Sex-Selective Abortion Leads to Millions of More “Missing Girls’ in India

By Dave Andrusko

It’s the nature of the blogging business that you can’t tackle everything the day it comes to pass. Alas, it seems as if each day there is one story I had set aside to write about and then neglected for a week.

Today’s example is a very important study that the prestigious British publication The Lancet produced last week. The topic is one I’ve written about dozens of times before, regrettably: “Trends in selective abortions of girls in India.”

As a result of ultrasound and sex-selection abortions,  there are now 7.1 million fewer girls than boys up to the age of 6. (A decade ago, the gap was roughly 6 million girls.) Put another way, there are 914 girls younger than age six for every 1,000 boys, down from 927 girls per 1,000 boys 10 years ago—the lowest ratio since 1947.

According to CNN, “selective abortion accounts for 2-4 per cent of female pregnancies and the practice has increased by a massive 170 per cent in the last decade itself.”

There are laws on the books whose intent is to stop parents from using technologies to determine their child’s sex). But many news accounts echo the New York Times which wrote “Yet despite such laws, the situation has not improved. Few medical practitioners who violated the law have been prosecuted, while regulation of private health care providers is very limited.”

“There were 4 million to 12 million selective abortions from 1980 to 2010 and just in the last decade, about 3 to 6 million, so the problem is increasing,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto’s Center for Global Health Research.

“The study found the problem of sex-selective abortions of girls has spread steadily across India after once being confined largely to a handful of conservative northern states,” writes Jim Yardley of the New York Times.  “Researchers also found that women from higher-income, better-educated families were far more likely than poorer women to abort a girl, especially during a second pregnancy if the firstborn was a girl.”

“This has deep implications,” said Shailaja Chandra, one of the study’s authors, during a panel discussion after the release of the findings. “The scale is very large and requires intervention beyond what has been done so far.”

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