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Gender-selective abortions not forgivable

It’s understandable for would-be parents to have a preference for the sex of their child. All over the world, there are fathers who say they want a little boy who will one day play catch with them in the backyard. Likewise, there are dads who long for the sweetness a little girl brings to a family. Moms also either hope for a little girl to share in the experience of being female or wish for a boy they can help nurture into a man. But, when parents discover that the sex of their baby is not what they’d been hoping for, many simply allow themselves a moment of disappointment before recalibrating their plans for a happy life with their new baby boy or girl. Some people, however, don’t take such disappointment with grace. There are parents, including some right here in Taiwan it seems, who actually make the decision to terminate a pregnancy based on the sex of the child. Overwhelmingly, baby girls are the unwanted gender.

It’s well known that there are societies in Asia that have a strong preference for male children. This preference is also found in non-Asian nations, but it seems that Asia is where the preference more commonly leads to action. Considering how advanced Taiwan is in terms of social welfare and education, many might assume this nation is no longer one where gender-selective abortions take place. But sadly, it seems we have yet to completely leave this disturbing practice behind.

On Sunday (May 15), this publication reported that the health department might begin requesting that prosecutors investigate certain local hospitals, due to their “abnormally high” male birth ratios. The China Post report also claimed that local media quoted a government official as saying that last year; as many as 3,000 female babies could be considered “missing” from Taiwan’s population. Evidence is very hard to come by as abortions are legal and it can be quite hard to prove that an abortion was conducted based on the unborn child’s sex. But anecdotal evidence abounds: one hospital in northern Taiwan has a record of 10 out of every 11 births being male children. Another has a ratio of nine out of 10. These numbers certainly don’t seem “natural.”

Terminating a pregnancy based on gender is against the law in Taiwan and there are penalties of up to NT$500,000 ($17,300) for those caught doing so. To say the practice violates medical ethics is a gross understatement ― many would agree that a medical professional who engages in such a despicable act is not far removed from a murderer.

China has found it very difficult to break free of the cultural preference for male children. According to figures announced by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2010, China’s sex ratio for newborns stands at 119.45 boys to 100 girls. India’s Economic Times newspaper reports that India’s problem with gender imbalance is actually getting worse; with the sex ratio falling to 914 females for every 1,000 males according to 2011 census figures. This ratio is the lowest since India gained independence from Great Britain in 1947. Both India and China have enacted various laws against female feticide and have put in place educational campaigns promoting the value of girls, but the problem persists.

The millions of parents who chose to terminate their female children may come to rue their decision. Experts say both India and China will almost certainly face a future with millions of young unmarried men desperate to find wives ... wives who simply don’t exist. Instead of happy grandparents doting over their children’s children, the parents who caved to tradition could face their “golden years” without grandchildren and dealing with the social problems caused by the frustrations of their sons.

But as horrible as the problem is in India and China, it might be possible to see it as somewhat understandable. In poor areas of both nations, a son can mean a net gain while a daughter can mean the opposite, spending your final years in poverty. But here in Taiwan, extreme poverty is rare and this nation is no longer an agrarian society. There is little “excuse” therefore for the disgusting practice of gender-selective abortions.

It is unknown how widespread the problem is in Taiwan and hard facts are scarce so we encourage the government to investigate further. A cultural preference for boys might be an understandable leftover from ancient times, but actually making a decision to terminate a planned pregnancy because an ultrasound discovers a female fetus is unforgivable in a modern society such as Taiwan’s.

(Editorial, The China Post)

(Asia News Network)