Registering for an abortion?

Indian lawmaker proposes keeping tabs on all pregnant women and only allowing "acceptable" abortions.


Tracy Clark-Flory
July 14, 2007 2:00AM (UTC)

Here's a case of good intentions gone nightmarishly awry: An Indian cabinet member has proposed a law aiming to curb sex-selective abortion by essentially doing away with a woman's right to choose. It's an effective approach, to be sure -- just, you know, distressingly wrong.

The idea is that all pregnant women will be required to register with the government -- a requirement that seems entirely unenforceable when you consider that more than half of the country's women give birth at home without medical assistance. If a woman decides to have an abortion, she'll have to get permission from the government; permission will only be given for a "valid and acceptable reason," said Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury. In short: The government will be denying women abortions unless it's deemed that she has a "valid" reason, and it will be keeping close tabs on pregnant women and their children, making it much more difficult for families to commit female infanticide.

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Sex-selective abortion and female infanticide are critical problems in India: The country has roughly 43 million "missing girls" and there are now 927 girls per 1,000 boys. But, what's broken here? Is it the lack of oversight that allows women to abort female fetuses and commit female infanticide? Or is it the culture, which, in many quantifiable ways, holds male children so preferable that parents are willing to kill newborn baby girls by, according to Reuters, "breaking their necks or ... stuffing hay down their throats"?

Of course, successfully addressing cultural inequity is much trickier. But this solution seems to only trade one symptom for another: millions of "missing girls" for millions of unwanted girls.


Tracy Clark-Flory

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