The worldwide killing of girls.

On the site of the WSJ there is a disturbing article about the destruction of girl children in favor of boys in some countries.

The War Against Girls
Since the late 1970s, 163 million female babies have been aborted by parents seeking sons


Mara Hvistendahl is worried about girls. Not in any political, moral or cultural sense but as an existential matter. She is right to be. In China, India and numerous other countries (both developing and developed), there are many more men than women, the result of systematic campaigns against baby girls. In “Unnatural Selection,” Ms. Hvistendahl reports on this gender imbalance: what it is, how it came to be and what it means for the future.

In nature, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. This ratio is biologically ironclad. Between 104 and 106 is the normal range, and that’s as far as the natural window goes. Any other number is the result of unnatural events.

Yet today in India there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls. In China, the number is 121—though plenty of Chinese towns are over the 150 mark. China’s and India’s populations are mammoth enough that their outlying sex ratios have skewed the global average to a biologically impossible 107. But the imbalance is not only in Asia. Azerbaijan stands at 115, Georgia at 118 and Armenia at 120.

What is causing the skewed ratio: abortion. If the male number in the sex ratio is above 106, it means that couples are having abortions when they find out the mother is carrying a girl. By Ms. Hvistendahl’s counting, there have been so many sex-selective abortions in the past three decades that 163 million girls, who by biological averages should have been born, are missing from the world. Moral horror aside, this is likely to be of very large consequence.

In the mid-1970s, amniocentesis, which reveals the sex of a baby in utero, became available in developing countries. Originally meant to test for fetal abnormalities, by the 1980s it was known as the “sex test” in India and other places where parents put a premium on sons. When amnio was replaced by the cheaper and less invasive ultrasound, it meant that most couples who wanted a baby boy could know ahead of time if they were going to have one and, if they were not, do something about it. “Better 500 rupees now than 5,000 later,” reads one ad put out by an Indian clinic, a reference to the price of a sex test versus the cost of a dowry.

But oddly enough, Ms. Hvistendahl notes, it is usually a country’s rich, not its poor, who lead the way in choosing against girls. “Sex selection typically starts with the urban, well-educated stratum of society,” she writes. “Elites are the first to gain access to a new technology, whether MRI scanners, smart phones—or ultrasound machines.” The behavior of elites then filters down until it becomes part of the broader culture. Even more unexpectedly, the decision to abort baby girls is usually made by women—either by the mother or, sometimes, the mother-in-law.


Read the rest there.


It strikes me that throughout history, when there are a lot of disaffected and unemployed young men, terrible things take place which reestablishes the balance.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. SemiSpook says:

    I’ve got two wonderful girls, and even though I do long for the day that I can have a son, I wouldn’t trade either of them in for one. Personally, women do hold a more powerful place (both biologically and socially speaking) in our lives, and to promote such things as abortion (especially of girls) is to do serious damage to the fairer sex.

  2. pfreddys says:

    So much for abortion being a “feminist” cause.

  3. benedetta says:


  4. Ellen says:

    When there are a lot of disaffected young men, war tends to break out. This whole selective aborting because the child is the wrong sex is as evil a thing as can be done.

  5. MarylandBill says:

    I am not sure what is more horrifying, the potential future of China and India (and other countries where this has occurred) or the fact that there are people who are so myopic that they are more concerned that this will be used to support the pro-life cause. It also shows how bankrupt at least part of modern feminism has become; abortion is more important to feminists than the lives of other women.

  6. Ruth says:

    We were being warned about this trend many years ago, maybe even as far back as the early 1980s. I have read that females are regularly abducted in rural China as there are not enough to go around and, I suspect this happens in other countries as well. Do any of you remember a science fiction novel, I think it was called the White Plague (could be wrong about the name)? The premise was females were the target of the disease. All sorts of nasty things happened as a result. I know this probably sounds like an awful thing to say but biologically it is easier for humans to reproduce with fewer males than females. I would bet one of the reasons there hasn’t been an uproar about female fetuses being aborted is because it is seen as a way to control the population. How sad!

  7. kelleyb says:

    This appalling, but not unexpected revelation compounds the drumbeat of evils noted in the ‘news’ on a nearly hourly bases. A palpable malevolence is permeating our society and our world. Please protect our priests and religous with your continued prayers, fellow WDTIPRS readers. Ask the holy aborted innocents to pray for all us as well.

  8. digdigby says:

    “It strikes me that throughout history, when there are a lot of disaffected and unemployed young men, terrible things take place which reestablishes the balance. ”

    Chinese cannon fodder. I suspect the ChiComs knew this would happen and are not at all displeased.

  9. Centristian says:

    “It also shows how bankrupt at least part of modern feminism has become; abortion is more important to feminists than the lives of other women.”

    Although in these cultures, feminism is not the cause, evidently, but something far, far more base:

    “Better 500 rupees now than 5,000 later,”

  10. Jenny says:

    It even happens in this country far more than any of us would like to think. Look at the birth ratios of second and third children for Asians and Asian-Americans in this country. It really is stunning.

  11. Brad says:

    he hates them because they remind him of the one who crushed his head with her immaculate heel. All out war.

  12. Bryan Boyle says:

    While focusing on the issue in less-Christianized places…let us not forget the downstream effects, even in our own country. I’m thinking that the same decisions are being made for the same reasons more than we would care to admit, right here in the good ol’USA on a moment by moment basis.

    When the dependency programs (the Great Society, War on Poverty, New Deal, Fair Deal, Social Security, whatever) were developed, the actuarial basis was based on a constant (or predictable) birth and replacement rate. When the numbers were projected…the effect of the implementation of widespread abortion was NOT taken into account; such things in the 1940s/50s/60s was absolutely inconceivable to anyone with an ounce of humanity, even among what we’d consider the ‘progressive’ element.

    It’s coming back to roost. We’re missing close to 18% of the projected population, productive members of society, just here in the US, that were murdered in the name of ‘right to choose’ since 1973. On just an economic level, this moral outrage has skewed all the societal boundaries…from replacement taxpayers (I know, that sounds so…uh…practical) to the services that are able to be provided based on a lower number of people that are creating wealth and input into the system.

    Think of how many priests, bishops, doctors, lawyers, teachers, policemen, scientists…husbands, wives, and children of them…all children of God, that were martyred. On a spiritual level, it’s frightening. On a practical level, it’s a drain on society. On a moral level it’s an outrage. And on a future generational level…well, we’re missing almost an entire generation of people.

    God’s plan will not be mocked, and we WILL suffer the consequences.

  13. rakesvines says:

    The inequality between the sexes causes parents to choose the one who will bring in more dough and carry the family name. And the consequences of having more men than women: violence is one, polygyny is another, homosexuality is a third. How do you translate “Brrrr” in Latin – “Brrrrusifus”?

    Then again, there is emigration to countries where there are more women than men. No wonder the Chinese are buying up US lands. “Hello cowgirl. My name is Buddha, call me Bud.”

  14. anilwang says:

    The key question is, what do you do with so many men? In such situations, typically the rich would be able to overcome the imbalance by “marrying down”, so the imbalance will be highest among the poor.

    So what do you do with a bunch of poor single men, so that they don’t cause social problems (as history shows is bound to happen)?

    Historically, there have been several solutions:
    (1) Encourage chastity through making it a social virtue and meaningful (e.g. priesthood and monasticism, note there are non-Christian equivalents in many cultures)
    (2) Involve men in the military or dangerous jobs (e.g. mining) or other public work to distract and discipline them.
    (3) Totalitarianism: Strict law enforcement that executes anyone who doesn’t toe the line (usually resulting in more men being executed and evening out the ratio and even when it doesn’t, only timid men survive)
    (4) Encourage women to be prostitutes and discourage marriage so that “resources get shared and there is no scarcity”
    (5) Place heavy burdens on male babies (e.g. taxes) so that the trend reverses
    (6) Raise the status of women so that that girls and women are given preference in all things.
    (7) Encourage “same sex marriage” so men are no longer single and are able to “start a family”.

    Unfortunately, most western societies are avoiding (1) like the plague and are focusing on the last 6 options, which historically have been shown to lead to destruction.

    Mary, please pray for us your poor insane children.

  15. Ralph says:

    As a father of two daughters, this is especially upsetting to me.

    I understand how this can happen in India a “free country”. But I must admit I am surprised that China has allowed this. Chineese planners must see the problems that this sexual imballance will cause. I am sure in the not too distant future, men without prospects will cause unrest in that nation.
    Holy Mary pray for the little children!

  16. dad29 says:

    when there are a lot of disaffected and unemployed young men, terrible things take place which reestablishes the balance

    You’re right. And so was the commenter who suggested that “war” is what occurs.

  17. Malateste says:

    “Even more unexpectedly, the decision to abort baby girls is usually made by women—either by the mother or, sometimes, the mother-in-law.”
    is, to me, the most disturbing part of the article. I think it’s easy for pro-life advocates to fixate on the act of abortion, as though once the law steps in to forcibly prevent a mother from murdering her child, then bing!– there ensues a happy relationship, a loving childhood, and a future doctor or lawyer.

    Instead, I think about those studies– I believe there’s a bit about it in Freakonomics— that show that U.S. states that legalized abortion in the ’70s predictably experienced a diminished crime level a decade or two later, due to the absence of the children who would otherwise have been born to hateful, abusive homes that prime them to develop anti-social behaviors. I’m absolutely NOT saying that the answer is abandoning the civil rights of the unborn, but I feel as though the central problem here has really got to be the fact that our society produces women so deficient in the capacity for empathy that they would consider murdering their own child to serve some wider worldly end.

    Preventing the murderous act itself isn’t going to fix that kind of spiritual disease, any more than grabbing a husband’s arm as he strikes his wife will ensure them a great marriage thereafter. Mothers who would have denied their children life in utero will end up harming or stunting their lives in other ways once the children are born– if all those Chinese mothers were willing to kill their daughters, doesn’t that suggest they would also have exploited or abused them had they been born? In cases like these, abortion patterns may just end up showcasing the fundamental disrespect for others that’s (presumably) been present all along.

  18. anilwang says:

    Malateste, the problem in the west at least is that women are taught that pre-born children are just “a lump of cells” so an abortion is equivalent to getting rid of a wart or other unwanted tissue. Yes there are some women who actually believe they are killing their babies and do it anyway, but most simply do not know because the propaganda is high and many women find out what they’ve done only after it’s too late.

    In the East, it’s a bit more complicated. If the woman believes in re-incarnation, then killing one’s baby might be a mercy since the baby might experience a better re-incarnation in the future. There might be an impact on the woman’s karma, but it is balanced against the bad karma she would have to resort to to keep the baby alive. If the woman does not believe in re-incarnation, she might not know what she is doing since many cultures view “the quickening” as an indication that the pre-born baby is alive, or she’s been indoctrinated with western propaganda (note, all the options in my above post except for the first one are present in the UN’s Millennium Goals).

    In either case, these women need our prayers, our compassion, and proper education.

  19. Gail F says:

    I saw that over the weekend, a very good article. I find it shocking that the author of the book thinks the solution is to make sex selection illegal but keep abortion for all other reasons legal — there is absolutely no rational basis for that. If it’s okay to abort babies for ALL other reasons, then it’s okay to abort them so you can have a son. Why the hell not? And if it’s not okay to abort them so you can have a son, what possible reason can you have for saying other reasons are okay? You either get to choose, or you don’t. Instead, it’s the classic “everyone can choose unless people choose what I say they can’t” argument, which is no argument at all.

  20. Sam Schmitt says:

    “But I must admit I am surprised that China has allowed this. Chineese planners must see the problems that this sexual imballance will cause. ”

    As the the article states, sex selection is illegal in China. They can tell their people how many children to have (one), but not whether it’s a boy or a girl.

  21. Ralph says:


    If what you say is true, how did the Chineese ratio get to 121 : 100? In a state controlled healthcare system, who is providing the ultrasounds and the resulting abortions? The state is. I can not believe the governemnt is not at least peripherally invloved in the sex selection in China. They may call it illegal, but yet they are the ones providing the mechanism for it to happen. This is what I do not understand.

  22. KAS says:

    Is it that China is permitting the sex selection or are female infants being killed outright or dumped secretly at the orphanages and then adopted out of the country?

    China is an evil regime with forced abortions for any woman who has a second child without permission.

    This whole abuse toward the female is a reflection of the war of satan on the woman and her offspring.

  23. eulogos says:

    Malateste, I believe you are mistaken about the lowered crime rate. It is simply the lower number of young people, specifically, young men, which led to lowered crime rates. It is a mistake to think that the women who have abortions are the ones who would be bad mothers. Often it is quite the other way around. Women who have high standards for what they should be able to offer their children (such as many college students) often have abortions, while women whose expectations of themselves and their children are much lower, go ahead and have babies. Of course many poor women are pressured into having abortions as well, but it isn’t necessarily those who would have been the worst mothers who capitulate to this pressure. And I do think that if the college student women who have abortions did have babies, they would on the whole raise them well…especially if their college student husbands married them, which some of them would once their own child was on the way.

    As for the Asian situation, I think we are dealing here with women as the guardians of the mores, with women as the protector of the total family interest, and with women who have internalized the view of their society about women. Chinese girls have always known they were of lesser value to their families, and their mothers knew they would lose them to their husband’s family once they were married. It was traditional there for a young woman to move into her husband’s family’s house, and to work under the direction of her mother in law. She was no longer considered part of her family of origin. Sons on the other hand, could remain close to their mothers. ( Here we have a saying “A daughter is a daughter for all of her life, a son is a son until he takes him a wife.” In China it is the other way around.) In India of course there is the custom of a crippling dowry; perhaps the shortage of women will be able to break that down. But I don’t think these women who abort their daughters under the societal pressures they face, would have made any worse mothers to their daughters than women in those societies in general usually have.
    Susan Peterson

  24. Captain Peabody says:

    I’ve been peripherally involved in and very aware of this crisis. It is indeed appalling, in every way. It represents the perfect coming together of modern ultra-feminism and warped chauvinism in wholesale war on human society.

    First, it’s important to understand that abortion is not the only means by which such things are carried out; abortion is simply the classy, convenient, and modern way to get it done. For the very poor, who can no more afford an abortion than they can afford the necessities of life, female infanticide of newborn children is a reality, and has been since the widespread onset of the dowry system.

    The societal reasons for this in India are complex. Among the poor, the causes are the entire structure of the Indian family and the dowry system. In India, extended family structures are very important and powerful; the real power in the family is NOT the father of the household, but usually the grandparents, and most of all the grandmother, whose job it is to look after the fortunes of her multi-generational family. The way marriage traditionally works in India is that married women effectively cease to be members of the their family; they move in with the extended family of their husband, and from henceforth are wholly under the power of their husband’s parents, usually with little or no contact with their former family. In addition, traditionally the father of the married woman is expected to pay a massive sum of money, the dowry fee, to the family of her husband; among the poor, this fee can be crippling. So when a family has a daughter, they can look forward to effectively losing her totally to another family sometime in her early teens, as well as paying a massive fee for this privilege; so families are effectively penalized heavily merely for having daughters, not even gaining the extra labor another family member would ordinarily provide.

    So for the poor, having too many daughters is a dangerous thing, and having only girls one after another with no sons is pretty much bankrupting. The statistics among the poor are chilling; usually, one daughter is accepted normally, with joy, and almost never touched: however, for every daughter that comes along after the first, the odds of that daughter being murdered increases exponentially.

    And the structure of the Indian family exacerbates this problem further; because the grandmother holds the real power in the family, and her first interest is merely in the health of the extended family as a whole, the decision is often taken out of the parents’ hands altogether. If the grandmother decides the girl baby is not financially manageable, and must die, then it usually dies, whatever the mother or father thinks. There are many, many heart-breaking stories that could be told about parents, both mothers and fathers, who have fought their hardest to save their daughter, and failed. I think particularly of the story of a young girl who survived multiple attempts to take her life at the behest of her grandmother, and both of whose parents, including her father, who fought at every turn to protect and save his daughter, eventually killed themselves out of grief and distress.

    But this, at least, is more understandable when dealing with poor families facing literal extinction; what is harder to grasp is the fact that such things go on now in every sector of Indian society, and to a greater extent among the middle and upper classes, where the financial burden of girls is not remotely likely to bankrupt or harm anyone, among the most modernized and Western-ized parts of society. The difference is mainly in the methods involved; instead of using infanticide, those who can afford it now use abortion.

    The widespread societal devaluation of women combines quite easily with the feminist rhetoric of the worthlessness of the fetus and its burdensome status. And the women raised in such a society, who very much want a good, valuable son rather than a worthless daughter, and know from their Western feminism that the fetus is merely tissue, a worthless lump to be controlled or destroyed at their whim, have little qualms about ‘terminating’ their daughters. In the poorer level of things where the same financial realities exist yet the family is rich enough to afford an abortion (a large and growing sector of society), abortion merely makes infanticide much more easy, convenient, and less morally negative.

    Infanticide was always a messy business, a bloody necessity looked down upon by most and largely confined to the very poor, a rarity by nature; but abortion has all the benefits of infanticide, but none of the drawbacks, and so appeals strongly to every sector of society, especially the middle classes aspiring to be Western in all things…and it goes hand-in-hand with Western ideology concerning one’s right to control over procreation. In introducing abortion-on-demand into such places, the West has made a rare social ill into a massive social danger.

    The issue in China is for the most part engineered by the government. In Chinese society, like Indian, boys were always valued above girls for essentially practical reasons, and parents relied totally on their children for support in their old age; but where one can have many children, the preference need not be too pronounced. Introduce the one-child policy, which mandates that a family can have only one child, either a boy or a girl. Introduce abortion-on-demand, in this case provided, supported, and promoted by the Chinese government. Poorer families NEED a boy rather than a girl. Richer families WANT a boy rather than a girl. And unlike India, with the one-child policy, there is no room for error, no one or two acceptable girls before it becomes untenable. So the Chinese make use of the “reproductive services” to see to it that they have a valued boy rather than a less-valued girl. The result is shockingly predictable.

    The government did not see this coming because the government was created and is composed of incompetent criminals wedded to ridiculous progressive ideologies about overpopulation and social planning, most of whom are also ridiculously corrupt and merely in it for their own short-sighted benefit. Even now, the Chinese rulers benefit from the devaluation of women and the ready availability of abortion, if only (as is common) because they frequently make use of the lovely Westernized brothels now available to them. But even they have finally woken up and are weakly creating campaigns to fight against sex-selective abortion…but it is far, far too late.

    And the problem is not confined to these countries; Korea has the same problem to a lesser degree, as do other such nations. The heart of the matter is that these societies have societies where girls are less valuable than boys by nature; and the West has given them, in true enlightened fashion, the means to murder their own children quickly, easily, and with no moral opprobum attached to it, promoted it as a means of emancipation and a progressive gateway to prosperity, and highly encouraged them to make use of it. The result is depressingly predictable.

    Our society has so, so much to answer for.

    St. Maria Goretti, pray for us.
    Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

  25. Joe in Canada says:

    Bryan Boyle: indeed. Georgia and Armenia are both countries that suffered for their Christian faith, yet figure high in the stats here. It shows what a few generations of Soviet-style ‘government’ can do, as in Russia itself.

  26. Dr. Eric says:

    WWIII will begin with China and India fighting over women.

  27. The Astronomer says:

    During WWI, Our Lady told the children at Fatima that “war is a punishment for man’s sin.” Society at large back then was arguably on a stronger moral footing than now, as was the Church. Heck, the reigning Pontiff, Pius X, was a future saint. Yet, things were askew enough in the eyes of Almighty God that the World was visited with World War One, which brought about the advent of “industrial warfare.”

    Given the mounting moral evils stalking the land in our time, abortion, homosexuality….etc. what are we preparing to have happen to us? Fr. Malachi Martin referred to this as “the scream of the Approaching Beast.”

    Our Lady of Fatima and St. Padre Pio, PRAY FOR US!!!!

  28. Horrifying and sad.

    As a father of two teenage daughters, seeing their ‘economic value’ go up only makes me worry: I’m sure the futures market in female slaves/concubines/involuntary wives is rather bullish at the moment.

    And I can’t help thinking that those little girls had to be pretty far along for ultrasound to determine their sex – they not only get murdered, but get to die in agony. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for mercy on us all.

  29. andreat says:

    I strongly suspect that it is the imbalance between boys and girls that has resulted in changes in the Chinese adoption program. Their orphanages are full of abandoned girls. 91% of adoptions from China are girls (In fact, many couples choose to adopt from China because of the certainty of adopting a girl). Adoptions from China to the US has dropped from 7,800 in 2005 to 3000 in 2009, and many of these adotions are now of children with special needs – so the policy seems to be, keep the healthy girls in the orphanages, and get rid of any that are less than “perfect”. I hate to think what the fate of these children will be.

  30. jenambrose says:

    I am currently reading Mara’s book, and there is a lot more shocking data beyond what is included in the WSJ article. It isn’t just China and India, but also countries like South Korea and Taiwan, across central Asia, and including Azerbaijan and Albania that have significant gender imbalance. One demographer in the book presents the gender imbalance data as spreading like an epidemic. Many of these regions received foreign aid from Western Institutions and countries (including the US) that were tied to lower birthrates. While Western media tends to emphasize the cultural preference angle, much of the problem in the last thirty years is partly the West’s fault.

  31. Athanasius says:

    This problem won’t be solved until we solve the problem of international money, through the bankers and central banking. It is free market capitalism that allows the rise of men with money and power to control international governments, and until these things are controlled and their money influence reduced or held in check, there is not a single pro-life initiative that will work to solve this problem. Wherever you find Capitalism and Communism, there you find satan himself.

  32. Tricia says:

    It is not talked about a lot but China has a SERIOUS homosexual problem because of the lack of females.

  33. albizzi says:

    Trucia, homosexuality in China is a logic outcome due to a shortage in available women to marry, like it is in muslim countries where men can marry two or more women, thus arithmetically reducing the number of available women for the celibate ones, usually the poorest ones.
    Another hidden outcome is that the chinese men who are wealthy enough go seeking for wives in foreign countries like Vietnam, Korea, Thailand, Burma and here too they reduce the available number of available women, thus exporting the chinese lack of females and enhancing these countries’ hate of the China.

  34. Jane says:

    When the many unmarried men become frustrated by the lack of women, there will be frightening consequences.

  35. Charles E Flynn says:

    160 Million and Counting, by Ross Douthat.

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