India Aborting Girls At Full Speed: Sex Selection And Demographics

Science is great. It—“it” is always an it, an invisible entity, a guiding sapience, an intelligence that can be looked to for guidance—can now us tell the sex of a fetus before that fetus pops outside its mother and becomes a child. This is good news for those who support a woman’s right to choose to kill her fetus because she doesn’t want to inconvenienced with a girl child. Pink or Blue?

Fetal sex-identification technology has been fully embraced by Indian women, who have been choosing to abort female fetuses at a rate much larger than they kill off male fetuses. Result: a surfeit of male children.

So reports a new study in the Lancet: “Trends in selective abortions of girls in India” by Jha et al. The main finding is that “Selective abortions of girls totalled about 4.2—12.1 million from 1980—2010, with a greater rate of increase in the 1990s than in the 2000s.”

Note that there was still an increase in girls being aborted, or there was no change, in the 2000s. The rate of increase slowed, but not the mismatched abortion rate. This reinforces work the same authors did earlier.

Somewhat frighteningly, the authors write, “After adjusting for excess mortality rates in girls, our estimates of number of selective abortions of girls rose from 0—2.0 million in the 1980s, to 1.2—4.1 million in the 1990s, and to 3.1—6·0 million in the 2000s.” Even after girls make it past the womb—a dangerous place—they are still dying at rates faster than males. It doesn’t pay to be female in India!

The authors find in particular that abortion of girls happens much more often after the mother has already had a girl baby. They surmise that, not wanting a second girl, the mothers fumigate their wombs to make space for a boy. Whether or not that is true, the sex difference is there and undisputed.

According to a news report on the study, “Declines were much greater in mothers who had gone to school for at least ten years than in mothers with no education at all. The same trend held true for wealthier households compared to poorer ones.”

Poverty and ignorance, then, aren’t driving sex selection. Desire for boys is.

The same thing is happening in China, and has been for some time, due to that country’s enlightened “one-child” policy, based on the faulty neo-Malthusian logic that, if left to themselves, humans will out-breed their food supply.

This is, as has been pointed out many times, physically impossible. A female cannot become pregnant and give birth if she is starving.

In any case, the sex imbalance exists in China and India. The kicker is that selective abortion is illegal in India and China (and Taiwan). It is against the law. It is not allowed. It is verboten. Doctors who perform the operations are arrested, shamed, and jailed.

Yet, somehow, it still happens.

It happens in these United States, too. But the trends, as many social trends are here, are different depending on racial group. Whites tend to abort based on the egalitarian principle, other races eliminate girls preferentially.

The good news is that abortion for sex selection is legal in the USA.

Lost in this story is what sex selection means for larger demographic trends. The so-called replacement rate is 2.1 (live) births per mother. It’s not exactly 2, because a live birth does not always mean the child makes it to reproductive age, not all who survive actually breed, while some moms have many children, and so on. The 2.1 is an average.

Suppose we take the average in India and discover it is close to 2.1 (it is actually 2.6). You might first assume all is well, as far as the population being able to replace itself. But the official 2.1 assumes the sex ratios are not manipulated artificially. If it is manipulated in favor of boys, women need to have more children to keep the population at current levels.

Why? Consider that if all women, through the miracle of abortion, have boys, then of course the population dies in a generation. Thus, the more the sex imbalance favors boys, the faster the population will dwindle.

This isn’t the case if the sex imbalance favors girls: that is, if boys are aborted faster than girls. This is because, as Arnold Schwarzenegger can tell you, one man can impregnate many more than one female. But a female can only have one kid at a time, no matter how many men she “dates.”

Progressives are in a tricky political situation. They desire legal abortion, but they also favor women’s rights and hate seeing more men than necessary. Making sex selection illegal doesn’t work; and, anyway, it’s the woman’s body and who are we to say what she can do with her fetus? On the other hand, progressives don’t like population (a.k.a. people), and sex selection reduces the population and favors the environment. Not an enviable position to be in.

16 Comments

  1. In the same way that making sex selection illegal doesn’t work, making abortion itself illegal won’t work. The situation is tricky regardless if you are progressive or conservative.

  2. If there is one thing in this world that progressives can’t stand, it’s population. A close second is seeing more men than necessary 😀

  3. What is it about the “law of unintended consequences” that humans don’t understand? Does anyone seriously think it will be a good thing when the world becomes highly saturated with repressed Testosterone? It should not be pretty.

    And the irony is in the animal realm groups of pubescent females usually are valued more than a similar number of males.

  4. All those males in China that will not be able to find a mate are going to create a lot of political unrest.

  5. MiMo,

    True, except that if abortions were outlawed, the number of them would drop precipitously, making trivial the effect of sex selection in the remaining (illegal) abortions.

    Ray,

    Either that, or the sales of video games will increase dramatically.

  6. While it may be impossible to “outbreed the food supply,” no one knows what the food supply is going to look like 5, 10, or 20 years from now, or how much it will cost for the average citizen in countries around the world to purchase food… and it’s easier to feed one person than it is to feed two.

  7. Tom M,

    True again, but if the last century is any guide, on average food will continue growing in abundance and dropping in price. On average, mind.

  8. Briggs, consider a new category for filing–and file this & similar stories under “Eugenics.” That’s what this is, in another form & under another label. The concept has not died/fizzeled/etc. out, merely continues via a new incarnation.

    Eugenics, which arguably started with some vigor in the USA, has become a dirty word/concept since the Nazis & their Germanic culturally obsessive-compulsive efficiency took it a step or two further along (if/when you happen upon any old photos of Nazi “propaganda” posters involving this theme, especially those published prior to the mass exterminations began, you’re apt to see [if you look for it] a subset of foreign flags, including the Stars & Stripes/Old Glory, documenting, as it were/did, how many countries were actively involved in some type or other of eugenics). Its a dirty little secret our historians have discretely swept under the proverbial carpet — thus helping ensure that lessons-learned can be forgotten & repeated.

    RE “…the faulty neo-Malthusian logic that, if left to themselves, humans will out-breed their food supply. This is, as has been pointed out many times, physically impossible.”

    SEE!? That just shows how sharp ole Adolf H. & his cronies were — they sought after “living space” (a subtle twist, with some valid merit, on the above faulty logic) & thought nothing of killing off anyone that got in their way and taking what they thought they needed. Comparing & contrasting that universally condemed behavior with modern counterparts clearly shows that general social & human values are such that killing off one’s competitors is consider bad….but….killing off helpless infants [one’s dependents] before they get so proficient as to qualify as helpless is quite tolerable.

    The distinguishing trait of humans relative to other species may well be the extent to which we prey upon & exploit members of our own species.

    As is implicit in any & all things-eugenic, governmental regulation and/or other involvement is guaranteed. Thus, it is a political matter to some extent. And with that a key point/issue is that “junk (or worse) science” is part-n-parcel of this topic (and will likely remain so, for all practical purposes, forever).

    As Alston Chase put it, “when the search for truth is confused with political advocacy, the pursuit of knowledge is reduced to the quest for power.”

  9. Ken, interesting thoughts; I think you may be on to something. When the choice to abort goes beyond the health and welfare of the mother (or similar dire considerations) and moves into selective choices about what kind of fetus is deemed desirable to live, it does indeed approach the eugenics line.

  10. In a very short time there will be a lot fewer Chinese and Indians who prefer boy children to girl children- natural selection in action.

  11. Briggs says:

    On the other hand, progressives don’t like population (a.k.a. people), and sex selection reduces the population and favors the environment.

    Don’t tar all progressives with the same brush. There was a time when most progressives cared deeply about improving the lives of others or helping them improve their own lives. There was hope that people could be raised out of abject poverty by providing universal education, public libraries and organizations like the YMCA.

    Perhaps my perspective has changed with age but all I see these days is a population (on both sides of the political spectrum) which can’t be bothered to think very deeply and which doesn’t seem to care much about anything beyond its narrow self interest. Anyway, there are still a few of us who call ourselves progressive and who do love our fellow humans.

  12. Progressives… desire legal abortion, but they also favor women’s rights and hate seeing more men than necessary…. it’s the woman’s body and who are we to say what she can do with her fetus? On the other hand, progressives don’t like population (a.k.a. people), and sex selection reduces the population and favors the environment. Not an enviable position to be in.

    What is the opposite of “progressive”? Right-wingers? If I negate sentences in the above paragraph, would the paragraph give an accurate description of “the opposite of progressive”?

  13. Of course humans can outbreed their food supply, because the food supply is variable!
    To claim otherwise would require a belief in an invariant climate and food supply (an actual climate change denier,) when boom and bust is the natural cycle!

  14. Of course, if parents in those countries are selectively aborting female fetuses as you claim (and other reasons are not the cause, like better mother nutrition resulting in male fetuses that would die before birth now make it to birth to be recorded as live male births and then die some time after birth), then surviving females are being given an enormous advantage: many more males to chose from. If the skew is large enough then females are in an excellent position.

  15. Make Believe Media,

    They are in an excellent position to be chased to and fro endlessly. And then I wonder whether they finally would be too exhausted to have kids! (As long as we’re speculating.)

    Incidentally, as far as statistics go, demographics are among the best. So the claim is pretty likely.

  16. “This is, as has been pointed out many times, physically impossible. A female cannot become pregnant and give birth if she is starving.”

    If the female is starving they have out-breeded their food supply. That’s exactly what malthusian argue: starvation will be the limit of population growth. Cornucopians say that economic growth will outpace the population growth from now on and we have thus escaped the malthusian trap.

    ” if the last century is any guide, on average food will continue growing in abundance and dropping in price. ”

    Yes, but only last two centuries show this trend.
    “cross-country evidence indicates that technological superiority and higher land productivity had significant positive effects on population density but insignificant effects on the standard of living, during the time period 1-1500 A.D”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malthusian_trap

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