A “solution” that sidesteps the real reason for the huge male/female imbalance in India

By Dave Andrusko

Sex selection is a straightforward issue for pro-lifers but much trickier for pro-abortion “feminists.”

We oppose abortion. Period. It only adds to what is already morally and ethically wrong if the motivation is the child is not the “right” sex (almost always a girl).

Pro-abortion feminists want to decry a lethal preference for boys over girls but not by “banning” abortions based on the sex of the child. So they jump through hoop after hoop trying to find a “solution” that evades the real source of the problem.

I don’t happen to have heard of Sital Kalantry who wrote a piece yesterday for the New York Times headlined, “How to Fix India’s Sex-Selection Problem.” She is described as a “professor at Cornell Law School, is the author of ‘Women’s Human Rights and Migration: Sex-Selective Abortion Laws in the United States and India.’”

A quick tour of the Internet reveals this op-ed is a kind of advertisement for her new book. Here’s how she describes it:

In this new book, I examine prohibitions on sex-selective abortion that are sweeping state legislatures across the United States from a critical race, empirical, and feminist perspective. I argue that supporters of the bans use misinformation and stereotypes about India and Indian-Americans.

She then provides a link to her Times piece, adding it “flows from the book though is not directly related to its core themes.”

For our purposes, there is some useful information in Prof. Kalantry’s op-ed. She begins

There are too many men in India today. Over the course of several decades, 300,000 to 700,000 female fetuses were selectively aborted in India each year. Today there are about 50 million more men than women in the country.

While selective abortion of female fetuses accounts for most of the excess of men, another reason for the disparity in the population is that some people are believed to kill female infants, and some girls die because of medical or nutritional neglect. This oversupply of men is harming women and girls.

As you would expect, sex-selection abortion is more common in urban areas whose inhabitants are middle-class, educated, and richer—meaning more access to ultrasounds that reveal the child’s sex and the ability to pay for abortions.

Prof. Kalantry is sceptical about what’s being done in India to address what is, after all, an emerging demographic crisis. The government, she argues, is “failing to catch and prosecute illegal ultrasound providers.” (A law adopted in 1994 “prohibits medical professionals from revealing the future sex of a fetus to a pregnant woman.”)

“Frustrated with government inaction, some civil society groups have started guerrilla campaigns in which pregnant women seek out the sex of their fetuses, after which they report ultrasound operators that provide that information,” she adds.

Then Prof. Kalantry makes this statement: “Even if greater enforcement efforts are made, it is likely impossible to completely eliminate the black market for fetal sex detection.”

This, of course, is the standard response to any attempt to restrict/eliminate abortions: there will always be “illegal abortions.” But what if the Indian government were far more diligent in tracking down “illegal ultrasound providers”? What if what amounts to a sting operation by Indian women really catches on and large numbers of these providers are unmasked and evidence provided to prove their criminal behavior?

What makes for curious reading is her convoluted argument that there is some unmet desire for female babies—the suggestion that the idea there still remains a “son preference” and “daughter aversion” may be overblown. With that as her assumption, she adds

Some parents may desire to have female children but do not act on that preference. The Indian government could allow those parents to conceive a girl. One way to do this is by sperm sorting, a process whereby X chromosome-bearing and Y chromosome-bearing sperm are sorted.


[I]f sperm sorting, which is 93 percent effective in conceiving girls, were made available to any woman who wanted to select in favor of a girl, we might see both poor and middle-class people conceiving girls, in that way helping to equalize the male surplus.

But consider: Earlier in the op-ed, she tells us

in the northern state of Haryana there is a large male surplus. The scale of sex selection is so enormous that one demographer estimates that if current levels of sex selection persist, nearly 10 percent of Indian men will be single at age 50 in 30 years.

As this single statistic illustrates, the problem is that babies are aborted on a gigantic scale because they are girls. At the risk of stating the obvious, sperm sorting to ensure a miniscule increase in the number of baby girls could only make the smallest of small dents in this imbalance for the simple reason it conspicuously avoids the real reason for this massive human rights abuse.