Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Where are the Girls?: Uncomfortable Facts

Sometimes we need to confront uncomfortable facts in the search for truth. I think that one such uncomfortable fact that progressives need to confront directly and honestly is that a combination of a focus on smaller families in the developing world, access to abortion, increased access to sonogram technology, and a preference for boys, is causing some significant changes in the sex ratios in many countries.

Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D., executive vice president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), has a post on the First Things blog that is well worth reading. I certainly don't agree with all that she says. For example, both she and C-FAM seem to oppose any efforts to increase contraception in the developing world. Nonetheless, she identifies and real issue that all of us--including the pro-choice community, need to confront:

Right now, in almost any corner of the world, a baby girl is being killed just because she is a girl. Her mother may be rich or poor, educated or uneducated. One thing is certain: She is not alone. She is part of a growing global trend of sex selective abortion and infanticide that favors sons and proves deadly for daughters. The practice, once thought to be unique to China and India, is catching on in Central Asia, Latin America, and the rest of the world. In an era when girls can rightly aspire to unprecedented status alongside their brothers, why are more parents choosing not to let them live?

Even the controversial United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which promotes fertility decline and abortion, estimates there are now between 60 million and 100 million “missing girls” worldwide. What is missing from the analysis, however, is acknowledgment that international institutions like UNFPA, created after World War II to foster development, are key drivers of the unfolding tragedy through their promotion of fertility decline as a prerequisite for human development, and fertility control as an international human right.

This fact should give us pause the next time we hear a U.N. official tell us that the advancement of women is a top priority.

Throughout human history, demographers tell us, nature has provided about 105 male births for every 100 females. This “sex ratio at birth”—stable across generations and ethnic boundaries—may range from 103 to as high as 106 boys for every 100 girls. In only one generation, that ratio has come unglued.

A Chinese census reports ratios as high as 120–136 boys born for every 100 girls; in Taiwan, ratios of 119 boys to 100 girls; in Singapore 118 boys per 100 girls; South Korea 112 boys per 100 girls; and in India, where the practice was outlawed in 1994, the ratio continues to exceed 120 boys for every 100 girls in some areas. Countries such as Greece, Luxembourg, El Salvador, the Philippines, Cape Verde, and Egypt, even among some ethnic groups in the United States (Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino), are showing the same deadly discrimination against daughters.

What is the cause of the crisis? Experts point to a recent confluence of four main factors: rising access to sonogram technology, increased access to abortion, a preference for sons, and fertility decline.

. . .

Over the last generation, the world has witnessed a drive toward smaller families, and this is directly related to sex selection. With fewer children, the sex of each child matters more. Analysis by Nicholas Eberstadt shows that, in India, each child after the first is increasingly unwanted, such that, with the second child, the desirability of girls to boys is 16% to 40%. By the fourth pregnancy, a girl’s desirability is a sad 9%, compared with 75% in favor of a boy. With these odds, and with cheap sonogram technology and easy access to abortion, is it any wonder India reports that 300,000 to 500,000 girls go “missing” every year due to infanticide and abortion?

In China, at least half of all second or higher-order female pregnancies are terminated owing to sex. The most recent Chinese census shows a sex ratio of 150 boys for 100 girls in subsequent pregnancies. Hence, the fertility-reduction imperative drives the culling of girls.

Read it all here.

In her essay, she briefly mentions that South Korea is the only country that successfully changed the trend toward preference toward boys, but does not mention how. I suspect that a serious effort to increase the value of women in thees cultures is critical. What else can or should be done?


Phil snyder said...

Abortion on demand almost requires the possibility that women will abort "undesirable" children.

Can you imagine the cry from the homosexual community if the genetic markers for homosexual orientation (assuming they exist) are ever discovered and a simple pre-natal test is developed to determine if a child will be homosexual and then mothers start aborting their children because they do not want to raise homosexual children?

Of course, being pro-life, I believe that abortion for any reason is wrong (when saving the life of the mother or in cases of incest or rape, the abortion may be the least wrong action but it is still wrong), so I have a problem aborting children because of their sex or sexual orientation.

How about you?

Phil Snyder

Chuck Blanchard said...


Thanks for commenting again. As I have said elsewhere on this blog, I believe that abortion is almost always the wrong moral choice (to save the life of the mother would be an exception), so for me as well the moral issue here is very simple--abortion for sex selection is wrong.

But as I have also said on this blog, that does not mean that I beleive that criminalizing abortion is the appropriate public policy approach. Look at my other abortion posts to see why.