SYDNEY, September 17, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The massive and growing gender imbalance in countries like India and China and elsewhere is the result of “infamous” social policies favoring legal abortion, the cardinal archbishop of Sydney said last week.

Cardinal George Pell was addressing the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists at their annual meeting.

In his address, titled, “Is Catholicism Compatible With Women’s Health?” the cardinal said, “The social consequences of these infamous policies over the next few decades are likely to bring new meaning to the term of reaping the whirlwind.”

Cardinal Pell is known throughout the world as a strong advocate of the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of human life. One of his initiatives is an annual archdiocesan memorial Mass for those who have died from abortion, the first of which was held September 14. The Mass is intended to provide a “solemn, beautiful and consoling remembrance of the unborn children lost to abortion.”

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“Unlike Europe and Japan, where societies aged after they had become rich, in China and India they will follow their more prosperous predecessors into serious demographic decline in a few decades, before wealth spreads across most of the community or at least of all the community.

“As well as coping with the unpredictable consequences of tens of millions of single men - they can’t all become Catholic priests - this must raise serious questions about whether we’re entering the Chinese century.”

The Catholic Church is directly responsible for 26 percent of the health care provision in the world and a majority of the care for the poor in the developing world, the cardinal observed. As a health care leader, therefore, the Church assumes a holistic approach to women’s health “founded in the dignity of the human person; support for marriage – which the Church understands as the union of a man and woman, permanent and exclusive, open to life – and the right of couples to the knowledge and understanding of their own fertility so they may determine the number and spacing of their children and non-violence to mother and child”.

Key principles in Catholic health care philosophy, the cardinal said, include “the call to solidarity with the mother; the call to solidarity with the unborn child; health care as a natural human good and fundamental human right and the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable”.

“Catholics understand the relationship between doctor and patient according to the Hippocratic ideal, rather than the more modern notion of a doctor simply being a service provider to the consumer,” he continued.

“We understand the role of the obstetrician as being a doctor to two patients: mother and child. We recognise that although the healthcare needs of these two patients normally run in parallel they can sometimes - although infrequently - come apart, and this can be very difficult and distressing for all concerned.”

He decried the secular approach to obstetrics which often places the woman into an antagonistic role against her child. He said that the Church understands that pregnancy can present threats to the mother’s life, but said, “We believe a woman should not and must not be compelled to choose between her life and the life of her unborn child.”

Abortion “always represents a tragic and collective failure to provide this care and support,” he said.

Gender imbalance is a growing problem in most countries where abortion is legal. Although the One Child policy of the Chinese government is not in place in Hong Kong, the city-state is experiencing a growing gender gap. In India, the government has admitted that the killing of girls, either before of after birth, is a major social problem. The term “gendercide” has been coined by researchers who say that 500,000 girls are aborted illegally in India every year.

In Pakistan and some countries of the Arabian Peninsula, the problem is not as freely acknowledged. In many countries of the Middle East and Southeast Asia, strong cultural antipathy towards women and girls is combining with a booming underground abortion trade that is contributing to a growing gender imbalance, despite the higher overall fertility rate than western countries.

Researchers have said that the practice of killing baby girls has also greatly contributed to the problem of human trafficking. In India and China girls and young women are often kidnapped from rural areas and sold. In his speech, Cardinal Pell cited statistics that show there are now 32 million more boys than girls under twenty in China and 7.1 million fewer girls than boys up to the age of six in India.

But in China the situation is especially acute. Mandatory abortion coupled with the Chinese government’s One Child Policy, an absence of social services, especially for sick and elderly people, and a slowing economy are combining to create a social crisis of unprecedented proportions. Although accurate statistics are nearly impossible to obtain, and the world may never know how many have been killed, officially the Chinese government admitted that at least 400 million children have been killed by abortion since the policy was instituted in 1978.

Young men cannot find wives. Couples cannot have children. Parents fear their old age and young people are under such pressure that China has one of the world’s highest youth suicide rates. Uniquely in the world, more women kill themselves in China than men with a suicide rate for women of 14.8 per 100,000 people compared to 13.0 for men, the highest female suicide rate in the world. According to the World Health Organisation, suicide is the leading cause of death for younger women in China, particularly for women in rural areas where they are two to five times more likely to kill themselves than in cities. And though the rate is dropping, overall China still ranks ninth in the world for suicide by both sexes with over 300,000 per year, accounting for more than 30 per cent of the world’s suicides. 

Recently the International Herald Tribune, the New York Times international paper, implied that the One Child Policy is at least partly responsible for the slowing of the Chinese economy. With an economy dependent upon cheaply manufactured export goods, it is crucial to have a steady supply of labour in factories. But young Chinese are aware that an aging population, one that is not growing, gives them a competitive advantage in their work choices, so few are opting for the drudgery of factory work, preferring to pursue university studies and higher-end careers. Moreover, young people are under pressure to make more money by their parents and grandparents who have only one child to care for them in their old age.

And the end is not in sight. A government official recently confirmed that there are no plans to end the policy until at least 2015, even though the gender imbalance is acknowledged as a threat.