This wasn't some backwards culture somewhere "out there." This was an American-led and American-funded way of global population control. The details Hvistendahl digs up are grim. For example, Steven Polgar, Planned Parenthood's head of research, convinced the ironically-named National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) that sex-selective abortions were a way of curbing population sizes. His views were quickly accepted by those "population bomb" fearmongers:
In the years that followed, Population Council President Bernard Berelson endorsed sex selection in the pages of Science, while Paul Ehrlich advocated giving couples the sons they desired in his blockbuster The Population Bomb. "[I]f a simple method could be found to guarantee that first-born children were males," he wrote, "then population control problems in many areas would be somewhat eased." In many countries, he wrote, "couples with only female children 'keep trying' in hope of a son." A wide range of population control strategies were on the table at the time, but by the end of the decade, when the NICHD held another workshop on reducing birth rates, sex selection had emerged as an approach that participants deemed "particularly desirable."That "simple method" turned out to be sonograms, followed by abortions if the child was unlucky enough to be a girl. And these abortions were
In one of the more shocking twists, we discover that the U.N. Population Fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation helped cover up China's systematic forced abortions:In South Korea, Western money enabled the creation of a fleet of mobile clinics -- reconditioned U.S. Army ambulances donated by USAID and staffed by poorly trained workers and volunteers. Fieldworkers employed by the health ministry's Bureau of Public Health were paid based on how many people they brought in for sterilizations and intrauterine device insertions, and some allege Korea's mobile clinics later became the site of abortions as well. By the 1970s, recalls gynecologist Cho Young-youl, who was a medical student at the time, "there were agents going around the countryside to small towns and bringing women into the [mobile] clinics. That counted toward their pay. They brought the women regardless of whether they were pregnant." Non-pregnant women were sterilized. A pregnant woman met a worse fate, Cho says: "The agent would have her abort and then undergo tubal ligation." As Korea's abortion rate skyrocketed, Sung-bong Hong and Christopher Tietze detailed its rise in the Population Council journal Studies in Family Planning. By 1977, they determined, doctors in Seoul were performing 2.75 abortions for every birth -- the highest documented abortion rate in human history.
Obviously, once you cross into women being forced into abortions they don't want to have, the fig leaf of "women's rights" is long gone, and the unadulterated evil lies bare. This was even acknolwedged by one of the more outspoken supporters, the British microbiologist John Postgate, who acknowledged that "A form of purdah" might be necessary, in which "Women's right to work, even to travel alone freely, would probably be forgotten transiently." Charming. And it appears that the horror, for both women and societies, might just be beginning:The country accepted Western aid belatedly, in 1979. But after years of being kept out of the Middle Kingdom, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) and IPPF jumped at the opportunity to play a role in the world's most populous country, with UNFPA chipping in $50 million for computers, training, and publicity on the eve of the one-child policy's unveiling. Publicly, officers at both UNFPA and IPPF claimed China's new policy relied on the Chinese people's exceptional knack for communalism. But, according to Columbia University historian Matthew Connelly's account of the population control movement, Fatal Misconception, in January 1980 IPPF information officer Penny Kane privately fretted about local officials' evident interest in meeting the new birth quotas through forced abortions. Accounts of those eventually leaked out, as did reports of sex-selective abortions. In 1982, Associated Press correspondent Victoria Graham warned that those augured a spreading trend. "These are not isolated cases," she wrote, adding: "Demographers are warning that if the balance between the sexes is altered by abortion and infanticide, it could have dire consequences."
In China, India, Korea, and Taiwan, the first generation shaped by sex selection has grown up, and men are scrambling to find women, yielding the ugly sideblows of increased sex trafficking and bride buying. [...] But what happens to women is only part of the story. Demographically speaking, women matter less and less. By 2013, an estimated one in 10 men in China will lack a female counterpart. By the late 2020s, that figure could jump to one in five. There are many possible scenarios for how these men will cope without women -- and not all, of course, want women -- but several of them involve rising rates of unrest. Already Columbia University economist Lena Edlund and colleagues at Chinese University of Hong Kong have found a link between a large share of males in the young adult population and an increase in crime in China. Doomsday analysts need look no further than America's history: Murder rates soared in the male-dominated Wild West.You should definitely read the full article. You should also read Ross Douthat's response to Hvistendahl's book on the same subject, “Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men.” Douthat includes details from the book which are yet more grim, about Chinese villages with signs saying, “You can beat it out! You can make it fall out! You can abort it! But you cannot give birth to it!” Douthat also comes to the very conclusion which Hvistendahl tries to avoid:
Douthat carries this argument over on his blog. All of it, while grim, is well worth the read.This places many Western liberals, Hvistendahl included, in a distinctly uncomfortable position. Their own premises insist that the unborn aren’t human beings yet, and that the right to an abortion is nearly absolute. A self-proclaimed agnostic about when life begins, Hvistendahl insists that she hasn’t written “a book about death and killing.” But this leaves her struggling to define a victim for the crime that she’s uncovered.
It’s society at large, she argues, citing evidence that gender-imbalanced countries tend to be violent and unstable. It’s the women in those countries, she adds, pointing out that skewed sex ratios are associated with increased prostitution and sex trafficking.
These are important points. But the sense of outrage that pervades her story seems to have been inspired by the missing girls themselves, not the consequences of their absence.
Here the anti-abortion side has it easier. We can say outright what’s implied on every page of “Unnatural Selection,” even if the author can’t quite bring herself around.
The tragedy of the world’s 160 million missing girls isn’t that they’re “missing.” The tragedy is that they’re dead.