Factors That Contribute to Sex-selection Abortion: Analytical Essay

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Sex-selection abortion is choosing to abort a preborn child based solely on the child’s sex (Higgins, 2016). According to Hesketh et al ( 2011), sex ratio at birth (SRB) is defined as the number of boys born to every 100 girls, and is remarkably consistent in human populations at around 105 male births to every 100 female births. In countries where sex-selection abortion takes place, this ratio is high e.g. SRB started to rise in South Korea in the mid-1980s, and by 1992 the SRB was reported to be as high as 125 in some cities. Hesketh et al in quoting Hesketh et al (2009), China reported SRB from 106 in 1979, to 111 in 1990, 117 in 2001 and 121 in 2005. The increase in the SRB in China is associated with the one-child policy (Hesketh, 2011). Sex selection in favor of males is practiced in some Asian immigrant communities within the U.S. and other western nations such as the United Kingdom (Higgins, 2016)

Factors that contribute to sex-selection abortion

There are several factors that contribute to sex-selection abortion some of which include cultural preferences, one-child policy, unrestricted abortions and attempts to control the population. Each of the factors will be discussed in brief.

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Cultural preferences

According to Goodkind(1999), selective abortion of female fetuses is most common in areas where cultural norms value male children over female children for a variety of social and economic reasons. He further asserts that sons are often preferred as an “asset” since the can earn and support the family; a daughter is a “liability” since she will be married off to another family and so will not contribute financially to her parents. In some cultures, a son is expected to take care of their parents in the old age because they live together with the parents with their own

families. In some Indian cultures, they prefer a male child to avoid dowry payment which is too expensive and disputes sometimes can occur where there is disagreement leading to dowry deaths. However, though then preference for sons contributes to sex-selective abortion, it should be noted that this does not necessarily manifest itself in prenatal or post-natal elimination of females

One-child policy

In 1997, the Republic of China adopted the one-child policy which limited many families to one child, unless specified by provincial regulations. It was instituted as an attempt to boost the Chinese economy. Under it families who break the rule regarding the number of children are given various punishments (primary monetary) dependent upon the province in which they live. Research by Junhong (2001) found that many parents are willing to pay to ensure that their child is male (especially if their first child is female), but will not do the same to ensure their child is female (UNFPA, 2010). Additionally, farmers in China perceive that they can only remain on their land after retirement if they have a son who can inherit the land(UNFPA,2010).

Dowry payments

According to Goodkind (1999) societies where dowry systems mean an inconveniently gendered child could bankrupt a family or an enraged father deprived of a male heir could turn his fury on both mother and daughter. Consequently, this might lead to fear of getting a daughter due to their inability to pay dowry for her to get married. To safe the family from embarrassment, the easy way would be not to have girls.

Unrestricted abortion acts

It is noted the rate of sex-selection abortion is common in countries where abortions are allowed. This abortion may be done for son preference or for purposes of getting the gender that a family is looking for to complete their family e.g. a family already having girl and who want two children, a boy and a girl will procure an abortion should the pregnancy be another girl or the vice versa if it was a boy. The availability of technology makes it easy for one to go for diagnostic tests to determine the sex of the foetus (Junhong, 2001).

Attempts to control population growth.

The sons are preferred because they are the inheritors of their parent’s wealth, they are also the people to continue the family lineage therefore large population of male than female is considered important even for economic growth.

How Sex-Selection Abortion Happens.

Traditionally when one got pregnant they did not get to know the sex of the baby until the child was born. Sex selection abortion, however, has been made easier with advances in technology. It is a great problem in some countries where there is a preference for boys. United Nations population fund (UNPF) a part of UN organization where matters of pregnancy, the safety of every child and reproductive health are discussed. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has come up with how sex-selection abortion occurs and according to (UNPF) one of the facilitating factors is technological growth. With the use of Ultrasound, Machine parents can know the sex of the child before they are born. In the areas where sex selection happens it in noted that there are three elements in common: a strong preference for male offspring, declining fertility rates, and access to modern ultrasound technologies(UNFPA,2015).

According to Klepchukova (2018), one may find out the baby’s gender through several methods. The first is by doing an ultrasound between the 18th and 22nd weeks of pregnancy. Second is genetic testing methods such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS). The latter are among the early baby gender prediction methods and with a high degree of accuracy. These have contributed to abortion in that when one finds out they are carrying a child whose sex is not their choice can choose to have an abortion. In the past before these options became available due to technological advancements, people didn’t know the sex of the child till the birth, therefore helping them keep the child no matter the sex of the baby or others would resort to killing the baby a

It is to be noted that it not the advancement of technology that causes the sex-selection abortion rather is the underlying factors that necessitate for sex-selection abortion. One of these reasons for sex selection as given by the (UNPFA) is low fertility which increases the need for sex selection. This is common in certain countries like India where a male child is more valued and therefore if one find out they are carrying a girl there are likely to abort. UNFPA further points out that sex selection and skewed sex ratios are seen both as symptoms of gender inequality and as leading to further aggravation of inequality. The practice is expected to create a demographic imbalance between men and women in any society and this has far-reaching social and economic impacts.

Another reason that causes sex-selection abortion happens is due to the availability of facilities that are willing to perform the abortion. The facilities includes hospitals and most of them are not open they are underground hospitals where not many people have an idea. The availability of many abortion methods is a big contribution because a person chooses what favors them most and won’t bring much harm because all abortion methods are harmful. Medical practitioners have also contributed to help the process of abortion.

Impact of Sex Selection Abortion

Distorted Levels Of Sex Ratios At Birth

According to Guilmoto (2012), prenatal sex selection leads to distorted levels of sex ratios at birth, which at the time ranged between 110 and 120 male births per 100 female births in many countries, as against the standard biological level of 104-106. It is noted that birth masculinity is measured by the sex ratio at birth had reached levels above 120 or 130 in some specific regions which pointed to the intensity of son preference and gender discrimination. On the other hand, it is also noted that post-natal sex selection is measured by excess deaths among female infants and young girls which is an occurrence in several countries, reflecting the discrimination against and neglect of female children.

Gender-Based Violence

UNFPA (2015) highlights the negative implications of sex selection for women’s lives and health, and also for society as a whole. It is noted that women face intense pressure from family members and entrenched social norms to deliver male children. Consequently, women often become subject to gender-based violence, specifically psychological violence.

Psychological Distress and challenges

The lack of opportunity to fulfill traditional expectations of marrying and having children will result in low self-esteem and increased susceptibility to a range of psychological difficulties in areas where there are more men than women. This is especially more if their social status depends largely on them marrying. Hesketh et al (2010) in quoting Barber (2000) find that the combination of psychological vulnerability and sexual frustration may lead to aggression and violence in these men


Sex-Selective Abortion Bans

In some countries like United States of America, a law was passed that requires the doctor to fully find out with client whether the client knows about the sex of the child they want to abort. In case where the client is aware of the sex, the doctor is then obligated to inform the client that it is illegal to procure an abortion on the basis of the sex of the fetus. The onus is on the doctors to take a detailed medical history about pregnancies and births so as to be sure of the reason for the abortion as the law is opposed to the abortion of healthy babies because of having the ‘wrong sex’(Steinbock, 2017)

Chinese government passed a law which was meant to protect sex-selective abortion and especially on the women gender and which would also protect other practices like homosexuality. To affirm the law which was passed, china insisted that no abortion will be procured after 14 weeks of pregnancy since at this time the sex of the child in question is already known (Kuo, 2018).

Promote Women’s Equality

Further to strengthening sex-selective abortion in China and India, the rights of women to prevent girl’s gendercide have been put in place. This has been necessitated by the fact the rights of women have been violated in many countries in the world; with China and India being in the lead. Data suggests the massive loss of lives, Nagpal (2013) in quoting Patel (2007) asserts that 100 million women have been missing in South Asia due to ‘discrimination leading to death’ experienced by them from womb to tomb in their life cycles. It is with this in mind that gender isolation and discrimination in form of abortions and infanticide ought to stop because it creates war on women and it also devalues life (Higgins, 2016). According to World Health Organisation (WHO) states have an obligation under international human rights law to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of women (World Health Organisation, 2011).

Our View On Sex-Selection Abortion

One of the key ways of preventing sex-selection abortion is by accepting the fact that children are from God . Psalms 127:3;

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.

In the eyes of God both male and females are equal before God as confirmed by Genesis 1:26-27;

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

In view of the above, no one has a right to discriminate against one or the other. It is therefore the role of the church to preach and teach the truth that is in the word of God. Though there are

no statistics to indicate that there is any sex-selection abortion in Kenya, the Christian community across the world should take a firm stand not only against sex-selection abortion but abortions for whatever other reasons except when the life of a mother is in danger.

Creating awareness of the rights and the value of women help to change cultural attitudes and socioeconomic conditions that reinforce gender biases. Christians should be at the forefront in educating individuals and families to appreciate children whatever gender as God’s gift. This is especially because the church is where people go to whenever there are problems.

Finally, sex-selection abortion is not a solution if anything it creates more problems. It distorts the sex ratios at birth and as highlighted earlier, those males who do not get partners to marry suffer psychologically and the communities they belong to are negatively impacted through acts of aggression and violence. Women’s rights and inherent value as human beings will continue to suffer as long such practices exist. Sex selection abortion occurring anywhere must be stopped!


Sex selection abortion is commonly occurring in countries where there is a preference of sons. The first obvious way of determining if sex-selection abortion is happening in a country is when there is a high sex ratio at birth. Sex selection became more apparent as a result of technological advancements that enables the determination of the sex of a child. Legalization of abortion in many countries makes it easy for sex-selection abortion to take place. Though abortion is legal in many countries, sex-selection abortion is illegal. However, despite it being illegal, the practice is still going on as evidenced by a lack of a significant drop in SRB. This is already causing problems to the individuals and nations affected. Unless this is put to an end, it will eventually cause a crisis.


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