Abortion leads to dearth of girls in Eastern Europe

A report prepared by the French National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED) shows a growing disparity in the number of the births of boys as opposed to girls in countries of the former Soviet Union. Published in December 2013, the report shows that the "imbalance in terms of male and female births often exceeds that of India."
 
India, like China, has long addressed the incidence of sex-selective abortion and infanticide that favors boys over girls.
 
While the norm is considered to be 105 males to 100 female births, the sex ratio in the southern Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia) ranges from 110 to 117. Azerbaijan, a Muslim-majority country, has the second highest rate of male births, following China.  In the countries of the western Balkan region,  "the levels observed are lower, around 110-111 male births to 100 females."
 
The phenomenon, which apparently began in the 1990s, had gone unnoticed during the fall of the former Soviet Union and the democratization of the former Soviet bloc countries.
 
Although India and China "are reputed to have an unbalanced sex ratio[…] this phenomenon also affects several Eastern European countries and diasporas of Asian origin." The report says that the imbalance in the sex ratio can be attributed to three factors: 
 
* the traditional preference for male births, which has been identified as the main cause;
 
* access to gender selection screening, including ultrasound scans and abortion;
 
* the exacerbating effect of lower fertility rates. 
 
The report contends that "The recent decrease in fertility and the emergence of modern health services […] have strengthened the desire for prenatal gender selection." Abortion is still used as a "family planning method" in the former Soviet bloc countries, with the exception of Albania.
 
According to the Quotidien du médecin, the report concludes by emphasizing the risk of "trivializing the role of new technologies in discriminatory practices." Gender selective abortion is currently at issue in bioethics debates in Europe. 
 
The report also said that it is not only a traditional preference for male births that lies at the heart of the problem but also the recent fertility decline, the emergence of modern health services, and a changing political and economic system that has strengthened the desire for prenatal sex selection.


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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