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"Pent-up Demand" for Sex-Selective Abortions Could Soon Be Unleashed

Mara Hvistendahl made waves in 2011 with Unnatural Selection her book profiling the global rise of sex-selective abortions. But two new studies highlighted by The Economist say the problem is poised to get worse.

The studies look at the Caucasus, where the popularity of sex-selection rivals Asia’s high rates of male preference. The natural ratio of men to women is 105 men born for every 100 females. But in places like Georgia, the ratio is 120 to 100, and in Armenia, if the first child is a female, 61 percent of second children are sons. The scariest thing uncovered by the studies is that there could be more to come: 

A study by John Bongaarts of the Population Council, a New York think-tank, uses surveys in 61 countries to calculate the sex ratios that would result if parents had the number of sons and daughters they wanted. It turns out that in half the countries, the desired ratio is more than 110 (higher than India’s, which is 108). Armenia and Azerbaijan are among those with the highest rates, but all over the world (especially Africa) parents say they want more sons. As Mr Bongaarts says, “there is a large pent-up demand for sex selection”. If the Caucasus is a guide, that demand can pretty easily be met.

Sex-selective abortion is a nearly intractable problem for American liberalism, because it brings two of its key values into conflict: the right to unrestricted abortion and female liberation and advancement. If sex-selective abortions are set to rise even more, throwing this conflict into sharper relief, liberalism may have an intellectual crisis on its hands.

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  • Corlyss

    “liberalism may have an intellectual crisis on its hands.”

    Depending on which “L” is involved here, it could just go on doing what it has been doing for the last 100+ years: ignoring the inherent contradictions.

  • charris208

    ISTR that the ‘natural’ percentage of males children observed in tribal societies was around 66%. Abortion isn’t needed to achieve that ratio, neglect will do, especially in harsh environments, and infanticide was not an historical oddity.

    I’d like to see some real statistics about these ratios, both current and past.

  • Solomon Kleinsmith

    There is no intellectual crisis here. Believing that women should have the right to have an abortion, should they choose to and can pay for it, does not mean that one must always support their reasons for doing so, or that it’s anyone’s business why they make that choice. I’m no liberal, I don’t support (your quote) “unrestricted abortion”, and there aren’t many who do – so you’re really talking about a very small segment of the population here.

    Namely, you’re cherry picking those who have a fairly fringe idea of abortion rights, and also believe that the government apparently should have the power to potentially take away a right, if the reason a person is exercising it is not acceptable in their eyes. I can’t imagine that more than a fringe of the public believes both of those things… really you’re just playing childish little straw man games to make some lame point seem to have teeth.

    • Douglas6

      There is no intellectual crisis because, as you note, in fact few abortions in the US are for sex selection purposes. That does not mean the question posed by Prof. Mead is uninteresting. It is, in fact, quite interesting, and I look forward to reading how feminists reconcile their belief in unrestricted abortion with their belief in female “advancement.”

    • Uncle Grumpy

      “…you’re really talking about a very small segment of the population here.”

      I would say that somewhere north of 55 million dead babies is more than small segment. As a society, we really began going the tubes when we said a woman has a “right” to murder her child.

  • bpuharic

    It’s not a ‘problem’ for Amiercan liberalism because it generally doesn’t occur in the US.

    And we’re seeing the results in China. Market forces are enforcing a redressing of the issue.

    Abortion is a problem for conservatism because it makes women federal property

    • Douglas6

      Ah, it’s not (yet) a problem in the US. That’s a relief.

      But since we like to use hypothetical examples to probe the boundaries of sincerely held principles, how about this: Do you think it would ever be appropriate for the State to prohibit abortion for purposes of sex selection?
      How about this: Suppose the Greens gain control of the Government and want to limit overpopulation, which they consider the root of all evil – could they prohibit any woman from having more than one child? or two children? Could they enforce that with mandatory abortions for child #3?

      • bpuharic

        Where abortion is legal (and it’s becoming more difficult), abortion clinics are private and don’t ask why an abortion is being sought.

        We don’t have a Green party here. Hypothetical paranoid delusions make poor questions

        • Douglas6

          Ah, but that’s the whole point of hypothetical questions. They aren’t based on what we necessarily expect to happen. The point is to probe the boundaries of the principle. I’m guessing you didn’t go to law school. But if you refuse to answer the question, well, I can’t make you.

          • Jack Klompus

            I don’t think that insufferable twerp ever finished junior high school.

      • Fred

        You’re wasting your time. b. doesn’t have an imagination. His brain is too stuffed with left wing talking points and demonic stereotypes of conservatives, which he probably gets from leftie blogs. He is utterly incapable of original thought.

        • bpuharic

          Hmmm…like supply side economics which bankrupted the country….or the invasion of Iraq which was a complete failure

          You right wingers have a great track record

          • Douglas6

            By “supply side economics,” are you referring to micro-economics generally, or is there some political theory you are talking about?

          • bpuharic

            Check Laffer curve. Also check mermaids and leprechauns. All of equality validity

          • Douglas6

            Now that’s an interesting point. I think most economists agree that at some point, eliminating the disincentives created by high marginal rates creates enough new income to make up the lost taxes. Where economists disagree is on where that point is. I think most agree this was true when marginal rates were extremely high, which is why John Kennedy’s marginal tax cut reducing the top rate from 91% to 70% resulted in higher economic growth and an increase in governmental revenues. There is some dispute about whether this effect happens when the top marginal rate is 40%, as it is today.

            While we are on the subject of “voodoo economics,” as President George H.W. Bush called the Laffer curve, you might note the new voodoo economics. This is the ridiculous notion pedaled by Stiglitz and parroted by most Democrats, the claim that there is no tradeoff between equality and efficiency. Up until very recently, most Democrats, including most Democratic economists, accepted the point that governmental regulations intended to equalize income and wealth often had the effect of making the economy less efficient and reducing growth and jobs. See, for example, the 1977 book by the head of Johnson’s Council of Economic Advisors: Arthur Okun, Equality and Efficiency: The Big Tradeoff. They understood that the point of wise policy was to balance the claims of equity and growth. Alas, today we have President Obama and all his minions claiming that there is no need to make such choices, we can have our cake and eat it, too.

          • bpuharic

            Piketty and Saez published their study earlier this year of this exact issue. They found marginal capital gains tax rates of about 80 percent is the inflection point on the curve. There is NO evidence to support conservative assertions that fifteen or twenty percent is too high.

            Complaining about regulations, absent a cost-benefit study, is meaningless.

          • BooMushroom

            I’m glad to hear you go from “the Laffer Curve is as real as leprechauns” to “the Laffer Curve exists and is real but isn’t shaped the way you think it is!” in the comments section of a single article.

            I’m also heartened to see your acknowledgement that there are costs as well as benefits to regulation.

            We may have a civil conversation yet.

          • bpuharic

            Too hard for you to understand, isn’t it? The right invented something that doesn’t exist…a Laffer curve which rewards people only at low tax rates. Then used this to destroy the middle class

            Marie Antoinette, I understand, had similar sentiments.

            And, yes, liberals go where the evidence takes us. Unlike conservatives, we’re data driven

          • tdperk

            The validity of the Laffer curve is an abject certainty.

            The evidence of the tax revenue vs. change in tax rates shows our rates are too high.

          • bpuharic

            Yes let us all worship at the Rush (PBUH) altar for that is right wing dogma

            It’s a lie


            But right wingers will believe anything as long as it destroys the middle class and makes the rich richer

          • tdperk

            You mean the supply side economics which consistently caused tax revenue to go up as rates went down?

            I’d love to have that problem today.

          • bpuharic

            Wrong. THere’s no relationship between revenue and tax cuts,regardless of what Rush says. Bush cut capital gains taxes by 25%. We had the largest budget deficits on record and a recession

            So Rush got this wrong

          • M_Becker

            We haven’t used supply side economics since Reagan left office.

          • Charles Peligro

            did you have to prove Fred’s point so promptly?

    • jdubya_az

      Actually, abortion is the death-knell of Liberalism as no families pass on their heritige. A thing all conservative families have.
      The only way liberals can propogate is to brainwash the youth in schools and colleges.
      Not much of a future for liberalism. It will exist, but in a shrinking pot.

  • bricko

    We need the death penalty or life in prison for anyone getting an abortion. Kansas has good policy for Doctors that do them…..shoot them in the head at church.

    • A Smith


  • mikegiles

    I can see where sex selective abortions, could end up making a women – any woman – priceless. And giving her the first, last and only word in the marriage market. I wonder though, what a civilization is going to do with all those frustrated males?

    • annademo

      See Islamist countries. You’ll see what happens to frustrated males.

    • Kevin

      It generally doesn’t work this way in practice. A deficit of females relative to males leads to a more patriarchal society with women reduced towards the status of chattel.

  • mhjhnsn

    Not intractable at all, they just ignore it, knowing their media slaves won’t bring it up, but will attack anyone who does.

  • tdperk

    “liberalism may have an intellectual crisis on its hands.”

    How could that happen? Modern liberalism doesn’t have enough intellectual honesty to be in a crisis.

  • Nash Montana

    Yah I can’t wait until our revered science figgers out how to test if a baby is gay. Since they will never be able to change human nature, people will elect to abort babies that they are told will be homosexual. Watch it happen. It’ll be incredibly sad and brutal.

    • f1b0nacc1

      I have always wondered how the Left will deal with the advances in modern genetic testing. Everything from intelligence to sexual orientation to a whole panoply of physical characteristics will be (or already are) identifiable prior to birth…will we use our ‘rights’ to simply erase those traits from the gene pool? Not simply abortion, remember, it should be possible soon enough to ‘correct’ those genetic markers…editing the genes themselves. We aren’t there yet, but we will be soon enough, and I wonder how that all too predictable debate will unfold.

      • bpuharic

        As usual the right almost gets…half…right.

        With the advent of advances in genetics, we’ll be able to correct many of the defects we can detect.

        The right has been no less susceptible to this than the left.

        • missbutterfly

          No, although I doubt that homosexuality is genetic, if it is, and they find out how to test for it in the womb, there will be a sudden outcry by the left against abortion. When you refuse to face reality about right and wrong because it might put a damper on your fun, these things happen.

          • bpuharic

            Hmm…the words ‘right and wrong’ from a conservative are like the word ‘love’ in the mouth of a prostitute.

        • Charles Peligro

          I love it when someone tries to come across as “more intelligent” and just fails badly

        • Nash Montana

          And correct these defects most likely they would.

          I do agree that a certain element in the republican population is susceptible to this as well. But conservatives are generally against abortion and tampering with Gods work.

          Conservatives talk a great deal how they wish liberals would vanish or should be forced to shut up.

          But when push comes to shove, it’s just hot air and frustration venting. True conservatives would give all to preserve freedom of speech even if it means defending the lefts right to hate speech.

          I’m sorry, but conservatives are better people. They’re more happy. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


      I think your right about the short term.
      However, you have forgotten about genetic engineering. Once we are able to reprogram DNA, then some things will be changed forever. If same-sex attraction is caused by DNA(no evidence yet but still being researched), then many parents will opt to have their little bundle of joy “straightened” out.

    • Squiggy

      Really? We are the ones who bring home our babies no matter how defective. YOU guys kill your babies no matter how perfect. YOU are the brutal, inhuman animals, not us.

      My wife and i adopted one of those babies your side tried to murder. He’s awesome, while you are a moron.

      • Nash Montana

        Why are you that bent out of shape? Have you lost all sense ad perception of sarcasm?

        I absolutely object to YOU calling me a moron! I am myself the result of a botched abortion. I survived by the grace of God, and not for a lack of trying to snuff me by my own mother.

        So please, engage your brain and THINK before you type. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, zero, nada, nichts, njet, nuut, points to me as being a moron or God forbid, condoning abortion.

        Btw, I was adopted by loving wonderful parents. They would never call a complete stranger a moron. Unlike you. Good luck, Sir. I sure hope you’re more civil IRL than on the internet.

  • LizardLizard

    So sad for all those “extra” boys who will grow up with zero chance of finding a wife.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Take a long look at China, you are seeing that scenario play out, and it is not pretty.

      • The Man With No Name As A Name

        One can fill large armies that way. China has done so.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Actually no.
          China has been shrinking their army, as they have discovered that large military forces (beyond a certain size) are simply not useful.

  • unclesmrgol

    If liberals truly believe that every child ought to be a wanted child, and every unwanted child ought not to be born, there’s no problem here at all. The female child just ought not to be born, and that’s that. Besides, the liberals also believe that there are too many people on this planet, and what better way to decrease the population than to select for males over females, thus decreasing the “breeders”?

  • America Has Spoken

    Liberalism IS an intellectual crisis.

    • bpuharic

      And conservatism is just a crisis. It doesn’t have the firepower to be intellectual

  • billcoe

    Did you really say “liberal” and “intellectual” in the same sentence?

  • cheezqueen

    Oh, please. Liberalism by definition is capable of holding two mutually incompatible values at once. Its how it feeeeells that makes it all good, and libs never met an abortion they couldn’t approve of. Besides, ugly lib chicks probably think it would be (secretly) okay to have fewer women around.

  • jdubya_az

    I think what is worst for Liberalism is that the religion of most of these peoples’ lands is not Judeo-Christian and is not respective of the Liberal viewpoint of promiscuity, same sex relations, unmarried relations, etc., etc., etc.
    I think the crisis is more than just intellectual here. Liberalism may find itself within an identity battle amongst other ideologies it helped to promote.

    • bpuharic

      The right obsesses, as Richard Posner and Pope Francis have observed, about sex. The only possible sin in the world is sex.

      The right has collapsed and now has only its mythologies to keep it warm.

      • jdubya_az

        Not sure what you mean here. I do not know anyone on the right who is obsessed with sex or how it is a sin.
        I think your time machine is still set for the 1800’s.

        • bpuharic

          I just named several folks who pointed out the problem

          Perhaps you should ring up the pope. Tell HIM he doesn’t know what’s going on.

          • jdubya_az

            Sorry to burn your hairshirt, but your philosophy is ever shrinking as your Malthusian beliefs wane your population ever smaller…

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