We Can’t Look the Other Way on Sex-Selection Abortions


An activist in Great Britain is accusing the Crown Prosecution Service of failing to pursue charges in a case involving a woman who was allegedly forced to have a sex-selection abortion:

photo by xapaburu --cc flickr“When her family found out the baby was a girl, she was put under a lot of emotional pressure and duress. She did not want to have that termination,” said Ms. Sanghera. “She already had a girl and they said ‘what about the dowry? We can’t afford to have another daughter’.”

When the woman reported the crime to police they did not recognize it as honor-based abuse at first, said Ms. Sanghera.

But when they pursued the case and the woman said she wanted to prosecute, the CPS refused to press charges for the offense, claiming it was not in the public interest and that it was a “family matter”. The husband later pleaded guilty to controlling behavior and was sent on a course.

“Because they didn’t think she would make a competent witness…because she didn’t have physical injuries, they said it wasn’t in the public interest,” said Ms. Sanghera, who is one of the founders of and advisors to the Foreign Office and Home Office’s joint Forced Marriage Unit.

“She felt [the case had been] abandoned for cultural reasons. Her having that termination was the nail in the coffin after all the psychological abuse. When she went and asked for help she didn’t get it.”

Had prosecutors not dropped the case, this would have been the first time such charges were brought in Great Britain. An undercover investigation by the Daily Mail in 2012 secretly taped abortion clinic staff agreeing to perform sex-selection abortions, which are illegal in Britain.

Experts Say Selection Abortions Are Increasing in the U.S. and Europe

While efforts to expose and combat gendercide and sex-selection abortion have mostly focused on countries such as India and China, experts are reporting that this problem is spreading in Europe and the U.S., too. According to Elena Ralli at New Europe Online:

According to a recent study by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in Albania, 112 boys are born for every 100 girls, while in Kosovo and Montenegro the figures stand at 110 and 109 boys per 100 girls respectively. …

In countries like Albania and Macedonia these EU laws [against sex selection abortion] are being ignored since female births keep on decreasing[;] however, women’s rights activists also see a trend towards gender selection in EU member states as well. As a result, Danish media have indicated the existence of “abortion tourism” to Sweden, where terminating a pregnancy is legal until the 18th week. Moreover, studies from Norway and Britain suggest a gender imbalance among immigrants from Asian cultures, especially among second and third children.

In a November 2011 resolution, the Council of Europe voiced its concern over the rising trend of prenatal gender selection. But the EU has no legal say on the matter since abortion law is decided and adopted by individual states alone. As a result, EU cannot press for improvements in candidate nations either.

There is also research showing that sex-selection abortion “is widely practiced among certain Asian-American communities:”

Jason Abrevaya of the University of Texas analyzed U.S. birth data and found unusually high boy-birth percentages after 1980 among later children (most notably third and fourth children) born to Chinese and Asian-Indian mothers. Moreover, using maternally linked data from California, he found that Asian-Indian mothers are significantly more likely both to have a terminated pregnancy and to give birth to a son when they have previously only given birth to girls.

Columbia University economists Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund also found clear evidence of sex-selective abortions in what they called “son-biased sex ratios,” that is, a higher ratio of boys to girls than would occur in nature. Looking at the sex ratio at birth among U.S.-born children of Chinese, Korean, and Asian-Indian parents, they found that first-borns showed normal sex ratios at birth. But if the first child was a girl, the sex ratio jumped to 117, and if the first two children were girls, then the sex ratio jumped to 151. That is to say, for every 151 boys, there were only 100 hundred surviving girls. The rest had been eliminated.

Coerced and Forced Abortions

And in an article at National Review, population control expert Steve Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, offers some shocking information on sex selection abortions in the United States:

[Dr. Sunita Puri], who practices in the Bay Area, wanted to find out why so many immigrant Indian women in the United States were so eager to find out the sex of their unborn children, and why so many of them choose abortion when they found out they were carrying a girl.

What she discovered over the course of 65 interviews conducted over several years profoundly shocked her. Fully 89 percent of the women carrying girls opted for an abortion, and nearly half had previously aborted girls.

Puri’s report, published in Social Science and Medicine this last April, makes for grim reading. Women told Puri of their guilt over their sex-selection abortions, how they felt that they were unable to “save” their daughters. Even the women who turned out to be carrying boys this time around could not shake their remorse over having earlier aborted daughters in this deadly game of reproductive roulette.

They also made clear that they were not free actors when it came to reproductive “choice.” Many, when it was learned that they were carrying girls, became the victims of family violence. Some — in an effort to make them miscarry — had been slapped and shoved around by angry husbands and in-laws, or even kicked in the stomach. Others were denied food, water, and rest in order to coerce them into aborting their unwanted girl babies.

According to Puri’s paper:

Women spoke of son preference and sex selection as separate though intimately related phenomena, and the major themes that arose during interviews included the sociocultural roots of son preference; women’s early socialization around the importance of sons; the different forms of pressure to have sons that women experienced from female in-laws and husbands; the spectrum of verbal and physical abuse that women faced when they did not have male children and/or when they found out they were carrying a female fetus; and the ambivalence with which women regarded their own experience of reproductive “choice.” We found that 40 percent of the women interviewed had terminated prior pregnancies with female fetuses and that 89 percent of women carrying female fetuses in their current pregnancy pursued an abortion.

Puri found that “women are both the assumed beneficiaries of reproductive choice while remaining highly vulnerable to family violence and reproductive coercion.”

And in an article for Slate, Puri noted that some doctors are willing to look the other way even if a woman is undergoing an unwanted abortion:

Asking a woman for her reasons for wanting a boy or a girl, one doctor told me, is simply not a physician’s responsibility or business; educating her on the latest technology is. Doctors have to trust that patients know their lives, families, and needs best, he said. In some cases, a physician may know—and loathe—the reasons behind a patient’s choice, yet still believe that providing sex selection may help her. If a woman faces threats of divorce, abandonment, or abuse, or if her child would ultimately be mistreated or neglected, then aborting an unwanted female or implanting male embryos may help keep that woman—and any future children—safe.

But does abortion keep women or their future children safe? Puri interviewed an ob/gyn resident who performed an abortion on an Indian immigrant who had learned she was having a girl. The woman told the doctor she needed the abortion because because she already had one daughter and her husband and in-laws expected her to have a boy. However, the abortion didn’t resolve the problem:

She ultimately performed two more abortions for Priya, who adamantly refused to have another daughter. Eventually, Priya did have a son, and Carpenter was thrilled, hoping that she would finally find peace and acceptance in her family. She was shocked when Priya returned two years later, saying she was pregnant with another girl that she needed to terminate. Priya had provided her in-laws with a son, only to discover that they still didn’t want any more daughters.

Further, research has found higher death rates among women who have abortions compared to women who carry their pregnancies to term. Other research has linked abortion to increased rates of breast cancer, substance abuse, depression, suicide, subsequent preterm birth, anxiety disorders and other problems. And many women who have abortions due to sex-selection are likely to fall into the category of those who are at high risk for psychological problems after abortion, including women who feel pressured or coerced to abort, want the baby or feel ambivalent about the abortion, lack control over their situation, or who are young, married or already have children.

Ending Sex-Selection and Forced Abortions

In China, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers has developed the Save a Girl Campaign, which provides financial support and emergency help for families facing coerced or forced abortions, or who might otherwise end up aborting or abandoning their daughters.

In the U.S., the Center Against Forced Abortions provides legal help for women and girls who are being pressured or coerced to abort, and training for organizations that help women in crisis pregnancies. Other organizations providing assistance and options for pregnant women can be found here.

The Elliot Institute has also developed model legislation that would hold abortion clinics liable for failing to screen for coerced and unwanted abortions in any situation, and to screen women for factors that put them at risk for psychological problems after abortion. Laws based on this legislation have been passed in Nebraska and South Dakota.

Learn More
Sex-Selective Abortion Thrives in America
The United States Has a Femicide Problem
Woman Fights India’s Sex-Selective Abortion Epidemic (video)
While India’s Girls Are Aborted, Brides Are Wanted
China: 34 Years of  Brutal “One-Child” Policy

Resources on Forced Abortion to Download and Share
Forced Abortion in America Special Report
Forced Abortion Fact Sheet
Forced Abortion Flyer

Find Help
Center Against Forced Abortions
Save a Girl Campaign
Help After Abortion
Help During Pregnancy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *