Sex-Selective Abortion: Consumerism at Its Best?

By Obed Bazikian, Intern

Abortion is seen by many who defend it to be a protected right of women. However, there is a murmur starting even among its supporters[1]that this claimed right could in some cases not only be unethical, but harmful to society. The issue at hand is sex-selective abortion, which refers to aborting an unborn child based on his or her gender, and is almost universally affecting the female population.
 
Asia alone has an estimated 160 million women lacking in its population as a result— a number greater than all the women currently in the United States.[2]One city in China, Lianyungang, was found to have “163 boys for every 100 girls under age five.” [3]While the Chinese government’s one-child policy[4]is indeed a major contributor that encourages this practice, it does not explain the cause for sex-selective abortions in other nations. India, the Caucasus nations, and others are increasingly choosing boys over girls before birth. Armenia’s ratio is currently 120 males to 100 females.[5]The shortage of females being born now will lead to an even greater disparity in the future, if this alternative practice of “choice” is permitted to continue unchecked.
In her book Unnatural Selection, Mara Hvistendahl analyzes the reasons for the increased rate of female sex-selective abortions and its consequences on society. One reason is simply preference, she says, citing that “parents in nearly all cultures say they prefer boys.” Through further analysis, Hvistendahl says that the increased accessibility to medical technology, such as ultrasound, in many regions of the world also contributes to the imbalance. The fact that ultrasound has become more affordable to a broader population has indeed made choosing boys even easier.
 
What are the ramifications of this choice? One obvious result is a smaller number of women to marry, which would have effects on the demographics of this and later generations. However, the lack of women would foster a climate in which crime could increase tremendously, particularly prostitution and sex-slavery. Jennifer Roeback Morse of the Ruth Institute discussed Hvistendahl’s work, saying, “The exclusive sharing of sexual intimacy with a husband in the protective bonds of marriage becomes more expensive than arrangements giving multiple men access to a single woman. Hence, prostitution, voluntary or otherwise, becomes lucrative as the demand for commercial sex increases. In addition, men without wives are more likely to become violent and commit crimes.”[6]The illusion of intimacy found in commercial sex takes prominence in a society where true, healthy companionship is not encouraged or, in societies with too few women, is not often possible.
There is another ramification to choice which takes place at a cultural level. Hvistendahl has at the end of her book a conversation with Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, who founded a fertility clinic in Los Angeles. The clinic now advertises for sex-selective abortion, guaranteeing 100% the gender desired, which has proved to be a very popular request at his facility. Steinberg has said “Gender selection is a commodity for purchase…If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.”[7]However, this is a very slippery slope. If Steinberg argues that gender is a commodity, what is to stop us from viewing life as a commodity, too? Of course, choosing gender and choosing life are not the same thing. But where are the limits to our choices? A life has value and is beautiful, whether it is male or female. If our culture does not place value upon life itself as God has ordained, gender selection may just be the tip of the iceberg.

[1] Morse, Jennifer Roback. “Unnatural Selection,” MercatorNet.com, February 6, 2012, http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/unnatural_selection
[2] Mara Hvistendahl, “Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men,” (PublicAffairs, 2011), 5-6
[3] Mara Hvistendahl, “Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men,” (PublicAffairs, 2011), 23
[4] Hesketh, Therese. “The Effect of China’s One-Child Family Policy after 25 Years,” The New England Journal of Medicine 353 (September 2005): 1171-1176, http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMhpr051833#t=article
[5] Mara Hvistendahl, “Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men,” (PublicAffairs, 2011), 13
[6] Morse,Jennifer Roback. “Unnatural Selection,” MercatorNet.com, February 6, 2012, http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/unnatural_selection
[7] Mara Hvistendahl, “Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men,” (PublicAffairs, 2011), 251
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