Readings: On Killing Girls

When I was visiting China about five years ago and people-watching on the main drags of Beijing and Shanghai, two things stood out. One, I had grown up imagining the Chinese people as shorter than those in the western world; but here were young men much taller than I (I’m 6’3”), looming over me on the subways. Two, I had read about the one-child law. So in public places I looked for families with more than one child. There were a few, but only a few. In an English language Chinese paper I read that  an aimless population of young males was coming of age, faced with the reality that there were not enough women to give each one of them an opportunity to marry and raise families of their own. What do you do with aimless, single males? Swell the ranks of the army. And then what to you do with all the soldiers with nothing to do? The answers to that are frightening.

Now, prompted by new data from India in The Guardian Weekly and a review of a new book by Mara Hvistendahl, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men (Public Affairs), in the Wall Street Journal, moralists—and the rest of us—are challenged to answer, what reasons can justify taking the life of an unborn person in the womb?

Whether we refer to the unborn as an “it,” or a person, or a fetus, or a child, it is far enough along in its development for us to know its sexual identity, and that, if it is allowed, he or she will come into the world as a boy or a girl. At this stage, according to the articles, the mother or the in-laws discuss it and decide whether she—it’s an issue only if she is female—lives or dies.

Culturally, whether in India or China or anywhere else, boys are worth economically than girls. Since the late 1870s, 163 million female babies have been aborted by families seeking sons.

If nature is allowed to take its course, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls.  Any violation of that ratio is due to human intervention  into the natural process. According to the WSJ, today India has 112 boys for every 100 girls. China has 121. In Armenia it’s 120.  Couples are having abortions when, through ultrasound or other medical means, they see the child is a female.

The book's author, Ms. Hvistendahl, warns that this is a very bad sign, a warning for the future. Societies where men substantially outnumber women are very unstable, violent. Men with no hope of marrying accumulate in the lower classes and make trouble. Crime waves follow. Wealthy men in prosperous countries will poach women from poorer ones. A small but significant percentage of women will be stolen and forced into prostitution or marriage.

The author of the book oddly concludes that this pattern should not be used as an argument against abortion. The reviewer, Jonathan Last, and I see this situation as a strong refutation of the absolutist-feminist argument for abortion: the only fact worth considering is the “mother’s choice.”  With absolute authority over her own body, their logic goes, she alone has the right to decide the future of what is obviously a living human being inside her, totally dependent on her for life present and future.

The reasons for killing the female are usually economic. The daughter brings the expense of a dowry if she is to marry. The son will be a wage earner, carry on the family name, and support the parents in their old age.

If the abortion decision is based purely on the woman’s “right to choose”—no matter what the reasons for her choice—she and/or her family are free to kill the child merely for being a girl. How can anyone, particularly a feminist, allow that? If that is clear, then the law should intervene to protect the child. And if it can protect the child because she is female, it can protect him or her  because he/she is a human being.

Raymond A. Schroth

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Bill Collier
6 years 5 months ago
I heard Ms. Hvistendahl interviewed recently, and while she was quite knowledgeable about the statistical and sociological aspects and ramifications of a population's imbalanced sex ratio, her answers to the interviewer's questions about curbing elective abortion were, IMO, less than convincing. Jonathan Last, in the linked review of the author's book, states that Hvistendahl displays an "unbecoming political provincialism" on the issue. That may be unfair, but the author's pro-choice bona fides were clear during the interview. In addition, her suggestion that medical personnel withhold ultrasound or amniocentesis sex identification from the parents seems completely unworkable to me. (Last is less generous, saying that the idea "borders on the absurd.") I plan on reading this book, for many reasons, not the least of which is Last's conclusion that "[d]espite the author's intentions, 'Unnatural Selection' might be one of the most consequential books ever written in the campaign against abortion." 


6 years 5 months ago
I can be as alarmist as the best of them, but.... what happens to a society full of only childs who are boys now in the nation's army poised to go to war? When your only heir and meal ticket to social security in retirement is shipped out to risk life and limb for the motherland....what sort of political price accrues to that regime and that military to do all that's possible to NOT risk too many only sons?

This could be either a boon for peace (in that the risk of high casualties makes the human cost of conventional war intolerably high) or a recipe for complete savagery and total warfare using weapons of mass destruction - ICBMs, bio-weapons, chemicals and other 'asymetric' means of catastrophically destroying the enemy's ability to wage war and resist the "Asian Horde" or hegemonic advance.

Now, being the gaming person I am, I put myself in the shoes of some Chinese colonel in a military college somewhere and ponder the alternatives: If I have 50 million soldiers but it's politically unteneble to "use" them if the USA's military is sufficiently robust as to make conventional war too costly..... will I a) seek to bide my time with alliances and peace and hope for the best.... or b) seek to politically and economically so hamper the USA's military-industrial complex such that key offensive platforms and systems are NOT developed or deployed....so my 50 million troops won't face politically intolerable risks when they pour out of their container ships to storm the beaches of LA and San Diego on some rainy morning?

Yeah, I'd choose the latter: millions to Democratic party officials to advance a "free trade" regime and call for the unilateral disarmament of the USA's nuclear triad, the cancellation of the F-22 and F-35 fighters...while at the same time I'd be promoting every socially toxic lifestyle, idea, and fad I can think of to throw sand in the gears of American society. I'd want the US military bogged down in the Middle East and getting really, really good fighting lightly armed infantry forces from static bases and secure logistics trains or depots.... and not getting much training on force on force warfare. 

I'd not want the USA to develop energy independence or wean themselves off of goods and services shipped to CONUS over the Pacific rim.... or do any financial reform that would make the entire federal system less dependent on borrowing to finance the shaky status quo. 

And then I'd build up my conventional forces and nuclear forces and asymetric forces for maximum capability around the year 2018-2019 time frame when my Navy and Army would be full of fairly new equipment run by 50 million soldiers who've had a decade or so of familiarity and training....all while the USA's military is falling apart on old equipment and has the bulk of their veterans retiring into their reserves.

Scary scenario indeed. But besides a 'gamer' I'm also a believer so I trust that the Holy Spirit will outflank all worldly wisdom...who knows, maybe the underground Church will save both of our nations from the worst angels of our nature? 
Stanley Kopacz
6 years 5 months ago
The Chinese power structure are control freaks worse than ours are.  It will eventually backfire on them but they may cause a lot of mischief. If Muslim extremists think we are the great satan, wait until they get a load of the Chinese.  Big standing armies are not all that important anymore.   AFter the mass wave attacks of Korea, we eventually developed cluster bombs which can slaughterize any such attack.  Troops will most probably be used against their own democratic movements.  But China is a technological power now, thanks to our capitalist aid program, and doesn't need vast amounts of troops.  ANd we will have our nuclear stingers for a long time.  I'd be more concerned about getting hacked and having secret backdoors installed in electronic hardware we buy from China for command and control of our power system and for our communications.
Anne Chapman
6 years 5 months ago
This situation represents the extreme - but it is part of a continuum that includes the Catholic church.  Females have been treated as less than fully equal to males from the dawn of recorded history and probably earlier.  And although the Catholic church does not condone abortion of females, or of anyone, it does officially sanction the concept that women are less than fully equal to males in its own teachings and actions. If it is to be a true teacher to the whole world, including to those who are not Christian, the Catholic church must clean up its own house and become a model demonstrating in both words and actions that females, like males, are made in God's image.
Bill Mazzella
6 years 5 months ago
So many Americans have adopted Chinese girls who are obviously available. It will be interesting to see their mindset as all of them mature. Certainly these childless families, at no small cost, really cherish the young girls. Hopefully, from this will come more advocacy for the females in China and other countries who foster such a terrible practice.

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