Sex-Selective Abortion In America?

After South Dakota’s governor signed into law a new ban on sex-selective abortion last week, Tara Culp-Ressler denounced it as “an unnecessary abortion restriction that reinforces racial stereotypes about the Asian American community”:

In fact, this type of legislation is a solution in search of a problem. While female infanticide is an issue in some parts of the world, there’s absolutely no evidence that the Asian American or Pacific Islander (AAPI) individuals who live here in the U.S. are having abortions based on gender. There is no epidemic of sex-selective abortion among the AAPI community, and passing legislation to “fix” this nonexistent issue simply ends up damaging women of color. Ultimately, these laws scrutinize Asian American women based solely on their race.

Jonathan Coppage demurs, saying the Guttmacher paper Culp-Ressler cites for “no evidence” doesn’t really support that claim:

The policy review paper acknowledges the evidence, but calls it limited and inconclusive. Yet the two leading studies cited by Guttmacher policy review author Sneha Barot, and subsequently most of the authors relying on her paper, are neither especially limited nor inconclusive.

Drawing on U.S. Census data and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, study authors Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund of Columbia University open their discussion, “We document son-biased sex ratios at higher parities in a contemporary Western society. We interpret the found deviation in favor of sons to be evidence of sex selection, most likely at the prenatal stage.”

Now, as the second study‘s author, Jason Abrevaya, explains in American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, prenatal sex selection could conceivably be a result of using more advanced reproductive technologies, like IVF or sperm sorting. In practice, the high expense and rarity of such procedures means that almost all prenatal sex selection most likely takes place by abortion. He concludes his study, “This study has offered evidence consistent with gender selection at later births within the United States.”