Pill popping for a baby boy
I'm pretty clear on where babies come from.
I've had a couple. My parents were very open about "the birds and the bees." And I was schooled in the era of "Guidance" class, where we watched episodes of Degrassi and could scribble questions on little pieces of paper.
In other words, I've had every reason to know exactly how one conceives a boy or a girl, and to take for granted that women around me also know that when sperm meets egg, it's already written in stone. Or at least in chromosomes.
I suppose that's why Raveena Aulakh's series came as a bit of a surprise to some among my Twitter following. It's about the sham salesman shilling fake pills that promise expectant Punjabi moms that their babies will be boys.
Most of us have some notion of the kind of pressure women from such paternalistic cultures are under to give birth to boys. (Don't all of us know someone who has adopted a baby girl from China?) But it's another thing altogether to be confronted with the picture this series paints.
Right here in the GTA, a man will meet an expectant mom outside his newspaper office with a bogus promise of an 85 per cent chance of having a boy and a plastic baggie of unlabelled pills, for which she will part with $750.
Today's story explains Health Canada's response to the Star investigation: There are no approved drugs that influence gender in pregnancy, and no pregnant woman should take medication without consulting a family physician.
The initial story, Desperate Mothers, also touched on the issue of using information gleaned through ultrasound to selectively abort fetuses of non-desired gender.
Some have voiced concern that this sort of story gives fuel to pro-lifers, who'll somehow pile it up in a case against both abortion and routine ultrasound, and imperil the health and choices of women everywhere.
I think the plight of these women - some who are far from their own families and treated in a threatening manner by in-laws - is important enough not to care if it gives a few nutbar anti-choicers a little more to yell about.
It may take generations more to see South Asian bias against girls diminish, and none of us outside that world can claim to have the answer. But meanwhile, let's not assume these women have all the information they need to protect themselves from snake-oil salesmen, or abusive partners and in-laws. Let's let their story be as important as the one about vital access to safe abortion.
One doesn't preclude the other.