Taiwan has the second most serious gender imbalance in the world, partly attributable to sex-selective abortion made possible by the negligence of health authorities in adopting measures to prevent the practice, the Control Yuan said yesterday.
The Control Yuan censured the Bureau of Health Promotion and the Food and Drug Administration, accusing the government bodies of failing to come up with effective measures to crack down on -gender-based abortions.
According to data compiled by the Department of Health, Taiwan’s ratio of males to females at birth from 2004 to last year was between 1.085 and 1.108, higher than the biological norm, estimated at between 1.04 and 1.06.
The sex ratio at birth in -Taiwan was higher than any country in the Organisation for Economic Co--operation and Development, trailing only China, where the one-child policy has led to decades of sex-selective abortions and killings of baby girls.
Last year, the overall sex ratio at birth in China was 1.18 male births per female.
The department in May estimated that the nation’s population last year was short by up to 3,000 female babies. There was a total of 92,310 baby girls last year, lower than the estimated 95,386 baby girls the nation would have if pregnancies were not terminated.
Control Yuan member Gau Fehng-shian (高鳳仙) said sex--selective abortion could explain the higher sex ratio at birth for a family’s third child compared with the first and second child, and the higher sex ratio at birth for mothers aged 35 compared with young mothers.
“The data showed that mothers are still under pressure to produce a son and heir if their first or second children are girls or when they are advanced in age,” she said.
The bureau said it was unable to ascertain whether the -imbalance was brought about by the practice of some doctors performing sex-selective abortions.
Because abortions are not covered by the National Health Insurance (NHI) system, the NHI does not keep records related to abortions, while gender is not listed as a reason for abortion on most medical records Moreover, there are cases in which fetal gender screening is conducted in one medical institution, while abortions are performed in another, the Control Yuan statement quoted bureau officials as saying.
Despite the practical difficulties, the Control Yuan said health authorities should have made more frequent visits to medical institutions to be on the lookout for sex-selective abortions.
The bureau did not start to inspect medical institutions for evidence of a gender imbalance until the second half of last year, Gau said.
Gau also accused the bureau and the Food and Drug Administration of failing to monitor whether medical institutions prescribe mifepristone, an abortion pill commonly known as RU-486, for legitimate reasons or for sex selectivity.