We have known for some decades now that in a number of countries, notably China and India, sex-selection abortions have been taking place at an alarming rate, with worrying trends in gender imbalance as a result. Perhaps most cultures throughout human history have had a preferences for boys, but with new technologies, we are now seeing some radical demographic swings.
In the past people simply had to wait until a baby was born to determine what the child’s sex was. If the “wrong” gender occurred, a baby was often simply dumped. This was a common practice in many places throughout history. But new breakthroughs in medical and biotechnology mean we can now readily determine a baby’s sex in utero.
Unfortunately we have enough bad reasons to abort a baby – indeed, all reasons are bad. But now we can add an un-preferred gender as another reason to kill the unborn. It may not be exactly the same as allowing a newborn to die of exposure, but the end result is just the same.
Writing in a recent issue of The New Atlantis, American demographics expert Nicholas Eberstadt had a very chilling tale to tell about where this is all headed. In “The Global War Against Baby Girls,” he tells of how almost overwhelmingly, sex-selection abortions are done on females, not males.
His article begins as follows: “Over the past three decades the world has come to witness an ominous and entirely new form of gender discrimination: sex-selective feticide, implemented through the practice of surgical abortion with the assistance of information gained through prenatal gender determination technology. All around the world, the victims of this new practice are overwhelmingly female — in fact, almost universally female.
“The practice has become so ruthlessly routine in many contemporary societies that it has impacted their very population structures, warping the balance between male and female births and consequently skewing the sex ratios for the rising generation toward a biologically unnatural excess of males. This still-growing international predilection for sex-selective abortion is by now evident in the demographic contours of dozens of countries around the globe — and it is sufficiently severe that it has come to alter the overall sex ratio at birth of the entire planet, resulting in millions upon millions of new ‘missing baby girls’ each year. In terms of its sheer toll in human numbers, sex-selective abortion has assumed a scale tantamount to a global war against baby girls.”
He examines in detail these practices in China, India and elsewhere. He continues, “Sex-selective abortion is by now so widespread and so frequent that it has come to distort the population composition of the entire human species: this new and medicalized war against baby girls is indeed truly global in scale and scope. Estimates by the United Nations Population Division (UNPD) and the U.S. Census Bureau’s International Programs Center (IPC) — the two major organizations charged with tracking and projecting global population trends — make the point.
“According to estimates based on IPC data, a total of 21 countries or territories (including a number of European and Pacific Island areas) had SRBs [sex ratio at birth] of 107 or higher in the year 2010; the total population of the regions beset by unnaturally high SRBs amounted to 2.7 billion, or about 40 percent of the world’s total population.”
The social implications of all this are of course enormous: “The consequences of medically abetted mass feticide are far-reaching and manifestly adverse. In populations with unnaturally skewed SRBs, the very fact that many thousands — or in some cases, millions — of prospective girls and young women have been deliberately eliminated simply because they would have been female establishes a new social reality that inescapably colors the whole realm of human relationships, redefining the role of women as the disfavored sex in nakedly utilitarian terms, and indeed signaling that their very existence is now conditional and contingent.
“Moreover, enduring and extreme SRB imbalances set the demographic stage for an incipient ‘marriage squeeze’ in affected populations, with notably reduced pools of potential future brides. China’s persistently elevated SRBs, for example, stand to transform it from a country where as of 2000 nearly all males (about 96 percent) had been married by their early 40s to one in which nearly a quarter (23 percent) are projected to be never married as of 2040, less than 30 years from now….
“Finally, there is the speculative question of the social impact of a sudden addition of a large cohort of young “excess males” to populations with sustained extreme SRBs: depending on a given country’s cultural and institutional capabilities for coping with this challenge, such trends could quite conceivably lead to increased crime, violence, and social tensions — or possibly even a greater proclivity for social instability.”
One recent bit of commentary on this by Ken Connor offers some hard home truths: “When feminists talk about abortion, they do so in terms of women’s rights. Legalized abortion empowers women, they assert, because it puts them in control over their bodies; it gives them the choice whether or not to bear a child who has been conceived. What these proponents of ‘liberty’ fail to consider, however, is that in many cases women are ‘choosing’ abortion at the behest of someone else. Cultural pressures, fear of retaliation, and other factors are driving them to end the lives of their unborn children because daughters are deemed undesirable. Thus, abortion is being used as an instrument of oppression against females, not as a tool of liberation.
“No doubt abortion advocates would argue that it is not abortion that is at fault here, but backward cultures that are misusing the tools of liberty in order to further their misogynistic agendas. Third world abortion might be an abusive, repugnant phenomenon, but that says nothing about its use in the western world. Such logic is nothing short of delusional. When it comes to questions of life and death, there is little gray area. You are either an advocate of life, a supporter of inherent human dignity, or you aren’t. You can’t justify the killing of the unborn in the name ‘choice’ and then complain when others exercise that choice in ways you find objectionable.
“So this leaves the feminists of the west in somewhat of a pickle. What will they make of these new demographic trends? Will they stick to their guns and defend the use of abortion even as a tool of gender-based infanticide? Will they attempt to somehow construct a ‘morality of abortion’ in which only certain motivations for the procedure are deemed justifiable? Will they evade the issue altogether?
“For the sake of millions of unborn women around the world, here’s hoping this trend puts some pressure on the pro-abortion movement to reconsider the implications of their inhuman and inhumane conception of human ‘rights’.”
Yes quite so. The brave new world we live in today keeps getting braver – and scarier. And all sorts of people are paying a heavy price for it.
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You’re currently reading “Sex-Selection Abortion”, an entry on CultureWatch
- 28.3.12 / 10pm
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- Abortion, Article Reviews, Asia, Bioethics, Culture Wars, Population Issues, Social Issues
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