A study published on Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) has rekindled the debate on selective abortions in Canada. The skewed boy-girl ratio has existed for “at least two decades” in Canadian families of Indian origin. Scientists “suggest that these figures could be largely due to selective abortions”.
Indian-Ontario women with at least two children “gave birth to 138 boys for every 100 girls”. For women with three children, “this figure increased to 166 boys for every 100 girls”. Furthermore, “the ratio of boy to girl births rose to 326 boys per 100 girls for Indian-born mothers with two daughters, who had an abortion preceding the third birth, and to 409 boys for every 100 girls if the mother had more than one abortion”.
In Canada it is illegal to use In-Vitro Fertilisation to select the sex of a child, but “there is nothing stopping a woman in the 14th week of pregnancy from having an ultrasound scan revealing the baby’s gender”, and having an abortion if she is carrying a girl.
According to scientists, “approximately 4,472 girls have been ‘lost’ over the past twenty years, mostly amongst couples with one or both Indian-born parents”. Marcelo Urquia, an epidemiologist at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto who managed the research explained that, “many of these girls have disappeared due to induced abortions, but we don’t know the exact number”. Abortion has been legal and free in Canada since 1988 and “no questions are asked as to why a woman wants to have an abortion”.
To justify “the emphasis on India”, scientists “are keen to point out that this is a country where considerable discrepancies in terms of male-female ratio have been documented and it is a major immigration community in Canada”. Magaly Pirotte, co-ordinator at Quebec’s Family Planning Federation believes that this study “paves the way to discrimination against a certain population and raises the question once again as to ‘why’ women want to have an abortion. (…) No questions are asked when another woman wants an abortion so why should we focus on these women?”
Alana Cattapan, a post-doctoral scientist at Dalhousie University, has noted that “the concerns surrounding selective abortion are not linked solely to the Indian community”.
Three years ago, MP, Mark Warawa proposed “that Parliament should ban selective abortion”, but his bill was deemed “inadmissible”.
Radio Canada International (12/04/2016), Huffington Post( 11/04/2016), Le Devoir (13/04/2016)