We hear a lot about gender-selection and selective abortions in countries like India and China. In the West we decry these practices as gendercide, but the United States practices its own form of selective abortion when it comes to fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome and other chromosomal conditions.
In her Pulitzer-Prize nominated book Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, journalist Mara Hvistendahl takes a close look at the distorted sex ratios among the populations of China and India. Hvistendahl writes, "sex selection has resulted in an imbalance of over 100 million more men than womenworldwide."
Inexpensive ultrasound technology has enabled this imbalance as couples can now learn whether they are having boys or girls and respond with "selective abortions" if having a girl seems undesirable.
Social conditions and systemic bias against women contribute to the millions of couples worldwide who choose against giving birth to a girl.
As the Economist explained a few years back, "Perhaps hard physical labour is still needed for the family to make its living. Perhaps only sons may inherit land. Perhaps a daughter is deemed to join another family on marriage and you want someone to care for you when you are old. Perhaps she needs a dowry."
Social conditions, economic reality, even the prospect of being able to provide adequate long-term care—all of these factors contribute to the decision to abort girls.