Indian immigrants abort female foetus for a son

Boston: Under family pressure to bear a male child, Indian immigrant women in the US are opting for sex-selective abortion which unlike India is legal in this country, a recent study has revealed.

Researchers at the University of California interviewed immigrant Indian women in California, New Jersey and New York who opted for foetal sex-selection between September 2004 and December 2009.

The qualitative study found that 40 per cent of the women terminated prior pregnancies when they found the foetus was female.

Of the women who discovered they were pregnant with a girl during the interview period, 89 per cent underwent an abortion.

The women interviewed belonged to various religious and educational backgrounds with some even having advanced degrees and approximately half of them holding jobs.
Further, women who carried a female foetus to term said they were subject to varying degrees of verbal and physical abuse, the study showed.

"While higher education is often thought to translate into enhanced female empowerment, our data suggests a distinction between financial and educational empowerment and empowerment within marital relationships," said Robert Nachtigall, senior author and clinical professor in the UCSF Department of Reproductive Sciences.

The study participants immigrated after turning 18 years from the Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, New Delhi, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

South Asian families immigrating to the US find themselves in an environment where reproductive choice is protected by law and technologies enabling sex-selection are readily available.

Sunita Puri, lead author of the study and a medical resident in the UCSF Department of Internal Medicine, said the research aims at employing an in-depth qualitative approach.

"There has been little research exploring immigrant Indian women`s narratives about the pressure they face to have sons, the process of deciding to use sex selection technologies, and the physical and emotional health implications of son preference and sex selection," she said.

Of the participants, 10 women used sperm-sorting technology and four underwent in vitro fertilisation with pre-implantation, genetic diagnosis to determine the sex of their foetuses.

Women identified mother-in-laws and husbands as sources of significant pressure to have male children.

"When my second child was also a girl, my mother-in-law did not want to hold her after the birth," one woman was quoted as saying in the study.

Another spoke of getting tests done to know if the baby she was carrying was male.

"If not, I will have to get an abortion because my husband does not want another daughter," she said.

"The cultural roots of son preference include the socio-economic value of sons and the fear of raising daughters in the US.

The proliferation of reproductive technology frequently has unanticipated cultural and gender-based ethical implications," the study stated.