Gender-selective abortion—choosing abortion solely or primarily because of not preferring the unborn child’s sex—is often practiced in several places in the world. Due to cultural biases, female fetuses are generally targeted for abortion in such cases much more often than males.
In the November 9, 2001, cover story of the Indian magazine, Frontline, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen wrote that “sex-selective abortion” is “particularly prevalent in East Asia, in China and South Korea in particular, but also in Singapore and Taiwan, and it is beginning to emerge as a statistically significant phenomenon in India and South Asia as well.”1
A 1998 study published by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which was founded as a division of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, also lists Thailand among the nations in which “sex selection is believed to play a role in abortion.”2
Jyotsna Patro, an Indian delegate to the Asian Church Women’s Conference and former president of the Church of North India Women’s Fellowship, has recently reported that “[t]he callousness in allowing female feticide is worsening,” with “[p]arents hav[ing] no qualms about aborting female fetuses.”3
The widespread practice of sex-selective abortion is believed to be a main cause of the extremely skewed sex ratios at birth in India, where it was recently estimated that only 882 girls are born for every 1,000 boys, and China, where 832 girls are born for every 1,000 boys.4
While precise estimates vary, there are now tens of millions of “missing women” in the world thanks to sex-selective abortions. In India alone, about 10 million female fetuses are estimated to have been selectively aborted in the last two decades.5 The Voice of America news service recently reported that “by the year 2020,” China is expected to “have 30 million more men than women, making it difficult for many men to find wives.”6 Chinese population expert Chu Junhong has reported that “[p]renatal sex selection was probably the primary cause, if not the sole cause, for the continuous rise of the sex ratio at birth” in China since the implementation of that country’s one-child policy. These growing gender imbalances are believed to exacerbate such problems as prostitution and human trafficking.7 Furthermore, according to Dr. Therese Hesketh, a researcher at the University College London Institute of Child Health and co-author of a recent study on societal gender imbalances, this emergence of large numbers of young men unable to find wives “could lead to increased levels of antisocial behavior and violence.”8
At the March 2007 meeting of the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women, in New York, a resolution supported by South Korea, the United States, and others would have condemned sex-selective abortion and infanticide and encouraged steps to eliminate them. However, the resolution was ultimately not adopted.9
The United Methodist Social Principles affirm “[o]ur belief in the sanctity of unborn human life” and “unconditionally reject” abortion being used “as a means of gender selection” (¶ 161J). While the members of our denomination are not of one mind over the precise conditions in which abortion can be supported, we cannot support abortion for such trivial reasons as not preferring the gender of the fetus.
The widespread practice of sex-selective abortion horribly treats females as inferior before they are even born. This is absolutely contrary to The United Methodist Church’s long history of championing the biblical principle of gender equality.
Therefore, be it resolved, that the General Conference of The United Methodist Church strongly condemns sex-selective abortion as a particularly lamentable and violent expression of sexism. We call on religious, government, and community leaders to proactively pursue humane means for stopping the practice of sex-selective abortion. The General Board of Church and Society is encouraged to seek out and take advantage of opportunities to make this concern of our church known to national leaders of the United States and of other nations.
1. Amartya Sen, “Many Faces of Gender Inequality,” Frontline, 9 November 2001; available from ; Internet; accessed 20 August 2007.
2. Akinrinola Bankole, Susheela Singh and Taylor Haas, “Reasons Why Women Have Induced Abortions: Evidence from 27 Countries,” International Family Planning Perspectives 24, no. 3 [September 1998]; available from:
nals/2411798.html>; accessed 20 August 2007.
3. Anto Akkara, “Indian Christian Women Warn of Female Extinction from Feticide,” Ecumenical News International, 26 July 2007; available from
tured/article.php?id=1077>; Internet; accessed 20 August 2007.
4. Raekha Prasad and Randeep Ramesh, “India’s Missing Girls,” Guardian [London], 28 February 2007; available from:
0,,2022983,00.html>; Internet; accessed 20 August 2007. Cf. “China Riots Rooted in Child Policy, Financial Woes,” Turkish Daily News, 2 June 2007.
5. Prasad and Ramesh; Cf. Neil Samson Katz and Marisa Sherry, “India: The Missing Girls,” Background Facts and Links, PBS FRONTLINE/World “Rough Cut,” 26 April 2007; available from: http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/rough/2007/04/the_missing_girlinks.html; Internet; accessed 20 August 2007.
6. Daniel Schearf, “China Acknowledges Family-planning Policy Affects Sex-Ratio Imbalance,” Voice of America news, available from: ; Internet; accessed 20 August 2007. Cf. Katharine Mieszkowski, “Millions of Lonely Would-Be Grooms in China,” Salon.com, 12 January 2007; available from
china/index.html>; Internet; accessed 20 August 2007.
7. Eric Baculinao, “China Grapples with Legacy of its ‘Missing Girls’: Disturbing Demographic Imbalance Spurs Drive to Change Age-Old Practices,” NBC News, 14 Sept 2004; available from ; Internet; accessed 17 August 2007. Cf. Prasad and Ramesh; Isabelle Attane, “The Boys Are Wanted, The Girls Aborted: Asia’s Missing Women,” trans. Krystyna Horko, Guardian Weekly [London], 11 August 2006, Le Monde Diplomatique section, p. 6.
8. “GENDER RESEARCH: Too Many Men Could Destabilize Society,” Biotech Week, 20 September 2006, expanded reporting, p. 564. Cf. Baculinao; Prasad and Ramesh.
9. Andrea Mrozek, “A Recipe for Social Disaster,” Calgary Herald [Alberta], 28 March 2007, p. A16.