Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse • 663 S. Rancho Santa Fe Road Suite 222 San Marcos CA 92078www.jennifer-roback-morse.com • email: firstname.lastname@example.org • 760/295-9278
©2007 No part of thisdocument may be reproduced or disseminated in any way without the expressed written consent of theRuth Institute.
How the West’s Fertility War Has Left Women at Risk
By Jennifer Roback Morse
Unnatural Selection:Choosing Boys over Girls, and theConsequences of a World Full of Men
Mara HvistendahlPublic Affairs, 2011; 314 pages, $26.99
This brave and timely book has manystrengths and one glaring, butunderstandable, weakness. The strength of this book is the reporting. Mara Hvistendahl,a liberal, pro-choice feminist, painstakinglydocuments the catastrophic consequences of the worldwide “choice” for male babies:gender imbalance leading to prostitution, sexslavery, and male frustration and aggression.The weakness of this book is the politicalanalysis. She doesn’t understand how deeply
changed American politicalculture, particularly within the conservativemovement broadly conceived. But boththese strengths and weaknesses work together to yield an honest and courageous book that should be read by anyone whoconsiders himself (or herself) well informed.Let’s start with the strengths. Hvistendahl isa very honest reporter. She became aware of the gender-imbalance problem while livingin China as a journalist. She recounts howshe visited a grade-school classroom to writean article on the solar heating system beinginstalled in the school. She found herself ina “classroom full of smiling boys. I wastempted to abandon the solar power articleand interview the teachers about the school’s population.” That experience repeated itself so many times that she couldn’t stand itanymore. Her journalist instincts required aninvestigation of the imbalanced sex ratio inChinese society.She found that the problem, however, is notunique to China, with its particularly high- pressure “one child policy” driving smallfamily size. Hvistendahl found gender imbalances all around the world, not just inChina or India. Albania, South Korea,Taiwan, Viet Nam, parts of Singapore, allhave experienced skewed sex ratios. Thenormal gender ratio at birth hovers around105 boys for every 100 girls, with anything between 104 through 106 boys considerednormal. The Caucasus countries of theformer Soviet Union have badly skewed sexratios. Azerbaijan has a sex ratio of 115 boys, Georgia 118, and Armenia, awhopping 120. The American journalistexpected that the explanation wouldbesexist attitudes: in male-dominated societies, patriarchs prefer sons. But she found thatwomen were just as likely to prefer sons,and as responsible for sex-selectionabortion, as their husbands. She also foundthat urban elites, not the rural poor, pioneered the practice of sex-selectionabortion.
Where Technology and Abortion Meet
The factors that give rise to gender imbalance are a mix of technology andeconomic development, layered over the top