Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men
by Mara Hvistendahl (2011: PublicAffairs/Perseus Book Group, eISBN 978-1-586-48991-5)
What can a pro-choice science journalist do when she sees a Chinese classroom with a surprisingly large proportion of boys? Mara Hvistendahl started asking questions, and she wound up going all over the world to find out why some cultures value one gender over another. Abortion was an inescapable part of her findings.
A culture that prefers one gender over another is, of necessity, not a culture of life. Hvistendahl reports on what she found in South Korea, India, China, and the United States. One troubling observation after another forces author and reader alike to examine how culture influences personal choices, and vice versa. Gender imbalance and the search for the perfect child, including in the United States, leave us with phenomena like sex-trafficking, bride-buying, and “designer babies.”
The author takes note more than once of how abortion “rights” and gender rights are both linked and opposed. “A woman should have the right to terminate a pregnancy, but she should not have the right to shape the individual represented by that pregnancy to her own whims.” [emphasis added] Hvistendahl is candid about her pro-choice beliefs even as she acknowledges the ambivalence caused by the data she discovered.
This is a long book, but it makes for quick reading. It’s written by a woman who is accustomed to writing about scientific topics for mass-circulation publications. She wears her pro-choice preference on her sleeve, but that doesn’t keep her from being taken aback by what she finds around the world. This is an important book not only for the information it provides, but also for the glimpse it gives the reader into the mind and heart of the author. She’s an abortion advocate honest enough to raise an eyebrow at some of the implications of her own beliefs.
From the Huffington Post: Texas state senator Wendy Davis, who will go down in history as the abortion absolutist who filibustered a Texas bill (which passed anyway) limiting post-20-week abortions, is coming to Washington, D.C. next week for a pair of fundraising events. HuffPost lists eight U.S. senators as special guests, including New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen.
Shaheen is up for re-election in 2014.
No one is forcing Shaheen to attend. She is presumably accepting the invitation because she wants to help Davis, who may or may not be running for a higher office. Davis has reportedly received over $1 million in donations already since her filibuster.
At a June 13 press conference. House Minority Leader (and ex-Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was asked a fairly straightforward question: “What is the moral difference between what Dr. Gosnell did to a baby born alive at 23 weeks and aborting her moments before birth?” Her reply, captured by C-SPAN, almost defies belief.
This comes during consideration of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a federal bill to ban late-term abortions. Pro-life activists are not unanimous in their support of the measure, with a valid concern that such bills indirectly make abortion “okay” as long as the victim exhibits no pain response. For the moment, see the bill for what it is meant to be: the Kermit Gosnell Prevention Act. No late-term abortions should mean no “failed” late-term abortions and therefore no infanticide.
So will Pelosi support the bill? No. “It would make it a federal law that there would be no abortion in our country,” she said. That’s false, by the way. Her backup position, recorded by C-SPAN for all the world to hear, is that this is a “sacred” matter that doesn’t belong in “politics.”
Let’s go all the way back to March 22 of this year, the day before the third anniversary of Obamacare. As Speaker of the House in 2010, Pelosi was instrumental in securing the votes that ensured passage. This year, she marked the anniversary with a statement saying in part, “Today, we mark nearly three years since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law – enacting a measure that stays true to our core values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans” [emphasis added]. I’ll take the liberty of believing that Rep. Pelosi holds “core values” to be sacred. Apparently, she thinks some sacred things are worth bringing into the political realm and forming into policy.
It’s possible that Pelosi mentioned her Catholicism as shorthand for “the nature of the fetus is a religious belief for me, so I can’t make policy about it.” That’s the embarrassing outcome when a member of Congress mistakenly believes that the Constitution demands separation of faith from life. Seriously, though, if Pelosi were to recuse herself from every debate and vote that touched on a matter of Catholic belief, she’d only need to spend about ten hours a week in Washington.
What would a First-Amendment-blackout zone look like around the Feminist Health Center in Concord? There’s a petition circulating in town to bar protesters, including those in silent prayer, from getting within 35 feet of .. of what? The doors of “reproductive health centers”? Their clients? Their property lines? Perhaps that’ll be cleared up when the City Council hears the petition. [An earlier version of this post indicated the petition would be heard in July. As of July 3, the petition was not on the Council’s agenda for its July 8 meeting.]
Today, I took a few pictures outside the FHC to get an idea of where a prayer witness would have to go to be more than 35 feet away from FHC property. The first thing I noticed was that there is currently no sidewalk across the street, because of construction on a Main Street building.
With that construction underway and that section of sidewalk currently closed, the nearest open sidewalk across the street from the FHC is in front of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce office. I wonder if the Chamber knows that.
The FHC is on the northwest corner of Main & Thompson streets in Concord, with a sidewalk on two sides of the building. The frontage on Main is 26 of my steps long, which by a very sketchy measurement is about 57 feet wide. The property line on Thompson Street is longer: 80 steps, or about 175 feet, from Main Street to the fence at the back of the parking lot. (This assessor’s map from the City of Concord web site is more accurate than my pace-by-pace estimate.)
Thirty-five feet from that back parking lot, measured along the north side of Thompson Street, would put protesters onto a neighboring driveway. As a practical matter, a 35-foot “buffer” in that direction would put protesters on State Street.
The sidewalk on the other side of Thompson Street would be off-limits. The street is only 10 of my paces wide, or about 21 feet. (At January’s March for Life, walkers were able to use that sidewalk, under the watchful eyes of Concord police and FHC supporters, without incident.)
What about the sidewalk directly in front of the FHC? Today, two pro-lifers were praying quietly, careful to block neither the sidewalk nor the walkway to the FHC’s front door.
To remain on that side of the street, a thirty-five foot zone would force these peaceful protesters either north, putting them in front of a New Hampshire Employment Security office, or south, putting them in front of what appears to be a small apartment building. Here’s the view from the Employment Security office:
An aerial view of the block, with a 35-foot speech-blackout zone superimposed, wouldn’t convey the whole story of what a “buffer” would look like, especially with the ongoing construction across from the Feminist Health Center. Photographs and aerial views also can’t address the underlying question of why there’s an attempt in Concord to interfere with the First Amendment rights of peaceful protesters.
Where is New Hampshire, now that the odious Dr. Gosnell awaits sentencing in Pennsylvania? In the dark, mostly. Legislators can change this, although some mighty citizen action might be needed to get the ball rolling. We don’t know how many women choose abortion in New Hampshire. (The Guttmacher/CDC stats are atrocious substitutes for data, relying as they do on voluntary reporting by a limited number of abortion providers.) We don’t know why they choose abortion. We don’t know how many abortions are “early” or “late-term.” We don’t know what the medical protocols are for born-alive babies after attempted abortion. We have no clue whatsoever what is the rate of post-abortion complications for women. We don’t know who’s doing abortions. There is no restriction on who may perform abortion. (None.) We are assured at public hearings that abortion facilities are “licensed,” whatever that means, without being held to the same standards as any other outpatient-surgery facility.
Ignorance isn’t bliss. It’s negligence on the part of policymakers and public health officials. Time for transparency and serious oversight of the abortion industry. Even a defender of Roe should be able to see that.
Gosnell was operating legally. Don’t overlook that while you’re plowing through the public statements by PP and NARAL since yesterday’s conviction. We can all be appalled about what Gosnell did, and we can all be outraged by the way he and his staff treated women, and we can be outraged by the snipping of born-alive-babies’ necks (although that particular outrage was not expressed universally yesterday). Through it all, remember: he was operating legally, according to the state of Pennsylvania. His butchery was discovered by accident. Despite state policies and abortion regulations, no Pennsylvania official kept Gosnell in line because no Pennsylvania official wanted to look.
What do you want to bet that if Gosnell HAD been inspected, fellow abortion providers would have cried “intimidation!” at the first peep from the inspectors?
And if only Gosnell hadn’t been such a ghoul about keeping babies’ corpses and body parts, he would very likely have escaped prosecution on the premeditated-murder charges. If the only evidence of the murder of children had been testimony by Gosnell’s staff, his attorneys would have had a field day impeaching those witnesses. The attorneys tried that anyway, even with the sickening physical evidence.
Which brings me to the sobering thought: how many children survive attempted abortion and are born alive? We don’t know. What’s the medical protocol for dealing with “the dreaded complication” of a live birth? It may vary from one facility to another. A law on mandatory statistics, even a law with teeth, may be unable to get at that. The medical profession might have too great a stake in Roe to want those children out in the open. In Gosnell’s case, only when outsiders got a look at the corpses did the story come out. That was an off-chance.
I have already seen in some of the Gosnell coverage that some news outlets refer to the dead babies as “fetuses,” despite the fact that they had emerged from the mothers’ bodies. Three convictions for premeditated murder might not settle the issue. This question comes up again and again as I cover the right to life: does getting an abortion entitle a woman to a terminated pregnancy or a dead baby? No, this is not a matter between “a woman, her family, and her doctor,” as the saying goes – at least I don’t think it is. Will an abortion provider even have to note that a baby was born alive, if the mother is undergoing an abortion? Not unless the “protocols” say so. After all, if the fetus isn’t “born,” it’s not a person, and homicide laws would not apply. Was that Gosnell’s rationalization for snipping the infants’ spinal cords?
This wouldn’t be the first time Roe made a hash of science. Still think pregnancy begins at conception? Union of sperm and egg? How very seventies of you. Implantation: that’s the ticket. Presto: “emergency contraception” has been declared non-abortive, along with anything else that inhibits implantation. Justice Blackmun would be proud. He was afraid when he wrote Roe that medical science might declare when life begins, thus undermining the whole “trimester” framework. Not to worry. Medical science has its finger to the political winds.
The “providers” are not likely to come forward about their own acts, if they are “terminating” abortion survivors. It will be left to the witnesses, allied health professionals, to testify to what they see.
Medical protocols will not come to light readily. Ask New Hampshire Right to Life what it takes to get Planned Parenthood of Northern New England to turn over its medical operations manual. (More about that another time.)
Don’t think that serious regulation will come easily. NARAL, PP, and their apologists blame pro-lifers for Gosnell. Seriously. Pennsylvania’s abortion regulations are to blame, they say.
Did a 24-hour waiting period, required under Pennsylvania law, kill Karnamaya Mongar? No. Kermit Gosnell did. The drug overdose that killed her was not forced on her by any 24-hour wait. “Involuntary manslaughter,” said the jury. Her family is taking civil action against Gosnell. Good luck to them.
Did a ban on abortions post-24-weeks “force” women to Gosnell? No. By the way, Gosnell operated with the knowledge of other abortion providers in the area, including PP of Southeastern Pennsylvania. If anyone from that PP office had concerns about Gosnell doing late-term work, she didn’t advise anyone at the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Hmmm.
Did Pennsylvania’s abortion regulations cause all the carnage? No. There is plenty of blame to go around, but not to the people who fought for the regulations, even if they only exist on paper as abortion providers would prefer. Republican former Governor Tom Ridge discontinued regular inspections of abortion facilities. Workers at Gosnell‘s facility kept quiet for years. Medical providers who found themselves taking care of women harmed at the Gosnell facility did not make enough of a fuss for health authorities to take notice.
Gosnell’s crimes did not consist principally in the filth of his office. If he had kept a clean place, the snipped babies would still be dead. We’d just be less likely to know about them. A tidy facility wouldn’t have helped Karnamaya Mongar survive a drug overdose. Declaring Gosnell an outlier, as abortion advocates have done, means nothing if it is only an admonition to maintain good housekeeping.
So much room for improvement, for the women, for their children. Until New Hampshire moves past housekeeping concerns and deals with abortion itself, Gosnell has taught us nothing.