They say that demographics are destiny. Think of the birth spike after WWII and how, in conjunction with our short-sighted welfare policies and the self-centeredness of that generation, it will bankrupt the country over the course of the next 20 years.
So I occasionally post on demographic issues.
Mara Hvistendahl's startling data in Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men demands the attention of feminists, abortion advocates, economists, and students of international affairs. Jonathan Last reviews it for the Wall Street Journal in "The War Against Girls."
All things being equal, the biological ratio of boy to girl births is always between 104-106:100. Only unnatural intervention can change this. Widespread abortion of baby girls in the womb would shift the birth ratio further in favor of boys.*
What we now know is that if you provide free access to abortion and if people can know the sex of the child ahead of time, the ratio of boys to girls will climb dramatically in favor of boys. People are more inclined to kill their baby girls. Hvistendahl reports that this is most true when women make the decision.
So how do things stand in the world?
> "today in India there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls"
> "In China, the number is 121—though plenty of Chinese towns are over the 150 mark"
> "Azerbaijan stands at 115, Georgia at 118 and Armenia at 120"
> "In 1989, the sex ratio for first births [in South Korea] was 104 boys for every 100 girls—perfectly normal. But couples who had a girl became increasingly desperate to acquire a boy. For second births, the male number climbed to 113; for third, to 185. Among fourth-born children, it was a mind-boggling 209."
So what's the difference between a world remarkably more full of men than women? Men and women are the same, right? It's sexist to make distinctions, right? Or is that an 80s nostrum?
Predictably, it makes for a more violent world. Lots more young men without families to restrain them and turn their energies toward industrious pursuits means crime and social instability. In politically less stable countries, it means pools of manpower from which rising tyrants can draw armies to overthrow existing governments, whether popular governments or other tyrants.
The high concentration of unmarried men in the post-Civil War wild west surely had a lot to do with why it was as wild as it was. "In 1870, for instance, the sex ratio west of the Mississippi was 125 to 100. In California it was 166 to 100. In Nevada it was 320. In western Kansas, it was 768." The author "visits the Nanjing headquarters of the "Patriot Club," an organization of Chinese surplus men who plot war games and play at mock combat."
The economics of this unnatural situation is a fascinating study on its own: sharply increased savings rates, demand for U.S. Treasury bills (and for gold, I would add), increased attraction of prostitution as a way for poor families to turn daughters into income.
The obvious conclusion is that abortion is unnatural and wrong and leads to unhappy consequences as all unnatural behavior does.
Western feminists no doubt will cling to their abortion rights, and advocate banning sex screening or any advance notice of the a child's sex. Or they will push for a worldwide education campaign for the value of little girls. Sadly, Hvistendahl is herself an anti-Christian feminist, and worries that the "Christian right" will use these findings to threaten our precious abortion rights. She chooses rigorous government enforcement of a ban on sex screening. The reviewer notes, "It is telling that Ms. Hvistendahl identifies a ban on abortion—and not the killing of tens of millions of unborn girls—as the 'worst nightmare' of feminism."
Last, who is a senior writer for The Weekly Standard, concludes wisely:
Despite the author's intentions, "Unnatural Selection" might be one of the most consequential books ever written in the campaign against abortion. It is aimed, like a heat-seeking missile, against the entire intellectual framework of "choice." For if "choice" is the moral imperative guiding abortion, then there is no way to take a stand against "gendercide." Aborting a baby because she is a girl is no different from aborting a baby because she has Down syndrome or because the mother's "mental health" requires it. Choice is choice. One Indian abortionist tells Ms. Hvistendahl: "I have patients who come and say 'I want to abort because if this baby is born it will be a Gemini, but I want a Libra.'"
This is where choice leads. This is where choice has already led. Ms. Hvistendahl may wish the matter otherwise, but there are only two alternatives: Restrict abortion or accept the slaughter of millions of baby girls and the calamities that are likely to come with it.
Unnatural Selection is published by PublicAffairs (314 pages, $26.99).
*I have changed this paragraph in response to a reader comment.
This article has stirred up a lot of discussion. Here is Ross Douthat in the New York Times: "160 Million and Counting."