I was approached by the office of Congressman Trent Franks over the weekend to discuss whether I could be any assistance to them in introducing a bill in attempts to eliminate sex-selective abortions in USA. We've discussed earlier on this blog that the problem of female foeticide persists in South Asian groups in countries like USA, Canada and UK as well
. I spoke to the lady (a very nice sounding lady in fact), who had contacted me from the Congressman's office, on phone today. The bill that the Republican Congressman Trent Franks is looking into introducing is a pre-natal non-discrimination bill that will legislate banning of sex-selective abortions in the United States with a penalty of upto 5 years in prison for doctors conducting them. I was kindly offered to be hosted in Washington to present this bill alongwith the Congressman's staff to the Democrats and win their approval. Later on, I could also be a part of a Press Conference happening in Capitol Hill on September 17 regarding this bill. All of it sounded great and exciting but, unfortunately, I had to say no.
The reasons for my refusal to the nice lady on the phone were:
1. Banning the sex-selective abortions is not a solution
First of all, there is no way of proving that the abortion being conducted is a sex-selective one unless the woman getting it done says it herself. In almost all of the cases where sex selective abortions are happening and will happen, women will not reveal any such details to their doctors especially when they know the act is illegal. Currently, in USA, a woman does not need to cite a reason for abortion or go to court until she has to go through a Partial Birth Abortion
as it was banned under the Bush administration. However, if sex-selective abortions are banned, many genuine cases where mothers want to abort due to reasons other than gender discriminations would unnecessarily be hassled with the ban. Also, ban is never an answer to any problem. There are always illegal and UNSAFE ways of getting things done like coat-hanger abortions
if legal bans are put in place.
2. Chances of prejudice against women of South Asian descent will increase
Studies have shown and it is a widely known fact that it is mostly South Asian women who are practicing sex-selective abortions. That is the bias this bill will be introduced with if it goes on floor. Now, let's imagine that this bill actually passes and becomes a law, it will significantly raise the chances of South Asian women being refused the right to abortion even if their reason to abort is other than sexual-discrimination solely on the suspicion that their reason MIGHT be sex-discrimination and that the doctor might get in trouble. You see how this bill could, in fact, be detrimental to the group that it is intending to help on surface? South Asian women's choice of abortion would/could be curbed just because they belong to a group that practices female foeticide.
3. Congressman Trent Franks is staunchly a pro-liferTrent was also the prime sponsor of one of the first pro-life bill in the nation designed to overturn Roe vs. Wade (described below), which passed in the Legislature
. Need I say more? I cannot support him. I am not pro-life (as it is defined) by any means and neither would I ever stand behind anyone who has been so strongly pro-life in his past years. My principles don't allow me.
(For those who don't know, the central holding of Roe v. Wade (1973) was that abortions are permissible for any reason a woman chooses, up until the "point at which the fetus becomes ‘viable,’ that is, potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid. Viability is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks
(although this has been altered by the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act mentioned above, courtesy President Bush)).What should be done?
I've often asked this question on this blog. What do you think should be done? Should laws
be legislated? If yes, then what? Where should we start? What solutions
do you have to offer?
After much contemplation, the only approach I can see as viable at this point is the three-pronged approach of legislation, education, and empowerment. It is as follows:
Legislate an environment that is safe for women to come out with the truth if they are being pressured in any manner to abort their child. A woman should not have to face the risk of being killed if she told anyone the truth or didn't abort her girlchild. Neither should she be made to suffer by her family if she chooses to not abort and give birth to her daughters. Instead, she should be given the tool to implicate anyone forcing her to abort against her own wishes and provided with a strong support system to help her adjust with the choices she had to make (especially in the Indian/South Asian societal fabric). It's understandeable that this law might be misused just like the 498a
but it could help a great deal more than banning abortions altogether.
By education, I mean awareness through workshops, seminars, discussion groups at universities, at big companies, local community centers, media etc. Make people aware of the problem that's existing, its consequences and implications for the future, the remedial measures, and confidence in the merits of a girl child.
3. Empowerment of women
This involves keeping tabs on the status of women in society through indicators such as: female foeticide, sex ratios, domestic abuse, dowry related abuse, literacy rate, mortality rate, occupational standing, economic or financial contribution etc. Keeping these indicators in mind, campaigns should be designed to promote awareness about issues affecting women the worst. Media should be involved to communicate the seriousness of the aforementioned issues to the society. Legislations that are in place to look after the needs of affected women must be adhered to. There must be more avenues where women can seek help when needed. There should be telephone helplines affordable by even the poorest women. Effective complaint registration and immediate follow-up is a must. Anonymity, when requested, must be respected.
Read more Potential Solutions Here
What do you think?
Labels: Laws, Open discussions, Progress towards solutions, Solutions