HomeoldDebunking the debunkers: sex-selective abortions do happen in the United States

Debunking the debunkers: sex-selective abortions do happen in the United States

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Two weeks ago NRL News Today posted a story derived from a fine column written by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders that thoroughly debunked the nonsense behind a proposal by Supervisor David Chiu to make San Francisco the first American city to oppose any ban on sex-selection abortions.

I talked briefly about the evidence Saunders adduced to show that there are sex-selection abortions in the United States (as I have done several times before in other stories). However I subsequently failed to talk about a brilliant piece written by Rachel Lu (“The United States Has A Femicide Problem”) that turned a brand-new study that purported to show sex-selective abortions don’t happen in the United States on its head. As Ms. Lu wrote, the study “instead confirms the opposite.”

It’s a very well thought out argument that should be read in its entirety. Here are a few of the highlights.

Lu reminds us that sex-selective abortions, while most commonly associated with China and (increasingly) India and Singapore, other nations, such as Great Britain, are admitting they have a similar dilemma. (Of late we’ve written about the situation in Great Britain many times, most recently here.]

There was evidence, even before the newest study which purported to prove there wasn’t sex-selective abortions in the U.S., that they are occurring. As NRLC discussed back in 2012

Dr. Sunita Puri and three other researchers at the University of California interviewed “65 immigrant Indian women in the United States who had pursued fetal sex selection.” They wrote: “We found that 40% of the women interviewed had terminated prior pregnancies with female fetuses and that 89% of women carrying female fetuses in their current pregnancy pursued an abortion.” This powerful study discusses in detail the multiple forms of pressure and outright coercion to which such women are often subjected: “Forty women (62%) described verbal abuse from their female in laws or husbands. . . . One-third of women described past physical abuse and neglect related specifically to their failing to produce a male child.” As a result, “women reported having multiple closely spaced pregnancies with terminations of female fetuses under pressure to have a male child.” (“‘There is such a thing as too many daughters, but not too many sons’,” Social Science & Medicine 72 (2011), 1169-1176)

Another study examined American-born offspring of foreign-born Chinese, Korean, and Indian parents. According to Lu

“the really significant finding concerned third births in families who already had two daughters. Among these children, there were 151 boys for every 100 girls. Almond and Edlund drew the obvious conclusion: when expecting for the third time, a significant number of Asian parents preferred an abortion to a third daughter.”

What about the new study–“Replacing Myths with Facts: Sex Selective Laws in the United States”? It’s been hailed as bigger and better and disproving (hence the “myths” language) that there are sex selective abortions here at home. That was the “takeaway” trumpeted by the usual suspects. Only it wasn’t true.

This was obscured because, as Lu writes, the authors “bur[ied] the single most important piece of information in a forest of far-less-relevant facts, graphs, and meanderings about methodology.”

She notes

“It’s got to be frustrating when you bring together a lot of important-sounding organizations to do a big, splashy study, and it ends up confirming the piece of data that most sticks in your craw. But now that we’ve descended to throwing around accusations of racism, I think the truth should be spoken. Asian-born American parents with two daughters are significantly more likely to have a son for their third child. Combined with Puri’s qualitative study, and ample data confirming the use of sex-selective abortion in some Asian cultures, that constitutes strong evidence that it also happens here in the United States.”

Lu adds (tongue in cheek?), “My compliments to the University of Chicago for confirming this with their new, comprehensive study.”

Of course, the last thing the authors of this study and others of a similar ilk will concede is what the evidence tells anyone willing to read it. But assuming they did, what do they do with it? The options are not promising.

“America is a big country and the relevant sub-cultures are fairly small. So pro-choicers could bite the bullet and suggest that even if sex-selective abortion happens and is sort of distasteful, maybe a few hundred or thousand aborted daughters either way just aren’t that big of a deal? Hey, I’m just laying out your options, if you happen to be a pro-choice feminist.”

But the one option, Lu write, which is not available for anyone interested in truth is to permit

“further deception about what the data is really saying. Even less should we permit disingenuous attempts to dismiss the struggle against femicide as racist or misogynistic.”


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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