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Taiwan warning over selective abortions

18th May 2011

The Taiwanese health ministry plans to punish doctors who administer abortions of female foetuses at the request of parents.

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The island's health authorities recently warned that doctors found guilty of giving people gender-selective abortions would have their licences revoked.

The news comes just days after a Taiwanese health official claimed that up to 3,000 female babies were unaccounted for statistically, signifying that those babies were secretly aborted.

The island's health officials became aware of the problem when they noticed that, in one particular clinic, 10 out of every 11 babies delivered last year was male.

In another clinic, just one of every 10 babies was female.

After just one month of investigations, the health authorities were able to conclude that there was a pattern of selective-sex abortions in Taiwan.

An official from the Bureau of Health Promotion said that such abortions had seriously violated medical ethics and human rights.

He said that doctors caught conducting selective-sex abortions abortions would face a maximum fine of up to T$500,000 (£10,600), in addition to the threat of having their licences revoked.

Dubbed the Physicians Act, the law specifies a minimum fine of T$100,000 (£2,138).

The practice of selective-sex abortions is nevertheless common on the island, in China, and in other East Asian nations.

Based on statistical analyses, the practice is also thought to be common in India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

Several years ago, a study by demographers on US census data also revealed deviations from the norm.

The researchers found significant deviations from the average US birth rate in US households of Indian, Korean and Chinese descent

There was no deviation in US births in families of Japanese descent.

Some experts say that the preference for male children in East Asia probably has to do with the caretaking of elders.

Usually, when a woman marries, she cuts her ties to her birth family and takes care of her husband's parents in old age.

Referring to the study on US census data, Joyce Moy, executive director of the Asian American/Asian Research Institute of the City University of New York, said that inheritance in China depended on male offspring, and that families in return depended on their male children for financial support.

So, if parents in East Asian families expect to be taken care of when they age, having a female child presents problems unless there is also a male child.

Chiang Hung-che, the deputy minister of Taiwan's department of health, said that, in addition to the new fine, he and his colleagues were also considering a law revision that would allow for criminal charges to be brought against violators.

Chiang said that his department would also revise existing laws which dealt with eugenics to legislate against selective-sex abortions.

In Taiwan, the Eugenic Health Act specifies that women are only allowed abortions in cases where the health of the woman is at risk.

There were 1.09 male births for every female baby born in Taiwan last year.

In the US study from several years ago, researchers found that the male birth rate was even higher among Asian-descended households, at 1.17 male births per female birth.

 

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