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#HeForShe: Gender Equality Begins at Conception

Kate J. Hardiman   l   September 2014

Emma Watson, actress turned activist, passionately advocated in support of feminism in a speech to the United Nations last week. She wisely notes that there is much misleading rhetoric surrounding the feminist movement and as a result “feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, [women’s expression is] seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating and anti-men, unattractive even.”

Watson then affirmed her support for the ability to make choices about one’s own body. In light of a recent study released about sex-selective abortion, Watson has inadvertently provided the pro-life movement with an unparalleled opportunity to reverse the misconceptions surrounding their cause. 

Pro-life supporters are advocates for the unborn, not regulators of the rights of women. Studies across the world show that sex-selective abortions are startlingly common, especially in the Chinese, Korean and Indian cultures. Conceiving a female child has long been stigmatized in these cultures, and the solution to this “problem” has been made very simple by the advent of pre-natal sex screening. 

This fact hits a little closer to home when considering a study of immigrant-born children in the United States. Researchers Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund found that the sex-ratios of Chinese, Korean and Indian parents were normal (about 106 girls for every 100 boys) for their firstborn child. If a family’s first child was female, however, sex ratios for second births favored males. Among parents who had conceived two daughters, the ratio for their third child was 151 boys to 100 girls. 

Sex selection also takes a slightly different form in the United States, given the development of alternative fertilization methods. A 2007 study found that 42 percent of American fertility clinics surveyed had helped patients conceive a boy or a girl by implanting them with the appropriate embryos. Universal acceptance and widespread use of these practices may have drastic impacts across the nation as other countries also develop the requisite technology, especially if sex-selective abortion is acceptable in those areas. 

Women should advocate for their own rights, but also for the rights of their children — both female and male. A movement championing rights of women should also include support for the rights of children, as both fall under the all-encompassing category of human rights. 

Watson states, “My life is a sheer privilege because my parents didn’t love me less because I was born a daughter.” Sex-selective abortion throughout the world is the most direct way of ensuring that female children are never given the chance, as Watson was, to be loved, appreciated or educated. 

Female children should never have to state, as Watson did, that they were simply “one of the lucky ones.”




This article was originally published by Rightly Wired and later picked up by The Observer and The Irish Rover, both of the University of Notre Dame.

about the author

Kate Hardiman serves as a research associate with The Liddell Group.


Hardiman is a well-rounded journalist who has seen her work published by a half-dozen publications, including The HillPoliticsPA, and The College Fix.


Additionally, Hardiman is a Sorin Fellow and a Tocqueville Fellow at the University of Notre Dame.


See full bio here.

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