Technology Driving Rise in Abortions of Girls in India

Debora MacKenzie, New Scientist, February 5, 2015

The Republic Day parade in New Delhi last week was the first ever attended by a US president. The visit was hailed as recognition of India’s growing geopolitical importance.

Besides the tanks and fighter jets, what the Obamas saw were women, including the country’s first all-female marching battalions, a woman leading the honour guard and a re-enactment of Indian women conquering Everest in 1993. “Congratulations, it’s a baby girl!” proclaimed a float.

The float celebrated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s £10 million “Save the daughter” campaign, which aims to persuade Indian couples to stop selectively aborting female fetuses, a practice that some worry is already causing social instability in the country. Abortion is legal in India, but not on the basis of fetal sex.

Two days after the parade, India’s highest court ordered the Google, Yahoo and Bing search engines to stop adverts for providers of prenatal sex determination from popping up alongside online searches for the procedure. Next week the court is expected to order them to block adverts in the search results themselves.

Girls have long had a hard time in India. Infanticide was historically common, especially in north and west India, as girls were expensive to keep and required a dowry, while it was the sons who supported ageing parents. This had waned by the 1950s, but in the 1970s parents began to switch to prenatal sex selection, thanks to the availability of tests such as amniocentesis, and abortion. This accelerated in the 1990s, says Arindam Nandi of the Public Health Foundation of India, when ultrasound became available.

Using careful statistical analysis of the country’s census data, Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto calculates that up to 4 million girls were aborted between 1991 and 2001, and a further 6 million by 2011. Most are aborted at five months–ultrasound at four months can detect the fetus’s sex. This could become easier with the next generation of prenatal testing, which requires only a blood test.

The search providers involved in the recent court case protest that they already comply with India’s advertising restrictions. “In India, we do not allow ads for the promotion of prenatal gender determination or preconception sex selection,” a Google spokesperson told New Scientist.

Searching for “ultrasound Delhi” in India led to a slew of ads for small clinics. None mention sex determination, but many have pictures of babies and offer other kinds of ultrasound tests. A search on “ivf boy Dubai” in New Delhi turned up adverts for clinics outside India that offer fetal sex tests and IVF babies of the desired sex. Both are illegal in India, but are increasingly the choice for the country’s elite, says Sabu George of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies in New Delhi, who filed the court case.

And you don’t need access to the internet. “You can get an ultrasound in villages that don’t have clean drinking water,” says Nandi. Technicians use code to tell parents what they want to know: buy pink clothes, say. “Everyone knows which clinics will tell you,” says George.

A look at the data from the 2001 and 2011 Indian censuses shows what has happened (see maps). Normally, human societies have 950 girls for every 1000 boys aged 6 and under. For India, the number of girls per 1000 boys was 927 in 2001, and 914 in 2011. This seems a small effect but Jha says that in such a populous country it equates to millions of aborted girls.

The practice is spreading. Skewed sex ratios are starting to show up in states such as Kerala, where female infanticide was not historically an issue but where ultrasound clinics are now common. “I fear it will be worse in 2021,” says George, when the next census is due.

Like all modernising societies, India went from some six children per woman in the 1960s to 2.4 now. “In the past, people just had children until they had the desired number of boys,” says Nandi. Now families planning only two children feel they cannot leave boys to chance.

Sex-linked IVF

Jha has found that in families where the firstborn was a girl, the second child was unnaturally likely to be a boy, with survey data from 1990 showing 906 firstborn girls per 1000 boys getting a little sister, and just 836 in 2005. If the firstborn was a boy, sex ratios among subsequent children were normal. “People say they just want balance in their families,” he says. “But they don’t abort second boys. Only second girls.”

The effect was greater the more wealthy and educated the family was. Now, says George, affluent couples are having IVF in Dubai or Singapore and choosing male embryos. Advances in prenatal testing will also make things easier and earlier. The Beijing Genomics Institute in China, as well as several US-based firms, have tests that sequence fetal genes from the mother’s blood in the first trimester.

The real issue, say George and other researchers, is one of human rights. But does a male-female imbalance also do social damage? An influential analysis in 2005 argued that societies with fewer girls and large numbers of unmarried men see more violence and instability. But some argue there is little evidence for this.

In India, recent research has suggested increased violence against women goes along with excess men, though this might be explained by increased crime reporting (see “Looking for a wife“). Either way, we need more studies of the impact of gender imbalance, says Sanjay Zodpey of the Public Health Foundation of India. “But we shouldn’t wait to measure the impact before we stop this happening.”

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  • JackKrak

    “Like all modernising societies, India went from…”

    Um, didn’t India get about a three thousand year head start on whitey? What’s the holdup over there?

    • Ummmm, yeah. We were savages spearing wild boars in the forests of Europe at the time, unless you have been to Scara Brae, a 5000 year-old village of dug-out homes lined with stone in the Orkney Islands. They even had some rune-like writing. Digging homes in pits, lining them with stone, and then covering them over makes a lot of sense, given the wind and rain there.

    • 1stworlder

      Only the top smallest caste is reasonably intelligent. Its funny that leftists think all of India’s masses are potential phone operators, much less brain surgeons.

    • Ken Dometriosis .

      The white race assisted or ruled India 2500 years ago. haven’t you heard about the red-haired remains discovered over there? Caste system ring a bell??

    • Good point. What’s with these “developing” nations? Yeah, supposedly India had a great civilization before us White people ever did. And don’t get me started on the supposedly great African black civilizations that once existed (yeah, right!).

  • Anglokraut

    Shame about the girls in the North–that’s where the Indian sub-group turns light-skinned, with refined features; Bollywood actors and actresses are from this group.

    • John Smith

      Southern Indians are more closely related to Melanesians and Australian Aboriginals than they are to Northern Indians of Indo-European stock.

  • Magician

    Any society with an imbalance in gender ratio will suffer…..

    • dmxinc

      Too bad the extra males will be coming West to try to take our women.

      Some will succeed.

      • Magician

        “Too bad the extra males will be coming West….”

        Many companies over here in this country will bring a plenty of H1B visa holders, order the current white male employees to train them for the same thing that the existing white male workers have been doing just fine, and then kick the white male out.

      • LHathaway

        That’s the only reason they are here.

      • John Smith

        But studies on condom dimensions show that the average Indian male can’t wear a condom sized for Western males, thus they’d better all be tech millionaires.

  • Alucard_the_last

    Too bad this isn’t happening in Africa.

    • Americaandthewestshouldbewhite

      Africans know that through their wombs they can make money by getting more welfare checks. So they keep their female babies just to make more money.

  • dd121

    The sooner whites in this country realize that we can’t fix all the world’s problems, the better off we’ll be. It’s not our problem.

    • WR_the_realist

      If I were an Indian I would be fighting against the dowry system that leads to this preference for boys. As an American, I put this on the “Not my problem” list.

      • dd121


      • evilsandmich

        It seems like supply and demand would fix this. They have a disparity in China as well which is why a groom’s family has to pay through the nose if he wants to get married. Why this remains flipped in India is befuddling as it seems like disparity plus dowry equals no dudes getting married.

    • You’d be right if we actually had borders. But as it stands, millions of Indian men will come here looking for wives, and our government will support them.

  • HJ11

    Good, they should have more abortions and more birth control. It means fewer of their genes to compete with White genes.

  • IstvanIN

    India should have gone the one-child rule 60 years ago.

    • 1stworlder

      At least for the bottom castes the bottom 2 might as well be black.

  • John Smith

    Nuclear weapons and no toilet facilities – India is definitely a country with its priorities straight. The lack of women will definitely be self-limiting to the population eventually, so they should keep at it.

    • They’ll all demand to come here.

      • LexiconD1

        My Indian friend says that most want to come here, but getting a visa or residential card in India is almost impossible. She says, “Thank God, I wouldn’t want them all over here”…

    • The Dude

      What do you mean “the lack of women”?

  • pcmustgo

    Shows where the priorities are in India… ultra sound but no clean water in these villages.

    • Charles Martel

      And a space program!

  • Michael Robert Ryan

    Supply of anything closely follows demand, so this means that Indians are more desirous to kill their daughters than they are to drink water that’s not fecally contaminated. Talk about a backwards society.

  • Reynardine

    “Abortion is legal in India, but not on the basis of fetal sex.”

    How do they even enforce that?

    • GeneticsareDestiny

      They don’t. If a woman wants to abort her baby girl she just doesn’t tell them she’s aborting because of the child’s sex. She can give any other excuse and it will be legal. I imagine most of them tell the abortion clinics they’re aborting because they can’t afford another child, or something of that sort.

  • Raymond Kidwell

    Praise Jebus! Step up the abortions into over drive.

  • Ken Dometriosis .

    Any non-white that is aborted saves one white life. Let’s get the clinics rolling!

  • We have only one kid, a daughter. When she was born, I was delighted she was healthy. She turns eight this year, and loves stargazing. Ariadne has appropriated my RAF “Skysearch” binoculars and college astronomy textbooks. If we have another girl, she will be Penelope, and if a boy, Owen. She has pretty much a free pass into the Japanese Self-Defense Force Academy, though joining a foreign military can end one’s US citizenship, converting it to only a Green Card. If she does, she’ll go navy (we don’t call that the MSDF here).

    Ariadne’s name was a happenstance. I had one of my naval history books open on the dining room table, and Sayaka noticed a piece on British cruisers. She asked me what the name meant, so I explained that Ariadne was the wife of Theseus, the hero who slew the minotaur. Sayaka then told me she was pregnant. The name stuck.

    I am glad of every day with her. I’m pro-abortion, pro-death-penalty and basically pro-death, but selectively murdering girls is evil. My only regret is that eventually she will grow up and move away.

    • Do you imagine she’s going to be hitting you up for a telescope pretty soon?

    • Mary

      I love your daughter’s name. It was actually on the short list of my favorite names for girls before my children were born. But I ended up having all boys. I’ve never encountered it outside of mythology except for an Agatha Christie character. Beautiful name, and I’m sure she’s a beautiful child.

    • LHathaway

      I tend to imagine I’m an ‘educated man’. I also imagine I’m a liberated man (which is a lot harder to be and gets you in much more trouble than just agreeing with whatever the feminists (the mainstream) say . . .

      But I do believe the biological father should name the child. Some kind of right (that he could forgo, or of course consider with his wife, or even a right that could even be forefitted, somehow), but I feel that should be his ‘right’ or priority. There are very few if any rights that seem to belong solely to the father (it usually works the opposite way) but that is one, if perhaps the only one men should have: naming his child.

    • Americaandthewestshouldbewhite

      Is your daughter half Japanese?? If so shame on you for having a non white child with a non white. I guess better than marrying a negress.

  • LHathaway

    Abortion of specifically girls in Indian . . . ? Just another lie. No doubt we’ll continue to hear about it for the next 30 years or so. Reminders of how bad the holocaust was, too. They are going to keep up this reverse psychology aimed at White girls Forever apparently. Pity the poor things. It’s working. At least the number of them marry black men seemed to level off and decline sometime in the early to mid 90’s . . . That’s when they started heavily marrying Chinese, Mexican, Indian and SAmerican men. They just have too much concern for the black family. Who knows, they might become concerned about White men, as soon as the media tells them to. Don’t expect the reverse psychology to easy up, though. Doesn’t look like it. Sorry girls.

  • What struck me was the last sentence: “We shouldn’t wait to measure the impact before we stop this happening.” The same reasoning should apply to the forced racial demographic changes being implemented upon white societies.

  • LexiconD1

    One of my good friends from nursing school is Indian. Her parents were smart, they had three girls and one boy. Her father moved to the United States first, and after a few years brought the rest of his family. All the kids (who are now American citizens) went on to obtain college degrees (the youngest, the boy is still in school, but close), when they begin looking for husbands, in India, they are in HIGH demand.
    Frankly, I thought it was pretty smart of their parents. They knew girls were not worth much in their culture, in India. But, would garner much more out of being educated and American, also perhaps a ticket to the United States.

    • Americaandthewestshouldbewhite

      Well now they will get more hindu boys from India and then they will breed and have kids. More curry eating non whites. At least they are better than Negros and arabs.

      • LexiconD1

        Nope, not a ‘Hindu’, she’s a Sikh. There is a TON if difference between the two. Although idiots often think Sikhs are Muslims because they wear turbans, they are not.

        • Americaandthewestshouldbewhite

          I know the difference between a sikh and a muslim. I think they are all liabilities and need to be back in their cesspool India.

  • India went from…” It is precisely this attitude toward gender selection that made it difficult for Mr. Yadav to find a wife. A preference for boy babies has resulted in a dearth of brides for the men of his rural village.