NEW YORK, July 1, 2011 (C-FAM) - A recent United Nations inter-agency statement on imbalanced sex ratios calls for unrestricted access to abortion as a human right.

The statement recognizes that sex-selective abortion is a form of gender discrimination against girls and women, but nonetheless proclaims that ensuring access to services for safe abortion is crucial.

“Various United Nations human rights treaty monitoring bodies have established that the rights of women and girls to life, health, and development are violated when they undergo an unsafe abortion … or are forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term,” the report claims.

While calling for the strengthening of policies to provide safe abortion services and the adoption of all necessary supplies, training, and equipment, the report briefly admits that proving that an abortion was sex-selective is difficult.  “Following an ultrasound examination, a woman can go to a different clinic to have an abortion while providing a reason that is acceptable within the legal framework.”

Today, the issue of sex selected abortion affects many countries worldwide, especially Asian countries. The UN statement states that restricting access to certain reproductive technologies in order to prevent an imbalanced male-to-female ration in a given society should not result in the curtailing of the human rights of women. However, sex-selective abortions have become so intense that by 2020 an estimated 15 to 20 percent of men in northwest India will lack female counterparts.

In the recently published book Unnatural Selection, author Mara Hvistendahl charts the widespread practice of sex-selective abortion across the developing world. “The bias towards boys has been estimated to have caused the ‘disappearance’ of 160 million women and girls in Asia alone over the past few decades”, she writes.

She squarely lays the blame on businesses and the American government, holding them responsible for exporting the technology and pro-abortion practices available today without a care for consequences, instead of basing sex-selection on cultural practices. “Western government actively promoted abortion and sex selection in the developing world, encouraging the liberalization of abortion laws and subsidizing sales of ultrasounds as a form of population control.”

Criticizing U.N. agencies, Hvistendahl states the following: “The effects of the major UN agency tasked with population advocacy distancing itself from the issue of sex selective abortion are immense.”

The sex selective abortion issue is traditionally discussed in the UN context at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Even the controversial Beijing Platform for Action of 1995 categorizes prenatal sex selection as an act of violence.

However, at this year’s CSW, the Holy See was the only delegation who was vocal on the issue, urging the Commission to focus upon “the violence and discrimination against the girl child…namely the violation of the right to life of baby girls because they are girls.”

The UN statement was co-authored by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

This article reprinted with permission from www.c-fam.org