On Sex Selective Abortion

25 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2009

Date Written: October 24, 2009


Abortion is a sensitive issue around the world. Acting as a clear dividing line in American politics, countries around the world treat abortion policy with a range of approaches. From near complete prohibition to encouraging its use as a tool of population control, countries utilize a variety of approaches to abortion policy. An abortion and technological issue of ethical concern is the practice of parental sex selection of the fetus. Ignoring basic questions of incentives for agents has overlooked key factors of the factors driving sex selective abortion. The economic incentives and clear decision making principles behind sex selective abortion, access to family planning, and reproductive services has not been widely studied. In this paper, I provide a theoretical economic defense to the practice of sex selective abortion given the existing ethical framework. Rather than proceeding from a moral position, this paper will defend the practice of sex selective abortion using the accepted ethical precepts of society and the economics of family planning.

Analysis of the practice of sex selective abortions fails to account for value discrimination of human life and choice fungibility. I find that opposition to sex selective abortion establishes significant inequalities based upon inconsistent standards between individual agents, fetuses, technological standards, and income levels. This has four primary implications. First, agents in societies which engage in sex selective do so out of economic incentives not gender preference. Second, in developed economies which do not face the economic constraints of parents in lesser developed countries, parents have distinct non‚Äźdistortionary aggregative gender preferences. Third, the ethical dilemma of gender preferences of potential parents in developed countries concerns the methods by which they seek to obtain their preferred gender or other characteristics. Fourth, at its core, ethical arguments against the practice of sex selection abortion are not arguing against sex selection, abortion, or sex selective abortion. Critics of sex selective abortion are arguing against societal gender imbalance.

Suggested Citation

Balding, Christopher, On Sex Selective Abortion (October 24, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1493603 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1493603

Christopher Balding (Contact Author)

Fulbright University Vietnam ( email )


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