Basic Books: a pro-choice journalist uncovers the down side of sex-selection

Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men

by Mara Hvistendahl (2011: PublicAffairs/Perseus Book Group, eISBN 978-1-586-48991-5)

What can a pro-choice science journalist do when she sees a Chinese classroom with a surprisingly large proportion of boys? Mara Hvistendahl started asking questions, and she wound up going all over the world to find out why some cultures value one gender over another. Abortion was an inescapable part of her findings.

A culture that prefers one gender over another is, of necessity, not a culture of life. Hvistendahl reports on what she found in South Korea, India, China, and the United States. One troubling observation after another forces author and reader alike to examine how culture influences personal choices, and vice versa. Gender imbalance and the search for the perfect child, including in the United States, leave us with phenomena like sex-trafficking, bride-buying, and “designer babies.”

The author takes note more than once of how abortion “rights” and gender rights are both linked and opposed. “A woman should have the right to terminate a pregnancy, but she should not have the right to shape the individual represented by that pregnancy to her own whims.” [emphasis added] Hvistendahl is candid about her pro-choice beliefs even as she acknowledges the ambivalence caused by the data she discovered.

This is a long book, but it makes for quick reading. It’s written by a woman who is accustomed to writing about scientific topics for mass-circulation publications. She wears her pro-choice preference on her sleeve, but that doesn’t keep her from being taken aback by what she finds around the world. This is an important book not only for the information it provides, but also for the glimpse it gives the reader into the mind and heart of the author. She’s an abortion advocate honest enough to raise an eyebrow at some of the implications of her own beliefs.

Check out these Basic Books from earlier posts:

Unplanned by Abby Johnson

Deadly Compassion by Rita Marker

Aborted Women: Silent No More by David C. Reardon

Aborting America by Bernard Nathanson, M.D.

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas

Planned Bullyhood by Karen Handel

2 thoughts on “Basic Books: a pro-choice journalist uncovers the down side of sex-selection”

  1. She definitely found concern about the social aggression likely to come from a society that kills its girls. Interestingly, she found that in the U.S., the preference seems to be for girls, based on the “pre-implantation” choices made by parents using in-vitro fertilization.

  2. Interesting. I had read about this, soon to be, tsunami of gender imbalance in China. They will soon have so many men and not enough women for them to marry that I suspect there will be a war soon to deal with their male overpopulation. I hope that I am wrong, but this was some of what I read ten years ago regarding this.

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