a zygote but i like to think i’ve grown beyond something with basically the intelligence of a cucumber.

  • 17
    drsmithy
    Posted Wednesday, 6 March 2013 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    The zygote’s mother is a services, gas, nutrient and building block supplier and that is all. The zygote is entirely in charge of its own growth and development. He or she never shares blood supply with mum. Mum stops at the portals of the placenta. It is the territory of another life and he or she does belong to anyone except him or herself. Mum is a steward and nothing more.

    So it’s a parasite, then ?

    She is, like anyone else, entitled to defend herself against a pregnancy that will injure or kill her. And society has the right to determine that the child is sufficiently defective and/or damaged to justify termination.

    No, society does not.

    But she has no right to kill her child, no matter how small, by designating him or her as ‘sub-human’. That is as much of a lie as designating Jews the same way.

    I find it odd that the person arguing it’s OK for society to terminate a pregnancy, argues that an individual woman cannot.

    Fundamentally, it’s her body. She can do what she wants with it. She has as much right to get rid of a foetus as she does to clip her fingernails or have her uterus removed.

  • 18
    Roger Clifton
    Posted Wednesday, 6 March 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    @AR at 3:52 Tues… ” 5 females for six blokes. Not a recipe for stability”

    What is this “stability” thing? Do paint for us a picture what is likely to happen with a sex ratio of 1.2.

    Such a ratio must be common in various parts of our own sociey. Example, our old men vanish quicker than our old women, but I dont hear them complaining about a shortage of replacement males.

  • 19
    Liz45
    Posted Wednesday, 6 March 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Women from all countries, cultures etc have always found a way to prevent a pregnancy from continuing when they believed that they could not mother the child! As pointed out, the rich women have had no problems accessing a safe medical termination. As usual it’s the poor women who were butchered by the back yard criminals.

    I support a woman’s right to choose without question. I know of no woman who’s made such a decision frivolously or without much soul searching and regret!I also know from a woman doctor that many of the women who present for an abortion are black and blue from being bashed by their ‘brave’ partner!

    The cc is in no position these days to lecture women on this or any other issue. They lie and threaten and want to dominate! They’ve lost all credibility! Every time I see the misogynists with their long ‘dresses’ on it makes me sick to my stomach! How dare they?

    I’m waiting for the day when men like this Senator speak out against irresponsible males who father unwanted pregnancies???If they took precautions this issue would rarely arise! Along with other forms of abuse against women, this is just one more example of men’s poor attitudes to women. I’m heartened by the support on this site!

    @Venise - I agree totally! I totally reject any man standing over women on this issue or any other for that matter!

  • 20
    Roger Clifton
    Posted Wednesday, 6 March 2013 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    @Liz45 - with some friendly technology, perhaps a young man could besport two chips inserted under the skin of his upper arm. There, a woman could check that both the pink and blue chips were present … And his wife might take one out.

  • 21
    Gerry Hatrick, OAP
    Posted Wednesday, 6 March 2013 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    If abortion is murder then oral s-x is cannibalism.

    BRILLIANT

  • 22
    Posted Thursday, 7 March 2013 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    @LIZ: If a Brazilian Cardinal is elected to be pope it will be a disaster. It was a Brazilian Cardinal who explained the Catholic church’s refusal to encourage the use of condoms because the latex had small holes in its webbing-whatever? Which allowed spermatozoa to seep through. In other words, condoms could be used to prevent pregnancy. Shock, horror, dismay!

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