The Global War Against Baby Girls
Over the past three decades the world has come to witness an ominous and entirely new form of gender discrimination: sex-selective feticide, implemented through the practice of surgical abortion with the assistance of information gained through prenatal gender determination technology. All around the world, the victims of this new practice are overwhelmingly female — in fact, almost universally female. The practice has become so ruthlessly routine in many contemporary societies that it has impacted their very population structures, warping the balance between male and female births and consequently skewing the sex ratios for the rising generation toward a biologically unnatural excess of males. This still-growing international predilection for sex-selective abortion is by now evident in the demographic contours of dozens of countries around the globe — and it is sufficiently severe that it has come to alter the overall sex ratio at birth of the entire planet, resulting in millions upon millions of new “missing baby girls” each year. In terms of its sheer toll in human numbers, sex-selective abortion has assumed a scale tantamount to a global war against baby girls.
Initial Signal in China
A regular and quite predictable relationship between total numbers of male and female births is a fixed biological characteristic for human populations, as it is for other species of mammals. The discovery of the consistency, across time and space, of the sex ratio at birth (SRB) for human beings was one of the very earliest findings of the modern discipline of demography. (One of the founders of the field, the German priest and statistician Johann Peter Süssmilch, posited in 1741 that “the Creator’s reasons for ensuring four to five percent more boys than girls are born lie in the fact that it compensates for the higher male losses due to the recklessness of boys, to exhaustion, to dangerous occupations, to war, to seafaring and immigration, thus maintaining the balance between the two sexes so that everyone can find a spouse at the appropriate time for marriage.”)
Medical and demographic research subsequently identified some differences in SRB that correspond with ethnicity, birth order, parental age, urbanization, environmental conditions, and other factors. But such differences were always quite small; until the 1980s, the SRB for large human populations tended to fall within a narrow range, usually around 103 to 106 newborn boys for every 100 newborn girls and typically centering no higher than 105. Until the 1980s, exceptions to this generality were mainly registered in small populations, and attributable to chance.
The modern phenomenon of biologically unnatural increase in the sex ratio at birth was first noticed in the 1980s for China, the world’s most populous country. In 1979, China promulgated its “One Child Policy,” a compulsory and at times coercive population-control program that continues to be enforced to this day (albeit with regional and temporal variations in severity). In 1982, China’s national population census — the first to be conducted in nearly two decades — reported an SRB of 108.5, a striking and disturbing demographic anomaly. Initially, researchers surmised that this abnormal imbalance might be in large part a statistical artifact, under the hypothesis that Chinese parents might be disposed to conceal the birth of a daughter so as to have another chance for a son, given the strict birth quotas so often decreed by the One Child Policy. But successive Chinese population censuses registered ever-higher SRBs. By the 2005 “mini-census” — a survey of 1 percent of the country’s population, conducted between the full censuses — China’s SRB approached 120, and the reported nationwide sex ratio for children under 5 was even higher…