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OPPOSITE EFFECT: A nurse explains an ultrasound in Xi’an, China.
Associated Press/Photo by Ng Han Guan
OPPOSITE EFFECT: A nurse explains an ultrasound in Xi’an, China.

Technology fail

China | Chinese using ultrasounds to spur abortion 

Issue: "Unstoppable?," April 20, 2013

While ultrasound technology may bolster pro-life efforts in the United States by producing vivid photos of unborn children, the same technology has produced an opposite effect in China: Many families abort their children if an ultrasound reveals a baby girl.

In early March, Chinese officials handed prison terms to four people in Zhejiang province accused of performing 736 illegal ultrasounds and 15 sex-selective abortions in the back of a pair of minivans. None of the group had medical licenses. 

The case highlights a problem that Chinese authorities helped create with the country’s one-child policy: If a family can have only one child legally, many want boys. Millions have aborted baby girls. 

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Chinese officials have tried to combat the resulting disproportionate number of men by forbidding ultrasounds that reveal the sex of an unborn child. But many women visit a flourishing black market of private clinics and individuals with no medical certificates to obtain the ultrasounds illegally.

The Global Times reported the Zhejiang case involved a husband-wife team that handed out cards and invited pregnant women into the back of a van to discover the sex of their unborn children. If a woman was unhappy with the result, she could visit another van for a drug that induced an abortion. 

Sex selection isn’t the only reason for abortions in China: Many abort a second child to avoid exorbitant fines. In some cases, Chinese authorities force the abortions. 

Despite such realities, Chinese official Wang Feng insists the country won’t change its one-child policy. The Chinese government also revealed that since 1971, the country has aborted 336 million babies—a number equivalent to the U.S. population.

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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