163 million women are missing.
Give that number a moment to sink in.
By comparison, 25 million people have died of AIDS. 90 million girls and women have suffered female genital mutilation (FGM)–but, terrible as FGM is, at least they’re still alive.
Over 160 million victims of gendercide . . . and deafening silence.
Planned Parenthood (PP) likes to talk about back alley abortion deaths. They’re miniscule compared to the number of girls and women missing as the result of sex selection abortions. But PP remains silent on the issue.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has mounted a huge worldwide campaign against FGM, but still has no official stance on sex selection abortions a quarter century after the epidemic began.
The World Health Organization (WHO), the National Organization for Women (NOW)–really, just about everyone–has just closed their eyes and turned up the music.
It’s largely an Asian problem–but the U.S. is complicit, in the river of blood up to our elbows. In the ’50s, Planned Parenthood advocated limiting the number of “Orientals” by peddling contraceptives and abortion to them. The Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the World Bank and others bankrolled their efforts.
U.S. conservatives also supported population control in former European colonies. They thought it would reduce poverty, and thus keep those countries from–their main goal–going Communist. The first President Bush and Henry Kissinger are on record as supporting sex selection abortion. American government agencies and NGOs were the initial impetus behind China’s one-child policy.
And so in cultures where boys are preferred, the development of inexpensive ultrasound technology has been the death knell for millions of little girls.
163 million and counting.
But our complicity is not just a matter of historical regret. Female feticide is big business in the 21st century.
General Electric markets cheap ultrasound machines in China, knowing that they’re being used primarily to identify and abort little girls. Yahoo, Microsoft and Google allow sponsored links for sex selection abortion in India.
It’s all documented–this and much, much more–in Mara Hvistendahl’s book, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men.
The implications of a world missing hundreds of millions of women are sobering. By the late 2020s, 20% of the men in China and India will be surplus. As a result, we’re seeing the commoditization of marriage and sex: an epidemic of sex trafficking of women and little girls, bride buying, and forced marriages, as well as–in areas seething with record levels of testosterone–an increase in violence.
Unnatural Selection a book with an oddly split personality. Hvistendahl is not only disturbed by sex selective abortions of female fetuses. She’s also staunchly pro-choice. But she can never articulate any rational worldview that makes abortion okay, but not sex-selection abortion. So she’s left being appalled at aborting a female fetus because she’s female, but supporting the killing of the same baby because she’s, say, a Gemini and not a Libra. (One Indian abortionist Hvistendahl interviews tells her this is one reason his patients give for aborting their babies.)
The reason Hvistendahl can’t come up with a coherent distinction between the two situations, of course, is because there isn’t one. Once we say a woman has a right to abort her baby, we have no logical basis for deciding which reasons are good ones and which reasons aren’t. (It’s a personal choice, remember?)
But Hvistendahl has done her legwork–the book is filled with riveting interviews of everyone from the policy wonks and doctors who have created this horror, to the prostitutes, bought brides, single men and others who are the collateral damage of the practice. She ranges back to British policy in colonial India to look at the origins of our present situation and forward into the future to make some educated guesses about what the future holds.
Unnatural Selection is a must-read for anyone willing to consider the implications of what we so blithely call “choice”.