Sex-Selective Abortion In America? Not So Much.

Molly Redden calls attention to new research that debunks the rationale behind bans like the one South Dakota enacted in April:

Notably, [the authors] examine two papers that comprise the only empirical support that proponents of the ban can point to for their arguments. These two 2008 papers, by economists Lena Edlund and Douglas Almond, show that when foreign-born Chinese, Korean, and Indian women have two daughters, their third child will tend to be a son—a trend that suggests sex-selective abortions are being performed, ban proponents say. Both papers rely on census data that is nearly 15 years old. The University of Chicago study, using newer data from the 2007 and 2011 American Community Survey, found that when all their children are taken into account, foreign-born Chinese, Korean, and Indian parents actually have more daughters than white Americans do.

The study also notes that India and China are not, as proponents of these bans claim, the only countries with male-biased sex ratios. In fact, the countries with the highest ratios are Liechtenstein and Armenia.

“This really should come as no surprise,” Emily Bazelon writes:

If you want to control the sex of your child, the easiest way to go is a method called sperm sorting. If legislators really cared about preventing this, that’s what they’d try to ban. And yet, as Hanna Rosin pointed out a few years ago, American parents who turn to sperm sorting increasingly are trying to have …

girls. “A newer method for sperm selection, called MicroSort, is currently completing Food and Drug Administration clinical trials,” she wrote in the Atlantic. “The girl requests for that method run at about 75 percent.”

In Liechtenstein, Armenia, Hong Kong, Azerbaijan, China and India, the problem of parental preference for boys is a real one. But in the United States, it’s a canard. And there is nothing feminist about invoking it to make abortions harder to get.

And Callie Beusman underscores that making abortions harder to get was the point of these bans all along, adding that their proponents have even said so explicitly:

[I]n 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.

Previous Dish on South Dakota’s sex-selective abortion ban here and here. Further Dish on the issue more generally here.