False Framings: The Co-Opting of Sex-Selection by the Anti-Abortion Movement (Commentary for Abortion and Assisted Reproduction Workshop, Yale University)
5 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2015 Last revised: 1 Aug 2015
Date Written: June 13, 2015
The co-opting of woman-protective framings in the sex-selective abortion discourse has been both very disingenuous and very effective in convincing lawmakers to propose legislation restricting abortion rights for women in many states. What is particularly worrisome about this is that the success has been based on racially charged misconceptions and pseudo-science. Woman-protective framings in the right context are absolutely appropriate. For example, some sources predict that there will be a surplus of fifteen to twenty percent more men in northwestern India by 2020 than women. In such a context, Indian feminists are correct to suggest that this disparity harms women and that female fetuses are being harmed. Thus, although women-protective arguments are persuasive, when they are based on false data and racial stereotypes, they need to be refuted passionately so that the truth behind these arguments is revealed and laws based on half-truths are not enacted.
What is infuriating about the sex-selection ban movement is that the proponents of the ban act as though the primary purpose of the “laws banning sex-selective abortion in the United States is to prevent gender- based discrimination.” This “women protective” notion is a powerful meme. It is also more politically palatable than revealing that the reason for banning sex-selective abortions is the underlying motivation to restrict access to abortion in general. “Save the girls” is a compelling narrative, and proposed bans on sex-selective abortion have tried to take the focus away from abortion and focus on saving women. For example, West Virginia’s proposed ban was entitled the “Women’s Access to Health Care Act.” However, the bans are all proposed and supported by people who oppose abortion generally,” and “politicians who sponsor sex-selective abortion bans are at the forefront of the movement to make abortion illegal.” Pro-choice advocates need to use data, such as that contained in the recent comprehensive report by University of Chicago researchers entitled, “Replacing Myths with Facts: Sex-Selective Abortion Laws in the United States”, to counter these framings and to reveal the real purpose behind these proposed bans. Co-opting sympathetic pro-woman messaging based on false premises harms women and should not stand unanswered.
Keywords: Sex Selection, Abortion, Framing
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