Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gender preference and abortion on demand: a lethal combination

Although gender selection has existed historically in one form or another in many cultures, ultrasound and abortion technologies are bringing the practice into the mainstream. Societies that practice gender selection include: China, Korea, Taiwan, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, New Guinea, and many other developing countries in East Asia and North Africa. And since these are many of the same countries from which Canada draws its immigrants, the question can reasonably be asked: Should Canadian residents be permitted to use abortion as a tool to choose the gender of their children?

Under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act gender selection is illegal in Canada, but the Act restricts sex-selection in vitro, not in utero. And at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women meeting in March 2007, Canada helped force the withdrawal of a US-sponsored resolution against “sex-selective abortion.”

Our country’s bias is not to put any limits whatsoever on abortion, apparently to support those pro-choice and feminist groups who are convinced that outlawing gender selective abortion will undermine the reproductive rights of women.

For many of us, however, allowing parents to choose the gender of their offspring is a first step onto that slippery slope of deciding what kind of children are acceptable. What’s next, “designer babies” selected for appearance, height or intelligence?

A difficult ethical conundrum. Should we limit access to abortions in order to combat systemic gender discrimination?

Our answer thus far has been “no,” notwithstanding the general practice by doctors’ and hospitals’ to refuse to provide sex-determination testing to women who express a desire to abort a fetus based solely on gender.


The natural ratio of boys to girls has traditionally been about 105 boys per 100 girls. In India it has climbed to 113 boys per 100 girls, and up to 156 boys per 100 girls in some regions. The current gender ratio in China is about 120 boys per 100 girls, and in the more prosperous provinces it’s even higher.


  1. Ujjal Dosanjh, Liberal MP and former Health minister actually wants to bann gender selection abortions.

    He was shocked by Statistic Canada stats which showed that in certain areas of BC with high Indo populations, the birth rate for girls was much lower. It's estimated that these areas are missing over 50 000 girls which should be there according to statistical averages.

  2. Yes, this is a subject that is swept under the rug in Canada. I written many posts on it. One here for example.

  3. China should not be on your list. I say this as somone who with his wife has been in China for the last 5 years. Officially it is banned and if someone is found to be have broken the law then they are in serious trouble.
    It used to be the case where parents, especially rural would kill girl babies and leave them in the fields.That may still go on but that is not the governments official position.

  4. I'm referring to a "cultural" bias—I did not mean to imply it is official government policy.

    The current gender ratio in China is about 120 boys per 100 girls, and in the more prosperous provinces it’s even higher.

    I think this speaks for itself.