Maintaining access to safe abortion and reducing sex ratio imbalances in Asia

Reprod Health Matters. 2008 May;16(31 Suppl):90-8. doi: 10.1016/S0968-8080(08)31394-9.


High sex ratios at birth (108 boys to 100 girls or higher) are seen in China, Taiwan, South Korea and parts of India and Viet Nam. The imbalance is the result of son preference, accentuated by declining fertility. Prenatal sex detection with ultrasound followed by second trimester abortion is one of the ways sex selection manifests itself, but it is not the causative factor. Advocates and governments seeking to reverse this imbalance have largely prohibited sex detection tests and/or sex selective abortion, assuming these measures would reverse the trend. Such policies have been difficult to enforce and have met with only limited success. At the same time, such policies are starting to have adverse effects on the already limited access to safe and legal second trimester abortion for reasons other than sex selection. Moreover, the sex selection issue is being used as a platform for anti-abortion rhetoric by certain groups. Maintaining access to safe abortion and achieving a decline in high sex ratios are both important goals. Both are possible if the focus shifts to addressing the conditions that drive son preference.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Eugenic*
  • Asia
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Human Rights
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Population Control
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second
  • Prejudice
  • Prenatal Diagnosis / methods
  • Sex Ratio*
  • Social Values