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Sex-selective abortions sky-rocket in India, posing big questions for pro-choice advocates

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Here's a pro-choice conundrum: how do you advocate for reproductive rights in a country where males are valued over females to the point that women are choosing "sex selective" abortions to get rid of their female babies? It's an question activists are pondering more than ever, now that India's 2011 census is reporting that there are only 914 girls under the age of six for every 1,000 boys of the same age.

Only ten years ago the same statistic was 927 girls to 1,000 boys, and if that doesn't seem like that a big a leap to you, consider this: that thirteen-point difference is the largest change India has seen since its emancipation from Britain in 1947. Experts are pointing to the widespread availability of ultrasounds (and thus the opportunity to learn your baby's sex) as the biggest reason for the shift.

Prior to the availability of OB-GYN technology in even the smallest villages of India, a 2006 study came out claiming ten-million female fetuses had been aborted in the preceding twenty years. Now, only five years later, estimates are more along the lines of one million per year. Of course, technology cannot take the full blame for this harrowing statistic. A culture in which women are often still viewed as a burden to the family must be taken into consideration.

This is not to say all Indian families or the government at large feel this way. In fact, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been quoted as saying the figure constitutes a "national shame." And in 1994 the nation passed the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, which actually prohibits "sex-selective" abortions. Under the law, anyone involved with the procedure runs the risk of being fined and jailed for up to three years. Is the solution to India's problem better enforcement of this act? I hope so, because I certainly wouldn't recommend winding back the clock to a time when fewer of the country's women had access to reproductive rights.