New article suggests gender-based abortions are a problem in Canada
// Leah Schietel

Want to start a heated argument? Bring up abortion. That’s exactly what Canadian doctor Rajendra Kale did in an editorial for the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), where he claimed that ethnic groups are responsible for the high number of gender-based abortions in Canada.

Dr. Kale used his editorial to urge Canadian doctors not to reveal the sex of a child until 30 weeks into the pregnancy. He claims that this will curb the high rate of sex-based abortions, which are popular among certain minority groups in Canada, mainly Chinese and Indian communities.

“I think female feticide is discrimination against women in the most extreme form and this is something that needs to be stopped,” Dr. Kale says. “We need to make it clear that it is not acceptable in Canada.”

Since the controversial editorial hit doctor’s desks and newsstands on January 16, he has been replaced as editor of the publication.

Canada has a high immigration rate from Eastern, patriarchal societies, where cultures value boys more than girls. Since China introduced its one-child policy in 1979, it has been common in China to favour baby boys. Males are thought to be more able to care for themselves in life and do not require an expensive dowry, which can be a financial burden for families. According to, currently 95 per cent of children in Chinese orphanages are girls, and there is a major imbalance in China’s male-to-female ratio. A study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences predicts that China could have as many as 24 million bachelors by 2020 because of the distinct lack of females in the country.

There is a similar situation in India, where pro-life activist, Lila Rose, claims that tax benefits are given to families who will have baby girls. In April, the Economist reported that there are only 914 girls for every 1000 boys in the 0 – 6 age bracket in India: “A cultural preference for sons and the increasing availability of prenatal screening to determine a baby’s sex have helped contribute to a worsening in the ratio of men to women,” writes the Economist.

Dr. Kale is basing his information primarily on census data. The study suggests that if an Indian who immigrates to Canada births two females, then the third child is more likely to be a male. The results were compared to recent census data in Canada, and major discrepancies were found. This, claims Dr. Kale, is evidence of sex-based abortions performed in Canada, even though there is no concise statistics of gender-based abortions in Canada as of yet. He also used research from the U.S., where in a study of 65 Indian immigrants, 40 per cent had aborted a female fetus. Of those that were currently pregnant with a girl, up to 90 per cent of them entertained the idea of an abortion at one point.

Since its publication, Dr. Kale’s editorial has received international attention and criticism. The main criticism is that Dr. Kale’s recommendation isn’t a viable option, and not disclosing the sex of the fetus is impractical and carries ethical issues. While knowing the gender of your child is not a fundamental right, people have become accustomed to having the option, and it’s one that would outrage the public if it were to be taken away.

Various technologies have been making it easier for people to know the sex of their baby within the last few decades. Ultrasounds are relatively inexpensive, and blood tests are easily conducted. In Australia, home sex-kits can tell you the sex of your child in the comfort of your own home. In India, revealing the sex of an unborn child was banned in 1994 to help curb female feticide; however, sex-based abortions still occur in high numbers. With the technology available, there is no way to stop people from knowing the sex of their child in utero.

History of prohibiting abortion has shown that putting restrictions on abortions drives the practice underground, where sanitary guidelines aren’t strictly enforced, increasing the danger to the mother. According to, there were 47,000 deaths due to unsafe abortions in 2008, and complications from underground abortions cause 13 per cent of all maternal deaths, even when clinical abortions are legal.

Also, as pointed out in the Globe and Mail, a nationwide ban against knowing the gender of a baby isn’t needed, as it’s only a common practice among certain ethnic groups. However, restricting the rights from certain cultural groups is discrimination and racism. Canada is a nation that prides itself on being multicultural and non-discriminatory based on ethnicity. Adding restrictions on abortions only for women from Eastern cultures would cause a political uproar.

Dr. Kale’s editorial stirred up a subject that the public doesn’t often talk about. In general, Canadians shy away from sensitive topics, abortion and cultural customs included, for fear of being offensive. Not talking or recognizing these issues is not going to make them go away. Dr. Kale might not have a reasonable solution to sex-based abortion, but he at least got us talking about it.

//Leah Schietel, writer
//Graphics by Alexandra Gordeyeva

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