Crackdown on Sex-Selection Abortions

Wed Mar. 29, 2006 9:03 PM EST

An Indian radiologist was sentenced to two years in jail for providing a pregnant patient with an ultrasound and then disclosing the baby's sex. Use of ultrasounds to determine gender is forbidden in India due to widespread abortion of female fetuses. The doctor, Anil Sabsani, was caught when he told an undercover officer that for $35, she could know the sex of her child. Once paid, Sabsani divulged that while the fetus is a girl, it could be "taken care of" (wink, wink). This is the first conviction of its kind in India.

According to the Lancet, a leading British medical journal, "the past two decades have seen the birth of nearly 10 million fewer girls than would otherwise have been expected, nearly all presumed by researchers to have been aborted." Sex-selection abortions have been banned for just over a decade in India, and Lancet suggests they haven't disappeared, estimating that 1 out of every 25 female fetuses is aborted, totaling approximately 500,000 per year.

Many people blame technology rather than the fact that, say, many cultures continue to value boys more highly, partly due to their ability for agrarian work. "This is not a cultural thing," says Donna Fernandez, director of Vimochana , a women's rights group based in Bangalore. "This is much more of an economic and political issue. It has got a lot to do with the globalization of technology. It's about the commodification of choices."