Media Ignored Sex-Selective Abortions on International Women’s Day


Millions of women are being obliterated globally simply because they are women. And the media are celebrating the very weapon that’s being wielded against them: abortion.

On March 8 and in the following days, media celebrated women’s achievements worldwide for International Women’s Day. Those “achievements” meant, in large part, heralding accessible abortion. But as outlets from NBC to the New York Times commemorated the event, they overlooked that abortion is what’s causing of millions of girls and women to be “missing” today.

For its part, NBC News highlighted how “Puerto Ricans fight against women’s rights setbacks.” Those “setbacks” included abortion restrictions. Staff reporter Nicole Acevedo stressed that the “Puerto Rico Senate just passed legislation limiting access to abortions for women under 18.”

Other outlets focused on abortion too.

Cosmopolitan editors “asked the ladies we most admire for their best tips and advice on how to actually make a difference in other women’s lives.” Those women included Democratic politicians and abortion supporters. Republican women and pro-life women, predictably, didn’t make the cut.

Cosmo also listed advice from Hollywood big names, like actress Lena Waithe.

“Donate whatever you can to support Planned Parenthood health centers, or donate your time as a Planned Parenthood volunteer,” she said of the nation’s largest abortion provider. And if that wasn’t enough, Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen also appeared.

“We need your help to protect the health-care access and reproductive rights of four million individuals around the country,” Wen begged. “Learn more about the Trump administration’s attacks on Title X, the nation’s only program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care.”

A piece published by The Nation featured a different kind of list: “What to Celebrate—and Mourn—This International Women’s Day.” Inside, columnist Katha Pollitt applauded abortion access (and criticized the lack of it) in countries around the world. She began with Ireland’s vote last May.

“Let’s have the good news first,” wrote Pollitt, “Voters repealed Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion.”

New York Times reporter Iliana Magra also acknowledged Ireland’s vote to “repeal one of the world’s most restrictive abortion bans.”

Even so, Magra wrote that “global gender parity still remained out of reach” with numbers as proof. 200 million women and girls have suffered from female genital mutilation and, in 2016, more than 130 million missed school. 12 million are married off each year before turning 18 years old, and 5,000 have been killed after “dishonoring” their families.

But one number was noticeably absent from Magra’s piece: the number of girls destroyed in abortion because they were not boys. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF), sex selection affects millions of women.

“Recent studies indicate 126 million women and girls were missing in 2010 due to gender-biased sex selection, which can include, for example, excess female mortality and prenatal sex selection,” reports UNPF. “These projections estimate that, by 2020, more than 142 million women will be missing.”

UNPF called it the “result of son preference and gender-biased sex selection” which is a “form of discrimination.”

“Since the 1990s, some areas have seen up to 25 per cent more male births than female births,” the report noted. “The rise in sex selection is alarming as it reflects the persistent low status of women and girls.”

The Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life organization, calls sex-selective abortions the “real war on women.” Associate scholar Anna Higgins found in 2016 that it’s “prevalent across cultures and nations,” including the U.S. She pointed specifically to China and India “where a cultural preference for sons, coupled with political and economic influences, has severely skewed sex ratios at birth.”

In China, “men outnumber women to the tune of 33 million,” she stated, before pointing to worldwide numbers.

“More than 20 years ago, Amartya Sen (1990) documented that 100 million girls and women were ‘missing’ from the global population as a consequence of neglect, infanticide, and inequalities in care,” she added. “The figure is now estimated to be in excess of 160 million, with sex-selective abortion playing a major role (Hvistendahl 2011).”

This should be something that feminist-friendly media can agree with pro-lifers on: It’s an evil to destroy women because they are women. And perhaps, one day, they’ll recognize that that’s because the pro-life movement sees women – no matter their stage in life – as persons of inherent dignity and worth.

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Katie Yoder serves as the associate culture editor at NewsBusters and is a columnist for She is also the Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow for the Media Research Center’s culture division. Follow her on Twitter @k_yoder.

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