Chinese Demographers Say Sex-Selection Abortion Ban May Not Work

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 7, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Chinese Demographers Say Sex-Selection Abortion Ban May Not Work Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 7, 2005

Beijing, China ( — Chinese officials, last month, announced that they will enforce a long-ignored ban on sex-selection abortions. But, the move has some Chinese demographers up in arms.

Just one day after hitting the 1.3 billion population mark in January, Chinese government officials said they will ban sex-selection abortions in order to curb the growing gender imbalance problem caused by the country’s coercive one-child population control policy.

There are approximately 7 million abortions annually in China and the International Planned Parenthood Federation indicates that more than 70 percent are female unborn children. The female babies are often aborted in the late stages of pregnancy when an ultrasound reveals their gender.

Some demographers say the sex-selection abortion ban will increase the already high number of infanticides as Chinese people, whose culture promotes a preference for boys, kill or abandon newborn girls.

The demographers also say the abortion ban will hurt poor and rural Chinese, who are more likely to have a preference for boys as men are preferred to work farms and carry on the family line.

"There are complex social reasons for the sex ratio to be seriously out of skew," says professor Li Zhu from the Beijing University Medical School. "One cannot simply use the law to resolve it."

Mo Jihuang, from the Legal Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the ban should be just one method of combating the gender imbalance.

"The main things to be tackled, though, are our weak social security system and conservative parental attitudes," Mo told the weekly Southern Weekend.

The gender imbalance has grown since the Asian country introduced the population control policies after a post World War II baby boom.

According to the 2000 census, there were about 117 males to 100 females in China and the latest government statistics show it at 119 to 100. For second births, occasionally allowed in rural areas, the national ratio was about 152 to 100.

China has drawn significant concerns worldwide because of the forced abortions, sterilizations and human rights abuses that population control officials use to enforce the one-child policy.

Some Chinese demographers applaud the population control policy, however, and say it has resulted in preventing an additional 300 million people from being born in the world’s most populated country.

Yet, the 2000 census revealed there were 20% more males than females below the age of five.

China had long discouraged any discussion of the "missing girls" problem until last March, when Communist Party leader Hu Jintao acknowledged the problem and said the sex ratio imbalance will cause social problems if it persists over time.

Chinese demographers have been given the task of correcting the imbalance by 2010, which some say may be impossible.