Thursday, 23 February 2012

Abortion: Sex or Gender?

This is how two news organisations report some allegations this morning:

The Guardian:
Headline: "Sex - selective abortions investigated"
Story begins: "Secret footage shows consultants at British clinics agreeing to abort foetuses because of their gender"

The BBC:
Headline: "Probe into gender abortion claims"
Story begins: " The Department of Health launches an inquiry into claims that doctors agreed to carry out abortions on the grounds of the sex of the unborn babies"

Here are two claims I think worth making:

"Sex" and "Gender" are not synonyms, though in some circles "Gender" is a euphemism for "Sex" (as when I am asked to tick a box to indicate my "Gender")

A foetus or unborn baby [ note how the Guardian uses one expression and the BBC the other] does not have a Gender, or at any rate a known Gender. All that probably comes later. In 99% of cases, though, a foetus or unborn baby has an unambiguous Sex and it is on the basis of that Sex that some people will be seeking abortions.

How we got into this mess of using "Gender "when we mean "Sex" we must leave to the sociologists, though I fear they were the ones who actually got us into this mess.

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