In Sacha Baron Cohen's (Borat and Bruno) new movie The Dictator, his film-wife tells him she's pregnant in one scene. His response: "Are you having a boy or an abortion?"
This line is only funny if you like shock comedy. It packs a punch because it's true.
It's a well-documented fact that sex ratios are skewed to biologically impossible levels in countries like China and India because of gender-based abortions. From 1981 to 1986 alone, Chinese women underwent 67 million abortions because of the one-child policy, a government act designed to limit the population growth of the world's most populous nation. Thirty years later, it's still fueling China's strong cultural preference for boys, and perpetuating an unimaginable number of girl-child abortions.
India, with its oppressive (though technically illegal) dowry system, continues to devalue girls and leads to millions of abortions when an ultrasound reveals a female fetus. In both countries, sex-selective abortion—and even ultrasound used for the purpose of determining a child's sex—is illegal. Even so, the problem persists. Boys are simply more prized than girls.
Mara Hvistendahl, author of Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, traces the many problems associated with a world where more than 160 million girls are missing, largely because of sex-selective abortions. "Gender imbalance has been treated as a local problem, as something that happens to other countries," she says. "The gender imbalance is a local problem in the way a superpower's financial crisis is a local problem, in the way a neighboring country's war is a local problem. Sooner or later, it affects you."
In America, sooner or later was last week.
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