History of sex-selection abortion and its impact today

male-femaleEvery year, we celebrate International Women’s day, a day set aside to celebrate  females of all ages – newborns, young children, teenagers and adults. A time to remember all of the struggles and inequalities endured, as well as the great accomplishments achieved by women. But with the triumph of so many rights for women comes a degrading act of females harming other females through sex-selective abortion. This action does not signify progress, nor does it protect women and girls.

This article is written to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak; for those girls who would have grown to be women; for those who would have had voices, but never will. It is written to speak on behalf of all of the females whose lives have been taken because they are girls.

Brief History and Current

Female infanticide has existed for centuries, but the problem became especially acute when ultrasound techniques for identifying the sex of an unborn child merged with abortion. When you combine ultrasound technology and readily available and widely accepted abortion with population control programs and attitudes, you have created the perfect storm for ending the lives of millions of unborn girls.

It is estimated that 160 million females are “missing” because of sex-selective abortion; their lives have been claimed and cut short merely because of the fact that they were girls. This alarming number is equivalent to annihilating all of the females living in the United States!

China’s one-child policy has greatly increased the disparity between the number of male and female births. Since implementation of the policy over three decades ago, the ratios between male and female births has steadily increased. In 1979 – the year the policy was initiated – there were 106 boys born for every 100 girls – not far from the “natural” sex ratio of 105 boys born for every 100 girls. Currently, the sex ratio in China is around 117 boys born for every 100 girls. In some areas of the country, it has risen to as high as 140 boys being born for every 100 girls.

While Asian populations have a substantially higher number of those participating in the killing of their unborn daughters, sex-selective abortion happens in other cultures as well.

As you can see, this graph depicts a small portion of the many countries that have significant sex ratio imbalances.

Sex Ratio, Children under 15 Years of Age, by Country
(CIA World Factbooks)


China, at the highest sex ratio, is closely followed by Georgia and Armenia, whose sex ratios are 115 males born for every 100 females. Following these are India and Albania, with 113 and 112 boys born for every 100 girls, respectively. And while the sex ratios found in South Korea, Portugal, Japan, Kosovo, and Macedonia are closer to the “natural” sex ratio, their imbalance of males to females under the age of 15 is still high enough to take note of (CIA World Factbooks).

Negative Impacts

Some have no problem with sex-selective abortion. After all, abortion, some say, is a “right.” But the negative implications and consequences of sex-selective abortion are numerous.

The unborn girl is the first and greatest victim of sex-selective abortion. Some may oppose this by saying that an unborn fetus has no “human status.” But when the motivation behind an abortion is to eliminate a fetus for the sole reason of that fetus having a gender – female – the foundation of this argument becomes insubstantial. As former abortionist Bernard N. Nathanson, M.D. shared, “abortion must be seen as the interruption of a process which would otherwise have produced a citizen of the world” (New England Journal of Medicine, 1974).

Sex-selective abortion also raises this question: what happens when millions of men cannot find women to marry? Some 24 million Chinese men of marrying age will find themselves lacking wives by 2020. “Bare branches” is how the Chinese refer to Chinese males who will never have families because they cannot find spouses. It is an apt metaphor: “bare branches” – unmarried men who will have nothing attached to them. There will be no wife, no children.

Researchers offer some insight into the common characteristics of these men (Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer, “Bare Branches,” 2004):

  • Belong predominantly to the lowest socioeconomic class
  • More likely to be underemployed or unemployed
  • Transient, with few ties to the community
  • Transient males commit proportionately more violence than non-transient males
  • Live and socialize with other “bare branches,” creating distinctive bachelor subcultures
  • Commit more violence – often under the influence of alcohol and certain drugs
  • Predisposed to risk-taking

Think about that list and ponder the impact that 24 million men with these characteristics might have on a society – on your society. Some experts go so far as to argue that such a sex ratio imbalance in a population has regional and global security implications.

Studies have also been conducted to examine the behaviors of men when gender imbalance exists. Such studies have shown that among these men, there is a statistically significant increase in mental illness, socially disruptive behavior, lower self-esteem, depression, and suicidal thoughts compared to men who are married (Beyond Buoying the Boys).

Along with the decrease of women comes an increase in demand for trafficked brides and an increase in prostitution. Contrary to what you may assume, being part of a female minority population does not make you a coveted and adored prize, but rather a commodity to be exploited. As boldly and truthfully put by Reggie Littlejohn, “[w]omen[, both born and unborn,] should not be treated this way. This is not a political issue. Women’s rights are human rights” (Women’s Rights Without Frontiers).

Fewer women means fewer children being born. Some may view population reduction as a positive thing, but in many countries, declining population poses significant problems. Whatever your view, thinning a population by eliminating girls simply because they are girls is sex-discrimination and gender-based violence at its worst. It should not be tolerated – no matter your goal.


We, as women, have persevered in fighting for our rights, but I do not believe we have fought enough. We have seen great success in bringing ourselves great rights, opportunities, and promising futures, but have we done enough to give that to others of our own sex? If feminism holds the belief that women should have a right to speak, vote, hold jobs, and make choices for themselves, should it not also include the belief that women should be given a chance at life?

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