ing that elder care is primarily carried out by daughters. 14 In India, pensions and social support are not universally available, and this lack perpetuates the ongoing preference for male children. The preference for male children persists, however, even in relatively well-educated, higher-income groups, as the ratio of male to female births reveals. 15 In 1992, in an editorial published in the British Medical Journal , Amartya Sen estimated that 37 million women were “missing” in India as a result of inequities in care, which contributed to a much higher female mortality rate. In a follow-up editorial written in 2003, Sen reported that although the “female disadvantage in mortality” had been substantially reduced, “this has been counterbalanced by a new female disadvantage—that in natality— through sex specific abortions aimed against the female fetus.” 16 Researchers have indeed postulated an increase in sex-selective abortions of female fetuses in India from 2001 to 2011; their findings are based in part on the growing imbalance in the number of boys versus girls revealed in the 2011
doi: 10.15215/aupress/9781771991599.01 293 Kang / Sex-Selective Abortion and the Politics of Race Indian census, which counted 7.1 million fewer girls than boys in the age range from birth to six years. 17 In an effort to combat the preference for male children, India banned the use of sex-selective technologies in 1994 with the enactment of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act. The Indian government has also launched campaigns to support the education of girls from elementary school through to university or college in an effort to offset gender inequities. In addition, during my last visit to India, in 2009, I saw billboards through- out Punjab advertising programs and charitable organizations that provide support to poor families to help with wedding expenses. While, in the long run, these measures may work in unison to improve the status of women, their impact on the sex imbalance so far seems limited. 18 After all, policing the practice of sex-selective abortion and embryo implantation is difficult. As Sen suggests, as access to new reproductive technologies becomes easier, the use of sex-selective procedures will probably increase, further enlarging the gap between the number of boys and girls in India. 19 The issue of sex selection is bound up with a complicated web of ethical concerns and, understandably, provokes strong emotional reactions. All the same, I am troubled by the shadow of apparent racism in media and schol- arly articles when sex selection is discussed. In “Sex Selection Migrates to Canada,” Lauren Vogel calls attention to the view—expressed by a number of economists and bioethicists—that “easy access to abortion and advances in prenatal sex determination have combined to make Canada a haven for parents who would terminate female fetuses in favour of having sons.” 20 Like the contention that Canada has become a safe haven for terrorist organiza- tions, such a view implies that immigrants are now bringing another social
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- Spring '11
- abortion rights