By Fr. George Welzbacher
March 21, 2010
There is a good deal more than just a touch of irony in the fact that the radical feminint liberation movement, which in its advocacy of abortion on demand made much of its desire to set career- focused women free from the burden of rearing children, has implicitly validated a war on baby girls, a war whose ferocity is most spectactularly on display in Asia. The cover illustration for the March 6th issue of The Economist, the prestigious British weekly that is often sympathetic to causes that are dear to the left, consisted simply of a screaming headline: GENDERCIDE: WHAT HAPPENED TO 100 MILLION BABY GIRLS? The table of contents listed two major reports on the practice, widespread today in Asia, of KILLING BABY GIRLS, before or even after birth, in the interests of making room in the family for a son or sons, particularly in those Asian countries where family size is severely limited by popular choice or by government mandate.
May I share with you one of those articles, extensively abridged to accommodate our restrictions of space.
* * * * *The Worldwide War on Baby Girls
From: The Economist, March 6, 2010
Xinran Xue, a Chinese writer, describes visiting a peasant family in the Yimeng area of Shandong province. The wife was giving birth. "We had scarcely sat down in the kitchen", she writes, "when we heard a moan of pain from the bedroom next door .... The cries from the inner room grew louder- and abruptly stopped. There was a low sob, and then a man's gruff voice said accusingly: 'Useless thing!'"
"Suddenly, I thought I heard a slight movement in the slops pail behind me," Miss Xinran remembers. "To my absolute horror, I saw a tiny foot poking out of the pail. The midwife must have dropped that tiny baby alive into the slops pail! I nearly threw myself at it, but the two policemen who had accompanied me held my shoulders in a firm grip. 'Don't move, you can't save it, it's too late.' "But that's ... murder ... and you're the police!' The little foot was still now. The policemen held on to me for a few more minutes. 'Doing a baby girt is not-a big thing around here,' an older woman said comfortingly. 'That's a living child," I said in a shaking voice, pointing at the slops pail. 'It's NOT a child,' she corrected me. 'It's a girl baby, and we can't keep it. Around these parts, you can't get by without a son. Girl babies don't count.'"
In January, 2010 the Chinese Academy of Social Services (CASS) showed what can happen to a country when girl babies don't count. Within ten years, the academy said, one in five young men would be unable to find a bride because of a dearth of young women-a figure unprecedented in a country at peace.
The number is based on the sexual discrepancy among people aged 19 and below. According to CASS China in 2020 will have 30 million to 40 million more men of this age than young women. For comparison, there are 23 million boys below the age of 20 in Germany, France and Britain COMBINED and around 40 million American boys and young men. So within ten years, China faces the prospect of having the equivalent of the WHOLE young male population of America, or TWICE that of Europe's three largest countries, with little prospect of marriage, untethered to a home of their own and without the stake in society that marriage and children provide.
Gendercide-to borrow the title of a 1985 book by Mary Anne Warren-is often seen as an unintended consequence of China's one-child policy, or as a product of poverty or ignorance. But that cannot be the whole story. The surplus of bachelors---called in China guanggun, or "bare branches"-seems to have accelerated between 1990 and 2005, in ways not obviously linked to the one-child policy, which was introduced in 1979. And, as is becoming clear, the war against baby girls is not confined to China.
Parts of -India have sex ratios as skewed as anything in its northern neighbor. Other East Asian countries-South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan- have peculiarly high numbers of MALE births. So, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, have former communist countries in the Caucasus and the western Balkans. Even subsets of America's population are following suit, though not the population as a whole.
The real cause, argues Nick Eberstadt, a demographer at the American Enterprise Institute, a think-tank in Washington, DC, is not any country's particular policy but "the fateful collision between overweening SON preference, the use of rapidly spreading prenatal sex-determination technology and declining fertility." These are global trends. And the SELECTIVE destruction of baby GIRLS is global, too.
Boys are slightly more likely to die in infancy than girls. To compensate, more boys are born than girls so there will be equal numbers of young men and women at puberty. In all societies that record births, between 103 and 106 boys are normally born for every 100 girls. The ratio has been so stable over time that it appears to be the natural order of things.
That order has changed fundamentally in the past 25 years. In China, the sex ratio for the generation born between 1985 and 1989 was 108, already just outside the natural range. For the generation born in 2000-04, it was 124 (ie., 124 boys, were born in those years for every 100 girls). According to CASS the ratio today is 123 boys per 100girls. These rates are biologically impossible without human intervention.
The national averages hide astonishing figures at the PROVINCLAL level. According to an analysis of Chinese household data carried out in late 2005 and reported in the British Medical Journal, only one region, Tibet, has a sex ratio within the bounds of nature. Fourteen provinces-mostly in the east and south-have sex ratios at birth of 120 and above, and THREE have unprecedented levels of more than 130. As CASS says, "the gender imbalance has been growing wider year after year."
The BMJ [British Medical Journal] study also casts light on one of the puzzles about China's sexual imbalance. How far has it been exaggerated by the presumed practice of not reporting the birth of baby daughters in the hope of getting another shot at bearing a son? Not much, the authors think. If this explanation were correct, you would expect to find sex ratios falling precipitously as girls who had been hidden at birth start entering the official registers on attending school or the doctor. In fact, there is no such fall. The sex ratio of 15-year-olds in 2005 was not far from the sex ratio at birth in 1990. The implication is that SEX-SELECTIVE ABORTION, not under-registration of girls, accounts for the excess of boys.
Other countries have widely skewed sex ratios WITHOUT China's draconian population controls. Taiwan's sex ratio also rose from just above normal in 1980 to 110 in the early 1990s; it remains just below that level today. During the same period, South Korea's sex ratio rose from just above normal to 117 in 1990--then the highest in the world-before falling back to more natural levels. Both these countries were already rich, growing quickly and becoming more highly educated even while the balance between the sexes was swinging sharply towards males.
South Korea is experiencing some surprising consequences. The surplus of bachelors in a rich country has sucked in brides from abroad. In 2008, 11 % of marriages were "mixed", mostly between a Korean man and a foreign woman. This is causing tensions in a hitherto homogenous society, which is often hostile to the children of mixed marriage. The trend is especially marked in rural areas, where the government thinks half the children of farm households will be mixed by 2020. The children are common enough to have produced a new word: "Kosians", or Korean-Asians.
China is nominally a communist country, but elsewhere it was communism's collapse that was associated with the growth of sexual disparities. After the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, there was an upsurge in the ratio of boys to girls in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Their sex ratios rose from normal levels in 1991 to 115-120 by 2000. A rise also occurred in several Balkan states after the wars of Yugoslav succession. The ratio in Serbia and Macedonia is around 108. There are even signs of distorted sex ratios in America, among various groups of Asian-Americans. In 1975, calculates Mr. Eberstadt, the sex ratio for Chinese-, Japanese- and Filipino-Americans was between 100 and 106. In 2002, it was 107 to 109.
But the country with the most remarkable record is that other supergiant, India. India does not produce figures for sex ratios at birth, so its numbers are not strictly comparable with the others. But there is no doubt that the number of boys has been rising relative to girls and that, as in China, there are large regional disparities. The northwestern states of Punjab and Haryna have sex rations as high at the provinces of China's east and south. Nationally, the ratio for children up to six years of age rose from a biologically unexceptionably 104 in 1981 to a biologically impossible 108 in 2001. In 1991, there was a SINGLE district with a sex ratio over 125, by 2001, there were 46.
Conventional wisdom about such disparities is that they are the result of "backward thiinking" in old-fashioned societies or-in China-of the one-child policy. By implication, reforming the policy or modernizing the society (by, for example, enhancing the status of women) should bring the sex ratio back to normal. But this is not always true and, where it is, the road to normal sex ratios is winding and bumpy.
Not all TRADITIONAL societies show a marked preference for sons over daughters. But in those that DO--especially those in which the family line passes through the son and in which he is supposed to look after his parents in old age-a son is worth more than a daughter. A girl is deemed to have joined her husband's family on marriage, and is lost to her parents. As a Hindu saying puts it, "Raising a daughter is like watering your neighbors' garden" Son preference is discemible--overwheming, even-in polling evidence. In 1999 the government of India asked women what sex they wanted their next child to be. One third of those without children said a son, two-thirds had no preference and only a residual said a daughter. Polls carried out in Pakistan and Yemen show similar results. Mothers in some developing countries say they want sons, not daughters, by margins of ten to one. In China midwives charge more for delivering a son than a daughter....
Until the 1980s people in poor countries could do little about this preference: before birth, nature took its course. But in that decade, ultrasound scanning and other methods of detecting the sex of a child before birth began to make their appearance. These technologies changed everything. Doctors in India started advertising ultrasound scans with the slogan "Pay 5,000 rupees ($110) today and save 50,000 rupees tomorrow" (the saving was on the cost of a daughter's dowry). Parents who wanted a son, but balked at killing baby daughters [after their birth] chose abortion in their millions.
The use of sex-selective abortion was banned in India in 1994 and in China in 1995. It is illegal in most countries (though Sweden legalized the practice in 2009). But since it is almost impossible to prove that an abortion has been carried out for reasons of sex selection, the practice remains widespread. An ultrasound scan costs about $12, which is within the scope of many-perhaps most-Chinese and Indian families. In one hospital in Punjab, in northern India, the only girls born after a round of ultrasound scans had been mistakenly identified as boys, or else had a male twin.
The spread of fetal-imaging technology has not only skewed the sex ratio but also explains what would otherwise be something of a puzzle: sexual disparities tend to rise with income and education, which you would not expect if "backward thinking" was all that mattered. In India, some of the most prosperous states-Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat-have the worst sex ratios. In China, the higher a province's literacy rate, the more skewed its sex ratio. The ratio also rises with income per head.
In Punjab Monica Das Gupta of the World Bank discovered that second and third daughters of well-educated mothers were more than twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday as their brothers, regardless of their birth order. The discrepancy was far lower in poorer households. Ms. Das Gupta argues that women do not necessarily use improvements in education and income to help daughters. Richer, well-educated families share their poorer neighbors'. preference for sons and, because they tend to have smaller families, come under greater pressure to produce a son and heir if their first child is an unlooked-for daughter.
So modernization and rising incomes make it easier and more desirable to select the sex of your children. And on top of that smaller families combine with greater wealth to reinforce the imperative to produce a son. When families are large, at least one male child will doubtless come along to maintain the family line. But if you have only one or two children, the birth of a daughter may be at a son's expense. So with rising incomes and falling fertility, more and more people live in the smaller, richer families that are under the most pressure to produce a son.
In China the one-child policy increases that pressure further.... Unexpectedly, though, it is the relaxation of the policy, rather than the policy pure and simple, which explains the unnatural upsurge in the number of boys.
Throughout human history, young men have been responsible for the vast preponderance of crime and violence-especially single men in countries where status and social acceptance depend on being married and having children , as it does in China and India. A rising population of frustrated single men spells trouble.
The crime rate has almost doubled in China during the past 20 years of rising sex ratios, with stories abounding of bride abduction, the trafficking of women, rape and prostitution. A study into whether these things were connected concluded that they were, and that higher sex ratios accounted for about one-seventh of the rise in crime. In India, too, there is a correlation between provincial crime rates and sex ratios. In "Bare Branches", Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer gave warning that the social problems of biased sex ratios would lead to more authoritarian policing. Governments, they say, "must decrease the threat to society posed by these young men. Increased authoritarianism in an effort to crack down on crime, gangs, smuggling and so forth can be one result."
Violence is not the only consequence.... According to the World Health Organization, female SUICIDE rates in China are among the highest in the world (as are South Korea's). Suicide is the commonest form of death among Chinese rural women aged 15-34; young mothers kill themselves by drinking agricultural fertilizers, which are easy to come by. The journalist Xinran Xue thinks they cannot live with the knowledge that they have aborted or killed their baby daughters....
Over the next generation, many of the problems associated with sex selection will get WORSE. The social consequences will become more evident because the boys bom in large numbers over the past decade will reach maturity then. Meanwhile, the practice of sex selection itself may spread because fertility rates are continuing to fall and ultrasound scanners reach throughout the developing world....
* * * * *
Catholics, Health Care, and the Senate’s Bad Bill
Mar 15, 2010
Charles J. Chaput
Catholic Archbishop of Denver
Senate version of health care reform currently being forced ahead by
congressional leaders and the White House is a bad bill that will
result in bad law. It does not deserve, nor does it have, the support
of the Catholic bishops of our country. Nor does the American public
want it. As I write this column on March 14, the Senate bill remains
gravely flawed. It does not meet minimum moral standards in
at least three important areas: the exclusion of abortion funding and
services; adequate conscience protections for health care professionals
and institutions; and the inclusion of immigrants.