Crackdown on aborting female fetuses

A doctor in India goes to jail for performing sex-selective tests and abortions.

Sarah Goldstein
March 31, 2006 2:47AM (UTC)

The Kaiser Network reports that a doctor and his assistant who offered patients "sex-selective" abortions in the northern state of Haryana, India, have been sentenced to two years in prison and fined $125 each for performing a gender determination test in 2001. While abortion is legal in India, aborting a fetus because of its sex is not. Sex-selective abortion is supposed to be regulated under the Prenatal Determination Tests Act, passed in 1994, which "bans the use of technologies such as ultrasound and sonograms for purposes of sex-selective abortions." Nonetheless, as we have discussed here and here on Broadsheet, when such technology became more widely available, there was a steady decline in the number of female babies.

In certain parts of India where the practice of dowry endures and women's economic opportunities are limited at best, daughters are often "regarded as a liability," according to British medical journal the Lancet, which recently published a study on sex-selective abortion. The New York Times reports that "in 1991, there were about 945 girls born per 1,000 boys, but this [had] dropped to 927 by 2001, according to the [Indian] national census."


The doctor, Anil Sabhani, and his assistant, Kartar Singh, were caught in a sting operation after the government sent three pregnant women into his office to get the sex-selective test. According to one of the women, who paid $35 to learn the sex of the fetus, Sabhani told her "it was a female fetus and it would be taken care of." The judge who ruled on the case said that "because of persons like [Sabhani], the day is not far when there will be no girl child." It is heartening that government officials seem to be responding to the case seriously, although according to the Times yesterday, despite the fact that the sex-selective abortion ban has existed for more than a decade, this is the first time someone is going to jail under the law.

Sarah Goldstein

Sarah Goldstein is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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