Reporter's Notebook

When Does Abortion Become Eugenics?
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Readers discuss the ethics of choosing to abort a fetus based on sex, race, disability, and, perhaps in the future, sexual orientation. To join the debate or share your own experience, email (For a broader series of reader stories on abortion, go here.)

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The Gendercide Crisis in Asia

A reader, Ilya, has this takeaway from our debate over sex-selective abortion:

I lean pro-choice, but I doff my hat to the pro-life camp for this deft maneuver. They have demonstrated that it is logically impossible to be both “pro-choice” and “anti-discrimination.” Why is this the case? Because “choice” and “discrimination” are the same thing.

But pro-life advocates are also put in a difficult spot, as Noah Berlatsky explains in a 2013 Atlantic post about a new documentary, It’s a Girl, which investigated the high rates of sex-selective abortion and infanticide in China and India. The film’s trailer presents a shocking finding: that those two countries “eliminate more girls [every year] than the number of girls born in America every year”:

Here’s Berlatsky:

In the film, Dr. Puneet Bedi argues that ultrasound and abortion has increased the ease of gendercide for wealthier people, and so has created unprecedented gender imbalances (140 boys to 100 girls, according to the film). Other sources, though, dispute that technology has made that much of a difference, arguing that before abortion, infanticide was simply more widespread. Either way, though, the point remains that the root of the problem is clearly not abortion per se, but widespread sexism and sexual violence—which puts pro-lifers, with their often explicitly anti-feminist rhetoric, in an awkward position.

A reader today makes a similar point:

This reader’s story involves a genetic abnormality that is very similar to Down Syndrome, in the sense that both conditions are rarely fatal these days and often lead to long productive lives. But sometimes, as in this reader’s case, the diagnosis is much more dire and the uncertainty is agonizing:

I met my husband when I was 33, we married five years later and immediately after started to try to have a baby, knowing that my age meant it might not be easy and that we were at higher risk for our pregnancy to be affected by Down Syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities. After a few months, we found I was pregnant. I scheduled an appointment for prenatal genetic testing in my first trimester.  

That testing started with an ultrasound. I knew immediately that there was something wrong by how the tech behaved.