Imagine the USA without any women! In her new book, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, admittedly pro-abortion writer, Mara Hvistendahl, outlines the tragic reality of gender-based sex selection in our world. Through careful research of United Nations population statistics and other significant studies, combined with ongoing interviews around the world, Hvistendahl shares that internationally as many as 160 million women have been aborted since 1980.  These missing women were discovered in the womb and aborted simply because their parents  preferred a son over a daughter.

Specifically, her conclusion on page six of this book, about the impact of this gender-based sex selection, is heart-wrenchingly ominous: “If 160 million women were missing from the U.S. population, you would notice — 160 million is more than the entire female population of the United States… Imagine the bus or the subway or the car that takes you to work, then erase the females commuting alongside you. Erase your wife and your daughter. Or erase yourself. Imagine this and you come close to picturing the problem.”

In trying to “erase” myself, I soon personalized this new truth in my heart. For each of these missing woman there is a mother and father, a family and a nation that is impacted.

Survival Guilt

There were two “missing women” in my family. My mother’s first two children, my sisters, died in infancy. Tragically, Naomi was born with Spinal Bifida and lived six short months. Cydney was born with a hole in her heart and lived just three days. When my mother’s third pregnancy resulted in a healthy son, she was immediately intent on trying again. Nothing was going to stop her from “replacing” her lost daughters. Despite the fact that my father didn’t want to attempt another potential pregnancy loss, my mother succeeded in getting pregnant with me three years later.

Due to the lack of gender testing at the time, my mother waited a full nine months to determine if her daughter dreams had been fulfilled. She knew it was her last chance to have a girl due to her advanced age. When I escaped her womb, her doctor knew her determination for a daughter. He jokingly announced, “Mary, you have another son!” Mother often admitted being deeply disappointed in that announcement. When this physician placed me in her arms a few seconds later, she said, “My world stood still. God had answered my prayers for a daughter at last!”

A few years ago I remarked to my mother that I had always dreamed of my two big sisters in Heaven and wondered what my life would have been like had they survived. Mother giggled as she relayed, “Oh Sydna, I didn’t want four children. Had your sisters lived, I never would have gotten pregnant again.” Suddenly survivor guilt settled into my heart as I realized my sister’s deaths were the only reason for my existence. Just like in the case when these millions of parents aborted girl babies to be able to “try again” for a son, these lost women were suddenly felt at a personal level within my heart. 

Trying Again

As the mother of three sons, I know what it is like to, “Try again for a girl.” Certainly my husband, Tom, and I considered a fourth pregnancy, hoping for a daughter. That thought was short lived when Tom encountered an overwhelmed father in the mall. He was pushing a double stroller, leading three little boys through a store. Curious, Tom questioned this dad, asking, “Tried again for a girl, huh?” The blue colored blankets in the stroller offered insight as the father relayed joyfully, “Yes, and now we have a soccer team!” Since twins ran in both our families, and there were no guarantees our fourth child would be a girl, we determined we should be satisfied with our family size and look forward to potential granddaughters.

During one memorable date night a few years ago, my husband watched a mother and daughter sharing an intimate dinner together. They obviously had a close and loving bond. Quietly, a tear developed in the corner of Tom’s eye. When I queried him as to the source of his deep reflection, Tom’s response was, “You will never have a daughter. It is such a shame.” His grief was different from mine in this situation. Since I had never have had a daughter, I simply don’t know what I’m missing! But I can imagine…

Illuminating Ultrasounds

Ultrasound technology is outlined as the culprit of this tragic development of 160 million missing women in Ms. Hvistendahl’s book. While not necessarily an issue in American families, the international audience has clearly utilized ultrasounds to detect and eliminate female fetuses since 1980. While many nations have established laws against gender based sex selection, the number of women around the world choosing to abort female fetuses continues to escalate. The consequences are obvious in the skewed sex ratios, resulting in more males being born than females.

Clearly, these lost women are impacting our world already. On page 26, the author outlines that, “The decision to abort is most often made by a woman — either the pregnant woman herself or her mother-in-law, who has a vested interest in her son’s offspring.” Ms. Hvistendahl also outlines personally viewing grief for these gender-based pregnancy losses while attending a primarily all-female Protestant state-sponsored church outside of Beijing. When the female pastor outlined that it is wrong to pressure others to have sons, she was clearly speaking about aborting daughters. The author reflects that it was a small moment in a long sermon, “But it stays with me long after I leave.” Later parishioners curl up on the floor and, “Then they cry, loudly and in unison, in waves of long, tearless wails.”

After she instilled “survivor guilt” in my heart, my mother went on to casually state that had ultrasound been available to diagnose the birth defects in her first two pregnancies, she certainly would have aborted her deformed daughters. Knowing the emotional pain of abortion personally, I attempted to educate her that holding her daughters, even for a short while, was better than never knowing them at all. She disagreed saying, “You don’t know the pain of watching your child die.” Her point was not about the benefits of abortion but more about the pain of infant loss. I remained silent in my opposing views as she grieved her daughters once more.

In reading Hvistendahl’s book, I had to ponder what my mother would have decided if abortion had been legal back then and she “discovered” I was not a woman through the use of an ultrasound. Ultrasounds care not 100% accurate, after all.  Mother confessed to being “disappointed” when my brother was born. Her bonding process with her son was far different than with her daughter. Would she have given birth to another son if she could have ended the pregnancy and had another chance to, “Try again for a girl?”  It doesn’t take a lot of thinking at that level to “erase” my own existence from this world.

Impact on Families

When my parents divorced, my brother chose to live with his father, speaking volumes about his relationship with our mother. The unaddressed emotional loss of two daughters certainly had a massive impact on my parent’s marriage, mental health and parenting skills. Missing children are long remembered, even when the are aborted. Less than eleven years after my birth, that pain helped tear our family apart. The loss of so many children must have an impact on future family harmony at any international level!

Hvistendahl ominously also outlines, “Since fewer women lead to fewer births, factoring a skewed sex ratio at birth into global population projections yields low estimates for the total population 25 or 50 years out.”  These missing women won’t be having children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren.  Clearly the consequences to this situation will be with us for a long time globally.

Extra Men

What of the “surplus men” who cannot find wives? These are the individuals who are left over in a world where everyone who wants to marry can do so. The author makes a projection on page 15, “Historically, societies in which men substantially outnumber women are not nice places to live. Often they are unstable. Sometimes they are violent. As the first generation touched by sex ratio imbalance grows up, the silent biological discrimination that is sex selection has been exacerbated by more visible threats to women, including sex trafficking, bride buying, and forced marriages.

I doubt many considered abortion’s potential to significantly alter the course of human history, resulting in 160 million less women in our world. If conceived at another time, and in a different location, many of us may have never been born either. Clearly little has improved for women’s rights globally, in spite of legal access to abortion.

Sydna A. Masse

August 2, 2011

If you are struggling with a past abortion decision, please visit http://herchoicetoheal.com/ for more insight, education and comfort.  Pregnancy centers across the world offer abortion recovery services.  To locate the center in your area, visit https://ramahinternational.org/help-in-your-area/.

Sydna A. Massé is President and Founder or Ramah International and author of the book, Her Choice to Heal: Finding Spiritual and Emotional Peace After Abortion.  She and her husband, Tom, have three adult sons, and reside in Fayetteville, AR.

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