It is one of the cruelest ironies of the modern abortion movement that while the movement advanced under the banner of women’s rights, it is unborn girls, in monstrously disproportionate number, who have been aborted.
If you must read only one thing this weekend, it should be Jonathan Last’s book review of “Unnatural Selection” by Mara Hvistendahl in today’s Wall Street Journal. Hvistendahl’s book treats the spread of sex-based abortion and the deleterious consequences for societies that systematically abort females. Read it first for the statistics, which are gobsmacking. The natural birthrate is 104-106 boys for every 100 girls. Yet Hvistendahl — who is reflexively pro-choice, by the way — documents the wild disproportions abortion produces around the world:
Yet today in India there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls. In China, the number is 121—though plenty of Chinese towns are over the 150 mark. China’s and India’s populations are mammoth enough that their outlying sex ratios have skewed the global average to a biologically impossible 107. But the imbalance is not only in Asia. Azerbaijan stands at 115, Georgia at 118 and Armenia at 120…By Ms. Hvistendahl’s counting, there have been so many sex-selective abortions in the past three decades that 163 million girls, who by biological averages should have been born, are missing from the world.
What’s perhaps even more astonishing is what happens when parents try for the second, third or fourth time to give birth to a boy. The increasing desperation of the parents is evident in the numbers:
Take South Korea. In 1989, the sex ratio for first births there was 104 boys for every 100 girls—perfectly normal. But couples who had a girl became increasingly desperate to acquire a boy. For second births, the male number climbed to 113; for third, to 185. Among fourth-born children, it was a mind-boggling 209 [boys for every girl]. Even more alarming is that people maintain their cultural assumptions even in the diaspora; research shows a similar birth-preference pattern among couples of Chinese, Indian and Korean descent right here in America.
This pattern began to take shape in the mid-1970s, when the development of amniocentesis made it possible to identify the sex of the child in the womb. It started with the upper classes, who could easily afford the test, and who were more likely to abort the child if they knew it was a girl. Then amniocentesis was replaced with the cheaper and less invasive ultrasound, and suddenly anyone who wanted to abort an unborn girl could do so.
The consequences of the disproportionate number of men are severe. When there are 120 men for every 100 women, 20 men cannot marry. Since the wealthy are more likely to find a bride, those 20 men will generally come from the lower classes. As Last writes, “Unmarried men with limited incomes tend to make trouble. In Chinese provinces where the sex ratio has spiked, a crime wave has followed. Today in India, the best predictor of violence and crime for any given area is not income but sex ratio.” The surplus men also start looking to other nations for wives, causing the “mail order bride” business to boom, and they contribute to a dramatic rise in prostitution and sex trafficking.
Despite the author’s intentions, “Unnatural Selection” might be one of the most consequential books ever written in the campaign against abortion. It is aimed, like a heat-seeking missile, against the entire intellectual framework of “choice.” For if “choice” is the moral imperative guiding abortion, then there is no way to take a stand against “gendercide.” Aborting a baby because she is a girl is no different from aborting a baby because she has Down syndrome or because the mother’s “mental health” requires it. Choice is choice. One Indian abortionist tells Ms. Hvistendahl: “I have patients who come and say ‘I want to abort because if this baby is born it will be a Gemini, but I want a Libra.'”
This is where choice leads. This is where choice has already led. Ms. Hvistendahl may wish the matter otherwise, but there are only two alternatives: Restrict abortion or accept the slaughter of millions of baby girls and the calamities that are likely to come with it.