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Friday, March 22, 2013

The Problem of Sex Selection Abortion in the United States

Sex selection has long been a problem in countries such as India and China, where cultural customs place greater value on male children. Before there were accurate tests to determine the sex of unborn children, infanticide or abandonment was common, and girls were in danger as soon as they were born. Now, however, advances in technology make determining a child’s sex possible months before birth, endangering girls long before delivery. Many people are aware of sex selection in other countries, but what they don’t realize is that it is widespread across the United States, too.

While some places, like India, have passed legislation to ban sex selection abortion, in the United States no such federal ban exists. Last year, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, which would have made sex selection abortions illegal, failed to pass in Congress. Though a strong House majority voted in favor of the bill, it failed to achieve the required two-thirds vote. Currently, sex selection abortions are illegal in only four states: Illinois, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Arizona. This means that in most states, women may obtain abortions at any time during their pregnancy and for any reason, including sex of the child.

This is ideal for many of the immigrant families who come to the United States from cultures where gendercide is practiced and accepted. They can abort their female children, no questions asked, and continue trying to have a boy. Although these families leave their country’s culture behind, they bring the expectations and traditions with them, and these include placing greater importance on boys. Even if a pregnant mother wants to keep her baby girl, she often feels pressure to abort from her husband or extended family. In one study of immigrant Indian women, one of the participants revealed that when she gave birth to her second daughter, her mother-in-law refused to hold the child. Another woman said she had to know the sex of the baby she was carrying because, if the baby was a girl, “I will have to get an abortion because he [husband] does not want another daughter.”

Though sex selection is most common among women of Asian and Indian descent, it is not limited to them. Abortion on demand has fed American women a sense of entitlement when it comes to children. Not only can a woman abort an unwanted child, but modern technology allows for “customized” families, too. Using in vitro fertilization, women can screen their embryos for health problems, certain genetic traits, and yes, even sex. While American culture does not directly place greater value on male children, it does emphasize a “perfect family” stereotype of one boy and one girl.  

In 2012, Live Action began a series of undercover videos to show just how prevalent sex selection is in the United States. Women entered abortion facilities and posed as expectant mothers who had one daughter and wanted a son. They would then ask the counselors how to test for sex and schedule an abortion “just in case” they were carrying a girl. In each video, the counselor assures the woman that they are there to help, not judge, and gives her the information she requests. In some cases, they advise the women how to lie in order to get away with a sex selection abortion. Live Action’s most recent videos were filmed in North Carolina.

To view the complete video series or to learn more about Live Action’s investigation, visit

For a more in depth look into what National Right to Life and its affiliates are doing to ban sex selection abortions, visit

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