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Asia’s 163 Million Missing Girls

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Gender selection abortion crisisChina’s one-child policy was put in place some 30 years ago, before ultrasound technology was widely available and used to determine the sex of a fetus. Three decades later, an imbalance of boys over girls that has been made possible by gender-selection abortion practices is visible not only in China, but in India and other developing countries -- and in ethnic Asian communities in the U.S.

Mara Hvistendahl is the author of Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. She puts the number of missing girls in Asia at 163 million, more than the entire female population in the U.S., and reports on the tens of millions of men in Asia, “surplus males,” who without female counterparts may purchase women from poorer countries.

She approaches these sensitive subjects without an ideological ax to grind, whether pro-life or pro-population control, documenting how sex selection has taken hold thanks to technology, lower birth rates, and deep-seated cultural biases that require a boy to carry on a family’s lineage.

Unlike the U.S., where abortion is legal but can be difficult to obtain and carries a stigma, the procedure is accessible and widely used in other cultures. Hvistendahl told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington that she supports abortion rights but found the procedure so pervasive in some countries that there are nearly three abortions for every birth. “The availability of relatively inexpensive screening with unconditional abortion is a game changer,” says Nicholas Eberstadt, a demographer at AEI.

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