Sex-Selection Abortion in India: War Against the Unwanted

Opinion   |   La Shawn Barber   |   Jan 9, 2012   |   2:24PM   |   Washington, DC

On Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog, BreakPoint editor Gina Dalfonzo wrote a post about girls in India participating in a ceremony to rid themselves of names that mean “unwanted” in Hindi.

As families in India and other countries prefer boys over girls and abort female fetuses at high rates, the sex ratios are skewed. According to Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, by Mara Hvistendahl, India’s ratio is 112 boys born for every 100 girls. In China, the ratio is 121:100. And as the Her.meneutics story demonstrated, the girls who manage to live are made to feel rejected.

Gina writes:

When it comes to making children feel unwanted, though, India’s not the only country with a problem. The United States may not have as high a rate of sex-selection abortion, but unfortunately, we’ve been all too willing to fall for the lie that a child’s value is based solely on whether he or she is “wanted.” Who could forget former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders’s desire, expressed in a magazine interview, that “every child born in America” be “a planned, wanted child,” as a way to cut the rates of crime and poverty? Her interviewer clearly understood this as a reference to abortion, as her very next question concerned abortion laws.

Sex-selective abortion might not be widespread in the United States, as Gina notes, but lawmakers are attempting to pre-empt a crisis and prevent the U.S. from becoming a sort of sex-selection tourism spot for women around the world seeking to abort female fetuses. Congressman Trent Franks re-introduced the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act(PRENDA), a measure that would bar an abortionist from killing an unborn baby based on race or sex. The abortionist would face fines and up to five years in prison, but the woman would be exempted from prosecution.

Opponents of the bill call the problem non-existent in the United States, and in a letter to Congress, Planned Parenthood and other groups claim that the measure would “further isolate and stigmatize some women — particularly those in the Asian American and Pacific Islander and African American communities — from exercising their fundamental human right to make and implement decisions about their reproductive lives.”

The natural sex ratio is 105 boys born for every 100 girls. As men take more risks and die earlier than women, the ratio seems to be nature’s way of balancing the sexes.

The intended consequence of killing so many unborn girls is that families who want boys will have boys. The unintended consequences are an abundance of boys who’ll have fewer mates from which to choose. Individuals don’t seem to consider the impact their choices will have on society.

While living in a country with more men than women might sound like a female paradise (a wider pool of potential mates, higher value placed on women, etc.), women in countries like China don’t have the kind of freedom American women enjoy, and they’re ripe for exploitation. When there aren’t enough women around to marry, bad things are bound to happen.

In her book, Mara Hvistendahl notes that some families sell their daughters in marriage to men they don’t love and/or who treat them poorly. Traffickers kidnap women and girls to sell in marriage or to brothels, where they’re forced to have sex with multiple men a day. This sort of “value,” specifically the selling of scarce daughters in marriage, provides a perverse incentive for families to protect those female fetuses after all.

Families in countries like India and China who abort female fetuses tend to consider daughters liabilities, whereas sons are considered assets. Ironically, as women abort undesirable daughters, they’ve made life more difficult for desirable sons. Fewer girls in these countries result in fewer available wives and potential mothers to beget the next generation.

At the very least, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act humanizes the unborn baby. Thus, such measures present a dilemma for pro-choicers who support them. If unborn babies have a right to protection against race- or sex-based discrimination, don’t they have a right to live?

Pro-lifers, on the other hand, believe in the value of unborn life, and that these tiny, helpless human beings are worthy of our protection. Small gestures like India’s renaming ceremony and bills like PRENDA might go a long way in changing the hearts and minds of abortion-minded families.

LifeNews Note: La Shawn Barber is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Christian Research Journal, Christianity Today, Washington Examiner, and other publications. Visit her blog at This article originally appeared at BreakPoint.