According to a new report published on The Lancet, the most respected medical journal globally, India’s sex-selective abortion holocaust surpassed COVID-19 deaths by a factor of three, with up to 22 million female babies slaughtered in the last three decades.
Due to various financial, cultural, and historical factors, daughters in India face more discrimination than sons.
In this context, female fetuses are selectively aborted, resulting in “a total of between 13.5 million and 22.1 million missed female births from 1987 to 2016,” as reported in the study.
A campaign named “Vanishing Girls” launched by the international advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (India), 7,000 baby girls were aborted every day in India, a figure suggested by UNICEF in 2007.
Half the world’s suppressed female births occurred in India. The trend “continues to increase” and “should be a cause for serious alarm,” noted the Lancet editorial.
The Indian president signed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill (MTP) in April, and the Central government informed the public on March 25, 2021.
The new Bill’s amendments extended the timeframe during which an abortion could be legally performed.
The amendment allowed abortion to be carried out within 20 weeks on the advice of one doctor and between 20 and 24 weeks on the advice of two physicians (although excluding marital rape) for specific groups of women, such as rape victims.
The bill also instructed states and union territories to establish medical boards to determine whether a pregnancy should be terminated after 24 weeks if there were significant fetal anomalies.
Despite these welcome changes in the country’s reproductive rights, abortion has always sparked heated religious, ethical, political, and legal debates.
Smriti Irani, the Union Cabinet minister for women and child welfare, called the revised law an act of “gender equity” and “an important aspect of reproductive health of women,” emphasizing abortion as a “human right.”
Several feminists have argued that the MTP Act was more of a population control tool than a feminist nudge to policymakers because it lacked a rights-based structure.
Religious groups such as Hindus, for example, have a higher preference for sons, who were revered for performing funeral rites for their parents, among other reasons for daughter aversion (as most Hindus believe that a son must fulfill this role)
Furthermore, most Indian women have no control over the circumstances in which they have sex, and abortion was often the only option for birth control.
Women have abortions for various reasons, including the stigma of illegitimacy, the inability to afford another child, or the fact that they were at a point in their professions or lives where they could not take on the burden of yet another human life.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference, denounced the bill, saying that “human life must be cherished and protected completely from the moment of conception.”
“The Church is totally against abortion,” Gracias stressed. “We certainly oppose the recent cabinet decision and cannot remain silent.”
Commentators pointed out, however, that India’s most significant Catholic minority (from Kerala in the south) has embraced birth control “as a way of life, with couples widely preferring abortion as a method of birth control.”
In 2016, the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care cautioned that the decreasing sex ratio in northern and northwestern Indian states suggests that if female feticide persists unabated, there will be a bride crisis.