More and more Indian families with one girl are aborting subsequent pregnancies when prenatal tests show another female is on the way, according to a new study published today. The decline in the number of girls is more pronounced in richer and better educated households, presumably because the wealthy are more easily able to obtain illegal abortions. Those numbers show that a 1996 law that bans testing for the gender of a fetus has been largely ineffective. Between 4 million and 12 million girls are thought have been aborted from 1980 to 2010.
In India, there is a huge cultural preference for boys in large part because of the enormous expense in marrying off girls and paying elaborate dowries. Raw data from India's census released in March showed 914 girls under age 6 for every 1,000 boys. A decade ago, many were horrified when the ratio was 927 to 1,000. According to the current CIA "World Factbook," the US has a birth ratio of 955 girls per 1,000 boys. In China, where families with a strong preference for boys sometimes resort to aborting their baby girls, there was a birth ratio of 885 girls per 1,000 boys. (Read more abortion stories.)