Foreign Policy

Sex-Selective Abortions a Major Problem in China

| by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) --- Chinese males under the age of 20 outnumbered females of that same age range by more than 32 million in 2005, due in large part to the government's one-child policy and its citizens' use of sex-selection abortion and even abandonment, according to a new study in the British Medical Journal.

The study of 4.7 million people under the age of 20 in China covered every county in the country. It also found that in 2005 there were 1.1 million more baby boys born than baby girls. The study was published April 9.

"Sex selective abortion accounts for almost all the excess males," the study says.

Technically, China has a policy prohibiting sex-selective abortions, although the policy is largely ignored. China's government instituted its one-child policy in the late 1970s in an effort to slow the birth rate of the world's most populous country. Penalties for violations of the policy have included fines, arrests and the destruction of homes, as well as forced abortion and sterilization. Infanticide, especially of females, also has been reported.

China's culture has a strong preference for sons over daughters. Sons, according to tradition, are responsible for taking care of parents in old age and it is believed only sons can continue the family line. As a result, the one-child policy led to a sex imbalance. The program generally has limited couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl.

The male-to-female ratio for births in urban and rural areas is 119 to 100, the study said. But that ratio increases for second births in rural areas, where it is 146 males to 100 females, with nine provinces showing a ratio for second births of 160 to 100. (The normal ratio is about 105 to 100.)

"China will see very high and steadily worsening sex ratios in the reproductive age group over the next two decades," the paper said. "Enforcing the existing ban on sex selective abortion could lead to normalization of the ratios."

Sex ratios "were high across all age groups and residency types" but "were highest" among 1 to 4 year olds, where it was 126 to 100 in rural areas.

Sex-selective abortion is legal in the United States, which has some of the most liberal abortion laws among Western countries. U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican and a Southern Baptist, is sponsoring a bill that would ban abortion doctors from knowingly performing an abortion if the procedure is sought "based on the sex, gender, color or race of the child, or the race of a parent of that child." The bill, which has 28 co-sponsors, is H.R. 1822 and is known as the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2009. Doctors who violate the act could be imprisoned up to five years.

In February, Oklahoma's House of Representatives passed a bill by a vote of 93-4 that would ban sex-selective abortions. It currently is before the state Senate. The bill is H.B. 1595.

Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. With reporting by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.