Has “reproductive freedom” turned into “femicide”?

Last year, the Indian state of Maharashtra (of which Bombay is the capital) banned sex-selective abortions. In India, where having boys is a way of saving for old age and where having girls means paying huge dowries to attract husbands, experts say tens of thousands of female fetuses have been aborted in recent years. Surprisingly, in a country that encourages abortion as a form of population control, feminist and human rights groups had achieved a ban on abortion purely for sexual preference.

As shocking as it is, this clearly discriminatory practice may somehow appear to be at home in Indian culture. It seems as if it could never happen here. This is 1989, and thanks to our society’s unique blend of Christian and Enlightenment principles, women not only vote and own property, they lead corporations. Yet fetuses are being aborted here—because they are female.

Medical geneticists, the doctors who perform prenatal testing to find out whether a developing child might have a chromosomal abnormality related to something like Tay-Sachs disease or Down’s syndrome, can also tell their clients the sex of their unborn child. Thus it becomes possible to choose to abort a fetus because it is a girl. Unfortunately, the procedure is becoming more acceptable.

In 1973 only 1 percent of geneticists said sex-selective abortion was morally acceptable. But today, according to a recent New York Times article, 20 percent of medical geneticists approve. It is impossible to measure the actual number of fetuses aborted because they were the wrong sex, but the doctors interviewed by the Times said they are all routinely asked by patients to test fetuses for gender. The number of parents making that ...

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