Female Feticide in India

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Status of Girls in India

Girls in India are often viewed as a burden.  Although illegal, the cultural practice of dowries for the groom’s family is still common and expected.  Therefore, daughters present a great financial burden.  If the family does not provide a dowry, however, the cost can be far greater: in one major city, activists have claimed that women are still burned alive by husbands who expected larger dowries.  Boys, on the other hand, are considered to be a great asset.  They receive dowries upon marriage, will be able to provide for their parents as they grow older (there is no social security system), and will carry on the family name.
 
Given the strong preference for boys over girls, families frequently abort their baby girls.  Each year, about 500,000 female babies are aborted referred to as female feticide).  This practice has led to approximately 10 million female abortions since 1985.  Sex selection has become so prevalent that the overall ratio of girls to boys is now 927 to 1000, according to the latest Indian census.  In some areas, the numbers drop to 800 girls to each 1000 boys.  
 
“All kinds of famines, epidemics and wars are nothing compared to this,” said Punit Bedi, a New Delhi gynecologist.  “In some parts of India, one in every five girls is being eliminated at the fetal stage.  It is a genocidal situation.”
 
Abortion and Sex-Selection in India
India legalized abortion in 1971, and abortion was promoted as a way to control the country’s rapidly expanding population.  “It was understood that all programs [to control the population]were failing because people would not stop having children until they had at least two boys,” explained Bedi.  “Even one was not considered enough in a country where you cannot ensure childhood survival beyond 60 percent.”  Even today, the government encourages families to have no more than two children.
 
In 1994, India outlawed the use of ultrasounds to reveal the gender of the child.  In 2002, the penalties were stiffened to up to three years in jail and a $230 fine.  However, only one doctor has been convicted: his medical license was suspended for five years, and he was fined 400 rupees (about $10).   
 
Performing ultrasounds to determine the baby’s gender—although illegal—is a lucrative business.  Doctors make $80 to $230 for an ultrasound-plus-abortion package.  The industry’s estimated worth is between $100 and $200 million.  
 
The change in population since ultrasound clinics were introduced is astounding.  When the first clinic opened in Punjab in 1979, there were 925 girls for every 1000 boys younger than 7.  By 1991, however, it was 875 girls for every 1000 boys, and by 2001, the ratio plunged to just 793 girls for every 1000 boys.
 
Impact on Women
Abortion advocates promote abortion as a liberating choice for women.  Sadly and ironically, India is now realizing that this liberation carries a great cost.  Women are further degraded by being eliminated before they even come into the world.  Pro-abortion groups such as NOW and Planned Parenthood remain silent on these issues.  They must: if they admit that female feticide is an atrocity, then they must accept the humanity of unborn children—male and female.
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