Early disclosure of fetal sex leads to aborted girls: MD
Bethany Lindsay, ctvbc.ca
Published Monday, January 16, 2012 3:30PM PST
The editor of one of Canada's most influential medical journals is calling on doctors to stop revealing fetal sex early on in pregnancy to prevent the "evil" abortion of females among immigrant families.
In an editorial published Monday, Dr. Rajendra Kale, the interim editor-in-chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, claims that female feticide is a small but very real problem amongst Asian immigrants.
"When Asians migrated to Western countries they brought welcome recipes for curries and dim sum. Sadly, a few of them also imported their preference for having sons and aborting daughters," Kale wrote.
"This evil devalues women. How can it be curbed? The solution is to postpone the disclosure of medically irrelevant information to women until after about 30 weeks of pregnancy."
He says that while the problem is confined to a relatively small minority, there is hard evidence suggesting that some Asian immigrants who have already given birth to girls may be aborting female fetuses again and again until they are able to have a son.
Indeed, a 2009 working paper prepared for the American National Bureau of Economic Research using Canadian census data showed that Indian and East Asian immigrant families with daughters are much more likely to end up with sons than the rest of the Canadian population.
Immigrants from India who already have two daughters are nearly twice as likely to have a son for their third child compared to the natural sex ratio, with 1.9 boys born for every girl. Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese immigrant families with two daughters have 1.39 boys born for every girl.
The study points out, however, that Christian and Muslim immigrants from Asian countries are unlikely to abort female fetuses because of religious rules banning the practice. On the other hand, Sikhs with two daughters are the most likely to have sons on the third try, giving birth to 2.07 boys for every girl.
Kale's editorial also quotes data from a small U.S. survey of 65 immigrant Indian women, who told researchers about the huge pressure they were under to have sons. Forty-per-cent of those women said they had ended prior pregnancies when they learned the fetuses were female, and a whopping 89 per cent of those carrying females in their current pregnancies were pursuing abortions.
"Results from this study could be reasonably extrapolated to Indians in Canada," Kale wrote. "We should, however, avoid painting all Asians with the same broad brush and doing injustice to those who are against sex selection."
He says that a policy forbidding disclosure of fetal sex before 30 weeks into the pregnancy for all parents, no matter the race or country of origin, would prevent discrimination.
"Postponing the transmission of such information is a small price to pay to save thousands of girls in Canada," Kale wrote. "If Canada cannot control this repugnant practice, what hope do India and China have of saving millions of women?"
As it stands now, the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons describes the practice of aborting fetuses based on sex as "socially repugnant," and says that it is "unethical for physicians to facilitate such action."