Religion & Liberty Online

China Attempts to End Its War on Baby Girls

babygirlsIf you were asked to name the technologies whose proliferation inadvertently threatens the human race, what would you include? Landmines? Assault rifles? Nuclear warheads?

Add this one to your list: the sonogram machine.

The widespread use of sonogram technology—coupled with liberal abortion laws—has made it easier than ever for women to identify the sex of their child so that those without a Y chromosome can be killed before they’re even born.

The effects of this war on baby girls can be clearly seen in the changes in sex ratios at birth. As demographer Nicholas Eberstadt explains, there is a “slight but constant and almost unvarying excess of baby boys over baby girls born in any population.” The number of baby boys born for every hundred baby girls, which is so constant that it can “qualify as a rule of nature,” falls along an extremely narrow range along the order of 103, 104 or 105. On rare occasions it even hovers around 106.

These sex ratios vary slightly based on ethnicity. For example, rates in the U.S. in 1984 were as follows: White: 105.4; Black: 103.1; American Indian: 101.4; Chinese: 104.6; and Japanese 102.6. Such variations, however, remain small and fairly stable over time.

But Eberstadt finds that during the last generation, the sex ratio at birth in some parts of the world have become “completely unhinged.” Consider this graph he provides, showing the provinces in China in 2000:

The red lines indicate where the rates should be based on what is naturally, biologically possible. Yet in a number of Chinese provinces—with populations of tens of millions of people—the reported sex ratio at birth ranges from 120 boys for every 100 girls to over 130.

Eberstadt notes that this is “a phenomenon utterly without natural precedent in human history.”

This imbalance is already having detrimental societal repercussions in China. Imagine hordes of men, numbering in the tens of millions, who will never be able to have sexual contact with a woman, never be able to marry, or never leave a descendant to carry on their lineage. Think about the level of anger and frustration this will generate. As Reuters notes, the problem has stoked the kidnapping of women to be forced into marriage, and the trafficking of children.

The problem has become so disturbing that China has launched a new campaign against sex-selective abortions.

China has begun a new campaign against illegal prenatal gender tests and sex-selective abortions to help address the country’s gender imbalance, state news agency Xinhua said on Wednesday.

Like most Asian nations, China has a traditional bias for sons, who are seen the only guarantee to pass on the family line.

Many families abort female foetuses and abandon baby girls to ensure their one child is a son, with about 116 boys born for every 100 girls last year, against a global average of 103 to 107.

The new campaign will run under November, and concentrate on health centres and family planning institutions, as well as illegal fertility agencies, clinics and itinerant doctors, the report said.

The government will also tighten controls on medical equipment and medicine used in both ultrasounds and abortions, and blacklist any organisation found to be complicit in either activity, Xinhua added.

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Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).