The authors of a La Trobe University study being used to bolster the case for a ban on gender-selection abortions in Australia say the research has been “misrepresented” by the media and conservative politicians.
Ugly claims that the decriminalisation of abortion in New South Wales will lead to “gendercide” and a generation of missing girls have raged for weeks, with the La Trobe study often cited as the sole research evidence.
But now the report’s authors have said politicians had been “misinterpreting” the findings, which they say offer no conclusive evidence that women are aborting children based on gender.
Instead, they argue it’s not clear if assisted reproduction or terminations is a factor in a higher male birth rate in some Chinese and Indian communities and that the report makes no recommendations that a ban on sex-selection abortions is required or desirable.
The authors of the study, including senior lecturer Dr Kristina Edvardsson, said the study did not cover abortion or abortion legislation.
“The findings from our study have been discussed in a range of forums, and we find that findings have been misinterpreted or misrepresented in some of these discussions,” Dr Edvardsson told The New Daily.
“We have evidence to say that sex ratios at birth were male-biased in some communities in Victoria during the specified time periods and our findings are consistent with findings from a number of other western high-income countries, including the United States, UK, and Canada.
“However, as stated in our publication, we were unable to draw conclusions about the individual contribution of assisted reproduction versus pregnancy termination to our findings, and we do not know whether any procedures occurred in Australia or elsewhere.”
While sex -selection abortion is prevalent overseas, the report’s authors say conclusive evidence is not available in Australia.
Citing the La Trobe study, NSW Liberal MP Tanya Davies has sought to amend the proposed legislation to decriminalise abortion to expressly prohibit gender-selection abortions.
“There were over 300 missing girls in Victoria due to sex selection before birth in the Indian, Chinese and south-east Asian migrant communities between 2011 and 2015,” Ms Davies said.
“The research points to abortion following the identification by ultrasound of the sex of the unborn child as female as the primary mechanism by which the cultural preference for a male child is given effect.
“If one little toddler girl were to go missing today somewhere in NSW, we would mobilise all our resources and try desperately to find her.
“What are we going to do to stop men with archaic patriarchal attitudes from using the provisions of the reproductive technology bill to force, bully or cajole their wives or partners into requesting an abortion if they are found to be carrying an unborn child that is revealed by ultrasound to be a girl?
“In the absence of any specific prohibition on gender-selection abortion in this bill, such abortion will occur in NSW, as it has in Victoria. This is the time to stop it.”
But Dr Edvardsson said the study does not call for a ban on gender-selection abortions or include any data on abortion.
“Our study did not cover abortions or abortion legislation,” she said.
“We do not make any recommendations in relation to abortions based on our findings.
“Instead we emphasise that measures to address male-biased sex ratios should address the root cause of son preference and the social, economic and symbolic position of females.”
Gender selection via IVF-assisted reproduction is illegal in Australia, except where the baby may be at risk from inheriting a serious medical condition.
But it is offered overseas.