A preference for boys among Indian-born parents may have contributed to a deficit of more than 4,400 girls over two decades in what researchers in a new study are calling Canada’s “missing girls.”
The research, presented in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and the online CMAJ Open, looks at more than 6 million births in Canada and reveals that a greater presence of boys among Indian-born mothers may in part be linked to abortions in the second trimester, when parents can learn the baby’s sex.
The birth data was compiled from databases administered by Statistics Canada and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto between 1990 and 2011, and 1993 to 2012, respectively.
“The main implication is that among some immigrant communities, males are placed at a higher value than females. This is not just about abortions, it is about gender equality,” said lead author Marcelo Urquia of St. Michael’s Hospital. “I hope that this is conducive to a respectful debate on the value of girls and women in today’s Canadian society.”
His study newly exposes a relationship between induced abortions and the previously reported large numbers of boys among Ontario’s Indian community, said Urquia, noting the data likely explains an imbalance in the rest of Canada too. Some of the “deficit” of girls may be due to “implantation of male embryos,” said Urquia, but the data is insufficient.
While the natural odds of having a boy over a girl are slightly higher, they are consistent across the globe: up to 107 boys for every 100 girls. But Indian-born mothers living in Canada with two children had 138 boys for every 100 girls. In Ontario, that number inflated even more among Indian-born women with two daughters, who then gave birth to 196 boys for every 100 girls.
After abortions, the numbers rise dramatically: 326 boys after one abortion, 409 boys after multiple abortions, and 663 boys for every 100 girls following multiple abortions in the second trimester, when doctors can determine the sex of the fetus.
Miscarriages, or spontaneous abortions, were not linked to the births of more boys, the study found.