Gendercide: how abortion targets baby girls

Gendercide: how abortion targets baby girls

Peter Kavanagh

Having been deeply involved in the abortion debate in the Victorian Parliament of two years ago, it is clear to me that the majority of those who support abortion in the West have little interest in gendercide through sex selection abortion. There was certainly no acknowledgement, much less sympathy, expressed for either the females who have been killed in recent years - millions at birth and many millions more before birth, because they are female.

There is similarly little interest or evidence of sympathy for the women who later kill themselves because of the guilt they feel over killing their daughters, as in the case of many young women in rural China who are suiciding through drinking fertilisers.

The trafficking in women that has apparently increased due to the relative scarcity of women in large parts of the world is also rarely mentioned in the West.

It is ironic that many feminists are fighting to defend and entrench abortion practices that kill females precisely because they are female.

In the modern world gendercide has two main characteristics. First it is overwhelmingly the killing of girls because they are girls. Second, it is also normally but not exclusively done through abortion, although in addition to huge numbers through abortion there are also quite large numbers of post-natal killings of baby girls, typically soon after their birth.

In 2005, one study found that 90 million women were estimated to be "missing" in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, South Korea and Taiwan alone, possibly due to sex-selective abortion. It should be acknowledged that estimates of the number vary but all are in the tens of millions. 

Meanwhile, since ultrasound still remains fairly unreliable until approximately the twentieth week of pregnancy, sex selection often requires late term abortion close to the limit of viability.

Studies have estimated that sex-selective abortions have increased the ratio of males to females from the natural average of 105-106 males per 100 females to 113 males per 100 females in both South Korea and China, 110 males per 100 females in Taiwan and 107 males per 100 females among Chinese populations living in Singapore and parts of Malaysia.

According to the 2001 census, the sex-ratio in India is 107.8 males per 100 females, but is significantly higher in certain states such as Punjab (126.1) and Haryana (122.0).

China's one-child policy

In 1997, the World Health Organization's Regional Committee for the Western Pacific issued a report claiming that "more than 50 million women were estimated to be 'missing' in China because of the institutionalised killing and neglect of girls due to Beijing's population control program that limits parents to one child."

According to Peter Stockland, "Years of population engineering, including virtual extermination of 'surplus' baby girls, has created a nightmarish imbalance in China's male and female populations."

In 1999, Jonathan Manthorpe reported a study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences which found that "the imbalance between the sexes is now so distorted that there are 111 million men in China - more than three times the population of Canada - who will not be able to find a wife."

As a result, the kidnapping and slave-trading of women has increased: "Since 1990, say official Chinese figures, 64,000 women - 8,000 a year on average - have been rescued by authorities from forced marriages. The number who have not been saved can only be guessed at. ... The thirst for women is so acute that the slave trader gangs are even reaching outside China to find 'merchandise'. There are regular reports of women being abducted in such places as northern Vietnam to feed the demand in China."

Victoria's Abortion Act of 2008 allows abortion without any restriction up to 24 weeks for any or no reason. Beyond this timeframe the restrictions in the Act are really window-dressing, merely requiring that two doctors, in practice abortionists, say that the abortion is appropriate in the circumstances. The Act effectively allows the killing of unborn females - simply because they are female, or for any reason or for no reason.

An eminent doctor of Indian background in Australia has been so disturbed by its practice that together with a colleague he has personally paid to produce a film about aborting female fetuses because they are female.

Associate Professor Sanjay Patole of the University of Western Australia and a senior neonatologist at Perth's King Edward Memorial Hospital, together with his friend Ajay Rane, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at James Cook University, have jointly paid most of their salaries from the last two-and-a-half years for the production of a film called "Riwayat".

Associate Professor Patole was motivated to warn the world about foeticide and infanticide by a 2006 report in Lancet magazine which said "about 100 million girls are missing from the world, they are dead" ( The Australian, 2 June 2010).

It should be noted that in spite of the obvious negatives, some commentators have championed sex selection as a means to empower women and increase familial happiness. For example, bioethicist Jacob M. Appel has written, "Mothers who want boys should have boys and mothers who want girls should have girls ... I look forward to the day when every son knows that his parents wanted a son and every daughter knows that her parents wanted a daughter."

With the Victorian State elections due in November, the following article is timely. Peter Kavanagh, a DLP member of the Upper House, fought the legalisation of abortion in the Victorian Parliament 2008.

This article is the edited text of a talk Mr Kavanagh gave at a UN Conference in Melbourne last August.

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