More on those lonely Chinese bachelors

Government announces crackdown on sex-selection abortion.

Published January 23, 2007 12:04AM (EST)

Remember the plague of brideless grooms that China fears will lead to social unrest in that country within just 15 years? That's thanks to the combination of a cultural preference for boys, the country's one-child policy and sex-selection abortion, which add up to so many couples aborting female fetuses that there soon won't be enough women for men to marry.

The latest update: Monday, China announced its official response to the problem. The state will crack down on abortion providers who perform the procedure for non-medical reasons because of the baby's gender and increase protections for baby girls, according to the Associated Press. A statement issued jointly by the ruling Communist Party and the State Council, China's Cabinet, said that people who "conduct illegal gender testing of fetuses and sex-selective abortions should face serious punishment," and that the protection of baby girls should be improved by punishing those who kill, abandon or injure the infants. No other details about the nature of the crackdown were given. And naturally, there were no plans to alter the country's one-child policy.

We're all for increasing protections for baby girls. Yet it's not hard to imagine lots of unintended -- and miserable -- consequences from trying to squelch sex-selection abortion, as abhorrent as such a practice is. Maybe with the government crackdown, such testing and abortions will continue, but they'll just go underground, putting the woman seeking the procedures at greater risk. Or, if the state crackdown actually does succeed in greatly limiting such procedures, then there'll be tens of thousands of baby girls born to and raised by parents who don't want them.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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