Sex-Selective Abortions: Causes and Results

Did you know that there are countries where having female children is a shame? In other countries having female children is nothing more than a waste of money. Feminists all over the world are fighting for equal rights for men and women.


However, many countries strongly oppose equality, moreover, they engage in practices that deepen inequality. One such practice is sex-selective abortions. It is defined as the termination of pregnancy because of the sex of the child. Among the countries that lead the rankings of sex-selective abortions are Liechtenstein, China, Armenia, India, Azerbaijan, etc. So, what are the causes and results of sex-selective abortions?


The first two sentences of this article hint to the causes of sex-selective abortions. The countries which are famous for sex-selective abortions have two things in common: culture and economy. In all of these countries, one can observe strong male dominance, where women are considered to be temporary members of both society and family.

Men are the saviors, whereas women are only meant for having children. They are not recognized and accepted as someone who can take care of the family members when the letters grow old. In such patriarchal societies, girls grow old, get married and leave their homes. Some countries even engage in dowry tradition.

This means, when girls are getting married, their families have to give money or other things as dowry. Such traditions and such a mindset result in considering female children as a waste of money and shame. In some of those countries, sex-selective abortions are even justified on these biases.

They bring arguments like spending money on abortion, save families from spending more money on dowry. As these societies are patriarchal, the choice of performing sex-selective abortions are not made in a vacuum. Women are forced to undergo such procedures by their husbands and parents-in-law.

Another thing that triggered the wave of sex-selective abortions, as strange as it may sound, is the development of modern technologies, mainly access to modern ultrasound technologies. These technologies make it easy to find out the sex of the children and “get rid of” the female children.

The results of the sex-selective abortions, unlike the causes, are not as straight-forward. The results can be viewed from different perspectives.

First, the sex-selective abortions cause the augmentation of the number of “missing girls” and increase the sex ratio imbalance. What is the sex ratio? It is the number of males per 100 females. Generally, the normal rate is approximately 102-106 of males per 100 females. In the countries where sex-selective abortions are common, the ratio reaches up to 125 males per 100 females (Liechtenstein). These, of course, triggers governments to take some measures to balance the ratio. They undertake several steps, that generally can be categorized into three categories: banning sex-selective tests, banning sex-selective abortions and giving some benefits to the families with female children.

This leads to the second outcome of sex-selective abortions. As part of those regulations is banning either sex-selective abortions or banning testing the sex of the children the governments face some ethical issues. Such measures evoke debate around the degree to which state can intervene in family planning, family life, etc. Some may say that the taken steps to decrease the sex ratio imbalance are violations of reproductive rights. Moreover, such regulations will force women to find loopholes to overcome the barriers. If they fail to do so they will simply turn to other places to undergo the procedures.

These leads to the third outcome of sex-selective abortions, which are the health problems caused by it and by the attempts to regulate it. If women decide to undergo the procedure, and can not do it in the hospital, she will turn to the other people. In some countries, for example, India, one can find portable ultrasound machines and ambulance cars which offer women to find out the sex of the child and undergo the procedure if they want to. As those places are not following the safety rules and the ones performing the procedures can not be characterized as professionals the women risk their health.

To conclude, sex-selective abortions are the termination of the pregnancy because of the child’s sex. It is usually spread in Eastern Europe and Asian countries. On the one hand, the societies which are notorious for such practices are very patriarchal. They regard women as subordinate to men, and as temporary members of the family. They are nothing more than an additional cost for the family (dowry tradition). Whereas males are regarded as the saviors and protectors of the family. That is why it is more beneficial to have male children. They will not leave the house when they marry, and they will be able to financially help their families. The advancement of ultrasound technologies, on the other hand, eases the burden of having female children. It is easier nowadays to find out the sex of the child and make the decision to terminate the pregnancy based on it.

The results and outcomes of sex-selective abortions are also varying. On the one hand, sex-selective abortions increase the sex ratio and force governments to undertake some measures. However, the measures cause some ethical issues. The engagement of governments in family planning and restricting the reproductive rights of women are not welcomed. Moreover, by regulating sex-selective abortions, the governments incite women to find loopholes and take illegal steps to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Such measures sometimes cause serious health problems for women.

Thus, we are stuck with a problem that requires some measures. Meanwhile, the measures should be ethical and should follow the “no-harm” principle. Maybe the best choice is to address the root-cause and assure equality? Maybe if women are not regarded as subordinate to men, such problems will not exist?

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