Missing Girls

She is here. Many of her sisters are not.

Make no mistake, I am firmly supportive of a female’s right to choose to terminate her own pregnancy. If you’re opposed to choice, you might want to hie yourself to another blog right now.

On the other hand, I believe this fundamental right also carries responsibilities. If you’re opposed to that, perhaps it’s time for you, too, to search out another writer.

Still with me? Okay.

Pregnancy is not all either side of the extremes crack it up to be, at least not in the US. While people opposed to abortion tout it as the evil to end all evils, productive of every malady from depression to breast cancer (both associations are simply untrue, by the by), they conveniently fail to note that medically-attended abortion is far safer than bringing a pregnancy to term in the US. Among Western countries, the US has an appalling maternal mortality rate. Every woman who gives birth knows she takes a great risk. That’s far more evident in places such as Sierra Leone – whose maternal mortality rates are so high they look like the US rates in the 1920s, when every extended family lost sisters, daughters and mothers to pregnancy and labor – but just as true in America of 2011. If you live in the US, you run a greater risk of dying-while-pregnant than in any other Western nation on earth.

On the other side of the Lincoln penny, people who oppose any limit on abortion disregard the need for productive responsibility in life. I’m not saying that there are no good reasons for late abortion (for example, it seems to me unconscionable to force a woman to continue a pregnancy where ultrasound has demonstrated that the prospective child’s brain is growing outside its head), but neither do I wish for a Russian-style, “anything goes” abortion policy. It seems to me that the third trimester of pregnancy is generally an area where concerns over the average neonate (though it may require expensive NICU therapy) override concerns about its future mother, if continuing the pregnancy will not harm the health of the person carrying it.

That being said, there are within the above certain understandable reasons to abort. Among others, they include that the pregnancy was begun as a result of rape or incest; the physiological unhealthiness of the pregnancy; the health, physical or mental, of the pregnant person; the ability of the pregnant person to be an effective parent, or to provide for a baby; the age of the pregnant person; etcetera.

Here’s a reason I didn’t name: sex of the future child.

Under normal conditions, for every 100 baby girls born, there will be 105 boy babies. Because males are more fragile than females (the Y chromosome is much shorter than the X, so any deficiencies on a male’s X may not be superseded by its Y), small boys die at a greater rate than small girls – by the time they reach kindergarten age, the proportions have reached 100/100.

Why do I not believe sex is a sufficient reason? Because not only is it a trivial reason to abort, but also because, in the long run, choosing abortion by sex harms the greater society.

Why? Because the overwhelming international preference, crossing national boundaries, religions, castes, colors – is for boy babies. We’ve seen it in China, whose draconian one-child policy (intended to prevent mass starvation) failed to include a rider promoting female children, and also failed to predict the rise of technology, especially ultrasound. As a result, and even though sex-based abortion is nominally illegal, women carrying female fetuses – encouraged by husbands and in-laws – have aborted in such numbers over the years that by 2025 China will have a surplus of grown males equivalent to the population of Sydney, Australia . . . times ten.

That’s right. China will have an overwhelmingly male population of adults, with 32.7 million more men than women. It’s a frightening, testosterone-driven future of extreme social unrest that has never before – I repeat, never before – been witnessed in the world, even in ancient times when many girl babies were killed after birth by “exposure”, that is, being left outside to wild animals or the elements.

China has begun a campaign called “Care for Girls”, which seeks to reverse the trend, especially in the most extreme areas (where the normal ratio at birth has skewed to 100 girls/130 boys), but no campaign will counteract what has already occurred.

A few years ago, when the Chinese trend for boys was first noticed in the West, it was proposed that Chinese men desperate for a wife would cross the border and marry Indian women. It sounded like a solution. No more.

Even though sex-selective abortion is just as illegal in India as in China, and though India has no demanding one-child policy, the fact is that for years the 100/105 ratio has skewed in parts of India just as hard as in China, proof that women are aborting in order to have sons – again, encouraged by husbands and in-laws of every socioeconomic class, who often beat and abuse a woman who will not abort. The trend comes in part because of the cost of dowries and weddings, partly because Indians are having smaller families. Education plays a role here, too: well-educated women are the most likely to have sex-specific abortions. Yet the low cost of portable ultrasound machines means that women in even the most remote villages can spend a few rupees to discover whether their baby will be male – and to take steps if a daughter will be born.

The most-affected regions, however, are in the wealthier north of India, so the practice is fashion, not economic necessity. Delhi, Punjab and Haryana – all northern areas – have the most profoundly altered birth ratios, and the dearth of brides is already being felt there. Local politicians run on platforms of bride-supply, and girls from the southern states are being trafficked north into forced marriages to men they’ve never even seen before. Yet there are fewer girls and women with every year. In a country where marriage is the norm, a permanent underclass of single men is a ticking time bomb of lawlessness.

The Indian government is now imploring its citizens to stop sex-selective abortion. “If you don’t want a girl, leave her to us, the government will bring her up,” said an Indian minister of state. Orphanages are filled with baby girls whose parents are alive, just unwilling to raise daughters.

Alarmingly, the practice of sex-selective abortion has filtered into the Chinese- and Indian-originated populations in countries such as the UK and US. Examination of birth records shows that a second or third child in these families is statistically more likely to be male. Though the ratios are not as severely skewed from nature’s 100 girls/105 boys, still, they are evidence that third-world practices are being urged on women in the first world (again, husbands and in-laws play a coercive role, even where a woman has college degrees). Because abortion by sex is frowned upon in the West, these women often fly to China or India for their abortions, then return.

I don’t suppose for an instant that such women abort without a qualm. Flights to and from Asia must be filled with women in tears or grimly holding back their emotions.

It’s not just India and China that will count the cost of this distortion in nature’s wisdom. We’ll all pay for the arrogance of sex-selective abortion and the resulting excess millions of men. It’s too late to stem the tide. All the remedial policies of both countries cannot un-create a huge cohort of unmarried, family-less, rootless men.

Sex-selective abortion goes against nature and common sense. But it’s not just Asia’s problem. What happens in China and India affects all of us.

In the Scandinavia of a millennium ago, “viking” was a verb. It meant the summertime ship-launch of men who would wander, plunder, loot, kill, and gather people as slaves for trafficking. (For the record, although my ancestors were Scandinavian, I loathe these actions.) They would then return home to harvest their lands.

That is, most returned. The men who would stay a-viking, sailing and looting all year long, were hearthless wanderers whose land-based peers despised them, regarding them as rootless scum.

What will happen to the world when men constantly a-viking come from Asia and number in the millions?

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