Sex-selective abortions: evidence from rural East China

Wei Chen, People's University of China

This article addresses the issue of sex-selective abortion underlying the rising and abnormally high sex ratio at birth in China. The data are derived from a survey of 1602 married women aged 20-45 and from interviews with cadres involved in family planning work in rural East China in 2002. Prenatal sex identification and sex-selective abortion were fairly widespread among the pregnancies after first birth. The aborted foetuses were overwhelmingly females and virtually all the sex-selective abortions were second- or even third-trimester procedures. Cultural context of son preference associated with this practice is discussed. The basic issue underlying son preference is the male-based continuation of the family. Patricentricity, patrilineality and patrilocality are basic elements of the Confucian patriarchal society. The evidence from this study suggests that son preference will continue as long as the cultural context for son preference continues, and legislation outlawing prenatal sex identification can hardly make a difference.

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Presented in Session 156: Induced abortion (2)