New Study Shows That Sex-Selective Abortion Bans Are Total Bullshit

Conservative lawmakers love using the phantom threat of sex-selective abortion to do what they do best, i.e., deprive women of reproductive freedom under the ridiculous guise of protecting all womynkind. In the past few years, six states have passed sex-selective abortion bans based on the uninformed, racist insistence that some (Asian) Americans are choosing to abort female fetuses — something that conveniently allows conservatives to restrict abortion access while trumpeting that they're protecting women across the nation.

Welp, hate to break it to you, guys, but none of that garbage is true. An exhaustive new study from the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF), and Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco finds that pretty much all of the justification behind sex-selective abortion bans is made-up and wrong, and — surprise! — the real intention behind such laws is to make it harder for women to get abortions. Also, that the laws "rely on flawed racial assumptions." Fuck absolutely all of this.

"Lawmakers have relied on misinterpretations of narrow data and faulty assumptions about sex selection practices to enact sex-selective abortion bans in the United States," Sital Kalantry, clinical professor of law and director of the International Human Rights Clinic, University of Chicago Law School, said in a statement. Among these misinterpretations and faulty assumptions: Asian Americans are "importing" sex-selective abortion practices into the country; India and China are the only countries in which populations skew male; sex-selective abortion bans are effective and they protect women. The study completely dismantles all of these erroneous beliefs.

Advertisement

First up: conservative lawmakers have long been arguing that there are "highly skewed" gender birth rates in Asian American communities. This not only fails to definitively prove that sex-selective abortions are taking place — studies have shown that male to female sex ratios can vary even when parents aren't using any means to sex select — it's also patently untrue.

According to the findings:

[F]oreign-born Chinese, Indians and Koreans have an equal number of boys and girls at their first birth, with a sex ratio of 1.00. Whites have a sex ratio of 1.06 at their first birth. This means that these Asian communities have more girls than whites in the United States have for their first children. Moreover, if we look at the sex ratio of foreign-born Chinese, Indians and Koreans across all births, we find that their overall sex ratio at birth is 1.03. Whites born in the United States have an overall sex ratio at birth of 1.05. Therefore, when we compare the overall sex ratio at birth of foreign-born Chinese, Indian and Korean families to the sex ratio at birth of whites born in the United States, we find that these Asian groups have more girls on average than whites.

Earlier this year, the vice president of South Dakota Right to Life suggested that all Asian Americans in South Dakota are "from ethnic backgrounds that are known to practice sex selection." Whooooops!!!!!! His bad!!!!

Furthermore, the study points out, "although India and China are consistently referred to in legislative debates over sex-selective abortion bans, male-biased sex ratios can be found in many countries throughout the world, including those with predominantly white populations." The country with the most skewed male-female sex ratio at birth is Liechtenstein, followed by Armenia, Hong Kong and Azerbaijan. India is 5th; China is 8th, after Vietnam and Albania. This isn't to say that sex selection isn't a problem worldwide — it is, but it's not something that can be fixed with misapplied fear-mongering rhetoric that's both factually incorrect and serves to propagate harmful racist stereotypes.

Finally, the study roundly debunks the blatantly untrue myth that the purpose of these laws is to protect women. Their real purpose, of course, is to make abortion as inaccessible as possible — a vast majority of the politicians who vociferously support them are rabid anti-choicers. And some proponents of sex-selective abortion have been upfront about this: in a 2008 article quoted by the study, an influential conservative thinker wrote that "key to eroding Roe v. Wade. . . is to pass a number of state or federal laws that restrict abortion rights in ways approved of by at least fifty percent of the public," such as "a ban on abortion for sex selection." Many anti-choice groups have taken up this call and created model legislation to ban sex-selective abortion. Meanwhile, after Illinois and Pennsylvania enacted bans in 1984 and 1989, the ratio of boy to girl babies being born in those states remained totally unchanged. So these laws literally accomplish nothing, save for subjecting women seeking abortions to undue scrutiny.

Keeping women from having autonomy over their own bodies is ghastly and retrograde. Cloaking these intentions in rhetoric that feigns to protect women while spreading harmful untruths about Asian American communities is simply unconscionable.

Image via Shutterstock.