The bitter irony of sex-selective abortionCOLLEEN CARROLL CAMPBELL
Missouri state Treasurer Sarah Steelman recently earned the opprobrium of abortion-rights advocates by calling for a ban on sex-selective abortions.
Critics have derided this as an attempt by the Republican gubernatorial candidate to pander to pro-lifers. But a quick glance at international statistics suggests that sex-selective abortion is no dystopian fantasy. It is a chilling reality throughout the world and in our own backyard.
Consider the situation in India. The British medical journal The Lancet recently estimated that as many as half a million female fetuses are aborted there each year because of their gender. Since the mid-1980s, when ultrasound technology began allowing parents to learn the sex of their children before birth, the number of Indian girls per 1,000 boys has declined from 962 in 1981 to 927 in 2001.
The disparity is even more pronounced in India's wealthier urban areas, where greater a
ess to technology and a government-backed emphasis on small families have combined with age-old bias toward boys to make the womb a disproportionately dangerous place for girls. The ratio of girls per 1,000 boys in these areas hovers around the 700s and 800s, with as few as 300 girls per 1,000 boys in some high-caste urban areas of Punjab.
As investigative journalist Gita Aravamudan argues in her 2007 book, Disappearing Daughters: The Tragedy of Female Feticide, "Female infanticide is akin to serial killing. But female feticide is more like a holocaust. A whole gender is getting exterminated."
The problem extends beyond India. A recent United Nations Population Fund report says at least 60 million girls are "missing" in Asia because of sex-selective abortion, infanticide and neglect. The most egregious example is China, where a brutally enforced one-child policy has produced a national ratio of 117 boys born for every 100 girls, with some provinces posting ratios of more than 130 boys per 100 girls.
Demographers predict a shortage of some 30 million Chinese women by 2020, which they fear will contribute to early, coerced marriages of young girls, increased violence against women and more exploitation of women and girls through the region's already burgeoning sex trade.
Most Americans rightly recoil from sex-selective abortion, but it is neither illegal nor unheard of here. Lax abortion laws and technological access make it easier than ever for parents to target and delete unwanted daughters or sons before birth.
A new study suggests that female feticide may be disturbingly common in some American communities. In an analysis of 2000 Census data published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Columbia University economists Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund examined the sex ratio of births among U.S.-born children of Chinese, Korean and Asian-Indian parents. They found "evidence of sex selection, most likely at the prenatal stage."
The sex of a firstborn child in these families conformed to the natural pattern of 1.05 boys to every girl, a pattern that continued for other children when the firstborn was a boy. But if the firstborn child was a girl, the likelihood of a boy coming next was considerably higher than normal at 1.17-to-1. After two girls, the probability of a boy's birth rose to a decidedly unnatural 1.51-to-1.
The study does not mean that most Asian-Americans practice sex selection, of course. What the numbers do suggest is that this ultimate form of misogyny can happen in any culture that fails to defend the intrinsic dignity of every human life.
Sadly, most American feminist leaders have remained silent in the face of this modern atrocity. Their refusal to brook any limits on abortion rights has led to one of the bitterest ironies of our post-feminist age: that the abortion license touted as the key to liberating future generations of women would become the preferred means of eradicating them.
Colleen Carroll Campbell. "The bitter irony of sex-selective abortion." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. (May 29, 2008).
Reprinted with permission of the author, Colleen Carroll Campbell.
Colleen Carroll Campbell is an author, television and radio host and St. Louis-based fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. She is the author of The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy. Colleen Carroll Campbell writes for a wide variety of national publications, speaks to audiences across America, and hosts her own television show, "Faith & Culture," on EWTN, the world's largest religious media network. Her website is here.
Copyright © 2008 Colleen Carroll Campbell
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