China Gender Imbalance Problem Growing as Sex-Selection Abortions Continue

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 17, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

China Gender Imbalance Problem Growing as Sex-Selection Abortions Continue Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 17, 2006

Beijing, China ( — The gender imbalance problem in China is growing as laws meant to crack down on sex-selection abortions are minimally enforced. As a result men outnumber women in great numbers, infanticide continues, and some girls luck enough to be born are sold into marriage.

The latest Chinese census shows 120 men for every 100 women in the Asian nation, up from 117 per 100 in the 2000 census.

The gender imbalance has grown since the country introduced the population control policies after a post World War II baby boom. The program forced Chinese couples to have only one child and women getting pregnant a second time are often forced to have abortions, fined, imprisoned and they and their husbands and families face significant persecution.

Because of the policy and the traditional preference for sons, girl unborn children are routinely aborted or killed via infanticide. The Chinese government cracked down on the abortions by prohibiting doctors from using ultrasounds to tell a couple the sex of their baby.

Ironically, population control officials send portable ultrasound machines to hundreds of cities across the nation in the early 1980s to make sure women who were required to wear a birth control device kept it in. The machines were later used to determine the sex of a baby for an abortion.

But Chinese couples determined to have a son easily get around the new laws as a black market has sprung up of people with ultrasound machines in the trunks of cars or house closets are willing to divulge the sex of an unborn baby for a price.

Zhao Baige, vice minister of the Family Planning Commission, admitted to CBS News, "We need a more enforcement."

CBS News reporter Leslie Stahl responded by asking Zhao about abortion.

"Well, one of the ways that this imbalance came about is through abortion. Millions and millions and millions of abortions. Why didn’t the government clamp down on that?" Stahl asked.

"Let me go to another point," the vice minister replied.

Her "other point" was that abortions in China are on the decline. Yet they are still free and legal through all nine months of pregnancy.

The gender imbalance problem is particularly severe for younger Chinese.

A CBS News report found a high school in Linchuan, a small village in Jiangxi province in southern China where the problem was especially acute. There are 150 boys for every 100 girls in the school.

The one-child policy is 25 years old and a first generation of Chinese men are looking to marry, but they’re finding it difficult to find women. CBS News interviewed a group of Chinese workers who indicated that poor men have an especially difficult time finding women to date.

To combat the problem, some Chinese are selling their girl babies to those seeking girls for their sons. Chinese officials have uncovered massive baby-selling schemes including finding newborns in bags in the back of trucks and on buses on their way to be sold.

Some poor parents of unwanted newborn girls sell their babies for a little as $8.

Older girls are also being kidnapped and taken to remote parts of the country to be forced into marriage.

The problem is also exacerbated by foreign adoptions. Most couples from the United States, Australia and England who are adopting babies are, in almost all cases, adopting girls. Some records show as many as 12,000 Chinese infants are adopted annually, most of them girls.

Analysts interviewed by CBS News say the gender imbalance issues will likely never be resolved until the one-child population control policy is lifted, but Chinese population control officials say that’s not likely to happen any time soon.