Sex selection abortion is the practice of terminating a pregnancy based upon the predicted sex of the infant. The selective abortion of female fetuses is most common in areas where cultural norms value male children over female children, especially in parts of East Asia and South Asia (particularly in countries such as People’s Republic of China, India and Pakistan), as well as in the Caucasus, and Western Balkans (Wikipedia). It is also practised in the UK and the US. According to reproductive campaigners, there is no evidence that sex selective abortion is a problem in the UK. And there is no data to indicate that it’s been done in the US. However, the procedure is happening in Canada.
It is rarely openly discussed and difficult to prove, but new research suggests that some couples in Canada are practising prenatal sex selection, aborting female fetuses out of a preference for male children. Two related studies, published on Monday in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), found a higher-than-expected ratio of boys to girls born to immigrants from India over the past two decades, which researchers linked to preceding abortions. This gender imbalance was particularly striking among families that already had two daughters.”
Politicians and activists have argued for legal limits on abortion to deter sex-selection. banning the disclosure of the sex of a fetus until 30 weeks, when abortions are performed only in rare circumstances. But such measures are difficult to enforce and, some argue, unjustifiably sweeping, while others note that identifying and targeting specific groups for practising sex selection is discriminatory – The Globe and Mail
Although sex selection abortion is banned in Canada and there are policies against sex-selective abortions and against the use of medical testing solely for identifying a fetus’s sex, there are parents and doctors who argue that expectant parents have the right to know. Shree Mulay, associate dean and professor of community health and humanities at Memorial University of Newfoundland heard accounts from social workers who have had women ask for the sex of their fetuses, only to later learn that they terminated the pregnancy after finding out. Mulay, a specialist in immigrant women’s health suspects that women may not necessarily be the ones seeking sex-selective abortion, but may be acting under family pressure. The responsibility of taking care of elderly parents fell on the son.
Not everyone is opposed to sex selective abortion. Professor Wendy Savage, a member of Senior doctors’ union believes that sex selection abortions should be allowed at any stage, citing that it’s a woman’s right to decide because she’s the one taking the risks. She believes that forcing women to give birth to a child of a sex they do not want to have “is not going to be good for the eventual child, and it’s not going to be good for [the mother’s] mental health.”
“As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter why any woman wants to end her pregnancy. If it’s to select for sex, that’s her choice. But what about when a pregnant woman lives in a society that gives her real and considerable reason to fear having a girl? The kind of society where dowry systems mean an inconveniently gendered child could bankrupt a family, or one where a livid patriarch deprived of a male heir could turn his fury on both mother and daughter? In those situations, a woman wouldn’t just be justified in seeking sex selective abortion; she’d be thoroughly rational to do so. Ultimately, if you believe strongly that girls have as much right to be born as boys, then you should also believe that women have the right to decide what happens within the bounds of their own bodies” (Sarah Dunn, Opinion, The Guardian).
The problem with sex selective abortions is that there will be an access of the preferred gender as in the evidence which found that there was an unnatural excess of boys in 12 countries since the 1970s, when sex-selective abortions started becoming available. Girls who can be of great value to society are being aborted. What can be done about this? According to Shree Mulay, “…traditions have to be challenged.” She also iterated that to be effective, efforts to change attitudes that favour sons over daughters must come from within the immigrant groups themselves.
Amrita Mishra, project director of the Indo-Canadian Women’s Association in Edmonton, believes major factor in this issue are the existing legal loopholes which allow anyone to use abortion for infant sex selection. “I see Canada as enabling as such practices. And I refuse to have this turn into an Indian issue that’s been imported like vegetables or fruit into Canada.” She is of the opinion that a law against sex-selective abortion would send a powerful message to anyone considering the practice.
In China, there are new rules to prevent sex selective abortions. However, there is concern among citizens and activists over state control and women’s rights. According to the Globe and Mail article, “the Jiangxi province issued guidelines last week stipulating that women more than 14 weeks pregnant must have signed approval from three medical professionals confirming an abortion is medically necessary before any procedure. The measures are meant to help prevent sex-selective abortions, which are illegal in China. The sex of a child is often discernible after 14 weeks.” However, this raises fears that the woman’s womb will be monitored, that the reproductive rights of a woman in the country are taken for a joke and that their reproductive functions are tightly controlled by the state.
Lu Pin, founder of Feminist Voices, a blog on gender issues said that people were worried that “the government will go from lifting restrictions, to encouraging reproduction, to imposing restrictions on abortion and restricting people’s own decisions.” She also stated that many Chinese women, who had chosen not to have a second child despite the new policies, were fearful that strict social policies will be introduced.
The crack down on sex selective abortions in the various provinces in China is as a result the number of abortions of female fetuses which resulted in massive gender imbalance of 30 million more men than women. More provinces will follow Jiangxi’s lead in imposing restrictions on abortions after 14 weeks. However, despite the concerns of some over these provincial changes, Cai Yong, an associate professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, doubts that China would go as far as barring abortions to encourage women to have more children. “Certainly China is capable and has a history of doing that kind of thing but whether it will go all the way to ban abortion … I think that’s a little too far.”
Sex selective abortion is wrong and should be banned or criminalized. Girls should be celebrated as well as boys. If you feel the same way I do, The Population Research Institute encourages you to:
- Join the domestic and international effort to ban sex-selective abortion in your country and around the world.
- Contact your representatives and tell them to support H.R. 3541, the Pre-Natal Non-Discrimination Act.
- Raise awareness in your community about sex selective abortion
- Support their efforts against this expanding problem
- Learn more by:
- Watching PRI’s video coverage: Steve Mosher’s Congressional testimony for the Pre-Natal Non-Discrimination Act, Primer on sex-selective abortion
- Reading PRI’s articles about sex selective abortion: Britain’s Problem With Sex Selective Abortions, Ban Sex Selective Abortions in the U.S., A New Front in the Abortion Wars, Sex-Selective Abortion Comes to America, Let Us Ban Sex-Selective Abortion.
- Reading more media coverage: Gendercide (The Economist), Gendercide: The War Feminists Seemingly Refuse to Fight (Heritage Foundation)
Take action against the sex selective abortion. Life is precious, regardless of gender.