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Protect Girls from Sex-Selective Abortion

The Problem

According to UN statistics, there are 117 million girls missing around the world. Where have they gone? Many of them are left on the sides of roads, drowned, maimed and thrown in trash bins. But even more of them have been aborted.

The reason? They were girls, not boys.

Sex-selective abortion, also colloquially known as “gendercide,” is a huge problem across Asia. A traditional preference for sons, combined with harsh population control measures, has led to the wholesale destruction of little girls. This destruction that has left places like China in demographic turmoil, as young men are beginning to outnumber young women by substantial margins.

With immigration, the problem is also beginning to spread to the United States, as well.

How many sex-selective abortions are happening around the world?

Sex-Selective Abortion Around the World

Country Country sum of sex selective abortions for years 2000-2014 Yearly average Daily average Average sex-ratio at birth from 2000-2014
Albania 15,621 1,041 2.9 112
Armenia 21,682 1,971 5.4 116
Azerbaijan 105,418 7,028 19.3 116
Bosnia and Herzegovina 2,683 179 0.5 107
China 9,615,875 641,058 1756.3 115
Faroe Islands 25 2 0.0 107
Georgia 22,881 1,525 4.2 113
Grenada 311 1,116 3.1 109
Hong Kong 15,674 1,045 2.9 112
India 12,771,043 851,403 2332.6 112
Isle of Man 203 14 0.0 110
Korea, South 28,980 1,932 5.3 108
Kosovo 7,494 500 1.4 109
Liechtenstein 216 14 0.0 116
Macedonia 3,130 209 0.6 108
Malaysia 43,257 2,884 7.9 107
Moldova 3,894 260 0.7 107
Montenegro 746 50 0.1 108
Pakistan 1,280,228 116,384 318.9 109
Portugal 2,787 186 0.5 107
San Marino 115 8 0.0 114
Serbia 2,140 143 0.4 107
Singapore 2,262 151 0.4 107
Slovenia 901 60 0.2 107
Taiwan 39,407 2,627 7.2 109
Tunisia 19,369 1,291 3.5 108
Vietnam 555,002 37,000 101.4 111
TOTALS 24,561,345 1,670,079 4575.5

More about the numbers

Where did you get these numbers?

The raw numbers (the sex-ratios and number of births) came from the U.S. Census Bureau.

We downloaded our data from the years 2000-2014. We then controlled for life expectancy and calculated the expected natural sex-ratio for each country in each given year.* Using these numbers, we calculated from the number of babies born each year, how many male babies should have been born and how many female babies should have been born.

We then used the actual sex-ratio to determine the number of male and female births in each country in each year.

We then took the difference between the number of girls that should have been borne given the country’s natural sex ratio and the number of girls that were actually born. We use this number as an estimate for how many girls were aborted because of their gender in each country by year.

There is a more in-depth explanation of the method we used in “Sex Selection in China and its Demographic Causes.”

The number of sex-selective abortions is different than the number of boy births more than girl births—why?

There are naturally more boy births than female births. The natural ratio of boys to girls at birth is 105 boys for every 100 girls born. In other words, 51% of all births result in male babies. This might seem like an insignificant difference, but it matters a lot. There have been 1.9 billion births since the year 2000, and even a tiny percentage of this is a significant number.

Based on this natural ratio, there should have been 47 million more boys than girls born since 2000. Instead, because of sex-selective abortions, there were 71 million more boys than girls born. This means that there were 24 million (the difference between 71 million and 47 million) sex-selective abortions since the year 2000.

Our number is low: it only includes sex-selective abortions since the year 2000.

We only looked at pre-birth discrimination since the year 2000. There has been pre-birth discrimination for decades before the year 2000 which would add to the 24 million total. The earliest births we studied are just now turning 14 years old.

“24 million” doesn’t account for gender discrimination after birth.

After birth, women and girls continue to face discrimination. In 1990, a Nobel-prize winning economist named Amartya Sen published a paper entitled “More than 100 Million Women are Missing.” Sen’s paper focused on discrimination after birth and showed how millions of girls died prematurely because of discrimination in nutrition, health-care, and medicine. 24 million is the number of women who are missing due to sex-selection abortion in the past 14 years. The total number of women who are missing from gender discrimination is much higher.

Our number only includes numbers from societies where the problem is widespread:

We calculated our numbers from country-wide averages. Lots of other countries have sex-selections that occur within the country, but don’t have it occur frequently enough to affect the average sex-ratio within the country. The United States, for instance, has documented cases of sex-selective abortions, but these cases are not frequent enough to affect the national average ratio of the United States. The countries on the list are countries in which sex-selective abortions occur so frequently that they skew the national average.

Our figure does not include all girls who were aborted since the year 2000.

Our figure of 24 million only refers to girls who were aborted because of their gender. It does not include abortions of females motivated by economic pressure, a conception from rape, incest, or any other factor other than the infant’s gender.

More numbers:

  • Last year, there were 1,330,000 sex-selective abortions. There were also about 65,000,000 girls born last year (2013).
  • For every 200 girls born, one is refused the chance to see the light of day just because she is a female.
  • In the world’s two most populous countries, gender discrimination makes girls much less likely to ever see the light of day.
  • In India, for every 100 girls who are born alive, 7 are aborted just because they are girls.
  • In China, for every 100 girls who are born alive, 9 are aborted just because they are girls.
  • Over the last 14 years, there were an average of 4,575 abortions every day. That comes to about one abortion motivated by gender every 18 seconds.

* The natural sex-ratio at birth is normally around 105 males for every 100 females born. However, certain conditions affect spontaneous miscarriages,and these conditions affect male and female fetuses differently. Maternal ill health during pregnancy causes males fetuses to spontaneously abort more than females. As a result, countries with good health naturally experience higher sex-ratios (about 106:100) whereas countries with poor health naturally experience lower sex-ratios (about 102:100). Klasen and Wink (2002) proposed a model to use a country’s life expectancy as a proxy variable to derive a country’s natural sex-ratio.

The Solution

Join the domestic and international effort to ban sex-selective abortion in our country and around the world.

Our president, Steve Mosher, testified before the Congressional sub-committee in opposition to Sex-Selective Abortion.

BILL STATUS: Feb. 16, 2012: Committee Consideration and Mark-up Session Held. (View full timeline.)

Our videos, press releases, and writings on the subject have helped inform the public about the seriousness of this problem. (See “Learn More”, below.)

You Can Help

You can help by:

  • Contacting your Representatives and telling them to support H.R. 3541, the Pre-Natal Non-Discrimination Act.
  • Raising awareness in your own community about sex-selective abortion, and
  • Continuing to support our efforts against this expanding problem.

Learn More