Authored by PRI research analyst Jonathan Abbamonte, the study spotlights the disastrous effects that result from lax pro-life protections in societies with strong cultural preferences for boys.
"Because of the introduction and wide availability of obstetric ultrasound technology since the late 20th century ... it is now possible for couples to easily come to know the sex of their child prior to birth," Abbamonte writes. "In societies where strong son preference is prevalent and where abortion is both accessible and considered socially acceptable, the practice of sex-selective abortion has been widespread."
In some countries, he notes, the practice has created "serious demographic consequences, causing heavily male-biased sex ratios that will have lasting implications in the years ahead." Among the nations hardest hit is India.
"Since 1990, approximately 15.8 million women have gone 'missing' from annual birth cohorts," Abbamonte writes. This equates to 4.1% of all female live-births.
"Since 2014," he adds, "approximately 550,000 girls go 'missing' from the birth cohorts every year due to the practice of sex-selective abortion and other forms of prenatal sex selection."
India banned sex-selective abortion in 1994 with the passage of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act (PNDT Act), which made it illegal for doctors to reveal the sex of an unborn child and required ultrasound clinics to register with the government. But the PNDT Act was poorly enforced, and sex-selective abortion continued unabated for years.
In fact, the practice persists widely to this day. According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), India's cultural preference for boys has resulted in the deaths of millions of pre-born girls through abortion, with an estimated 2,000 sex-selective procedures carried out each day in the country.
On Tuesday, the Daily Mail reported that in the past three months, 216 children were born in 132 villages across the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. None were girls.
District judge Ashish Chauhan called the phenomenon "suspicious" and said it suggested "female foeticide."
"We have identified areas where the number of girl childbirth is zero or in single-digit numbers," Chauhan said. "We are monitoring these areas to find out what is affecting the ratio. A detailed survey and study will be conducted to identify the reason behind it."
Indian government policy, Abbamonte observes, is facilitating such phenomena:
The government of India has long promoted population control policies. These policies in turn help fuel the practice of prenatal sex selection. Six states in India currently have two-child policies that prohibit civil servants from having more than two children. Studies have shown that these two-child policies have caused a statistically significant male-biased distortion in the sex ratio at birth in states where they are in place. Some CCT programs promoting the birth of daughters also require one or both of the spouses to be sterilized.
"Such requirements are contrary to women's rights as they incentivize permanent sterilization," Abbamonte writes. "They are also counterproductive as couples are not likely to apply to these programs until they have first attained their desired number of sons."
He adds: "In order for the Indian government to eliminate the practice of sex selection, it must abandon population control policies and incentives."