A National Taiwan University Hospital obstetrician jokingly announced on Thursday that he will stop offering his services to mothers expecting boys, after he was recently called in for questioning by the Bureau of Health Promotion for delivering more boys than girls.
Shih Jin-chung (施景中) made the comment in a post on his Facebook page titled “Hail to the Bureau of Health Promotion (偉哉國健局),” in which he said that “to avoid causing the government more trouble” he will no longer deliver boys and will halt all services to pregnant women carrying boys.
Shih delivered 63 newborn boys and 40 girls from January to March. When asked to comment on the statistically unbalanced figures, Shih said he was an obstetrician who delivers babies, not a physician who specializes in selective reproduction.
“Women come to me when they are already pregnant. There is absolutely no way that I could change the gender of their fetuses. Today, increasingly fewer doctors are choosing to go into gynecology, and the bureau is exacerbating this with its gender balance policy,” he said.
Shih said that, from an evolutionary perspective, men are meant to outnumber women because they are more susceptible to more causes of death.
Shih added that the drop in the nation’s ratio of newborn boys to girls last year was a natural fluctuation, not the result of the bureau’s efforts to create gender balance.
“The bureau has called in obstetricians who deliver more boys than girls for questioning under the pretext of showing its ‘concern’ for them,” Shih said. “However, one of these obstetricians was asked to write a report on how to improve the disproportionate sex ratio among the newborns he delivered. Is this what the bureau calls ‘concern?’”
Obstetrician Lee Maw-sheng (李茂盛) said the bureau seemed to be wasting government resources by pursuing the policy, citing as an example an obstetrician who was questioned by a local health department for delivering only one boy within a month — which put his boy-girl ratio at 1:0.
“The sex ratio varies from doctor to doctor and from month to month, there really is no explanation for it,” Lee said, adding that the bureau’s handling of the matter was an insult to obstetricians and could make it an international laughingstock.
Taiwan Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology secretary-general Huang Ming-chao (黃閔照) said the association had received complaints from several obstetricians over the matter and that the bureau’s manner of handling the issue like police clamping down on drunk driving was unacceptable.
In response, Bureau of Health Promotion deputy director Kung Hsien-lan (孔憲蘭) said the bureau was not interrogating obstetricians whose boy-girl ratios were higher than the average ratio of 1.06 to 1, just showing its concern.
“The bureau is only trying to facilitate communication with doctors so concerted efforts can be made to balance the sex ratio among newborns,” Kung said.
The bureau said that the unbalance seen in Taiwan is also present in many other Asian countries and has become a subject of domestic and international concern.
According to the bureau, the Department of Health set up a team in 2010 to study the newborn sex ratio. The team established a system to receive reports from medical facilities and obstetricians on new births. It then analyzes the data and initiates investigations of the facility if the ratio it reports is “clearly abnormal.”
The team also roots out illegal advertisements on “boy-for-sure” pregnancy measures or gender selection.
The joint efforts of various parties has brought the ratio down from 1.090 in 2010 to 1.074 last year, though this is still higher than the natural 1.06 ratio, the bureau said.
While the department’s monitoring of medical facilities is not an accusation that the facilities are guilty of any wrongdoing, the 1.08 male-female ratio among newborns in the period between January and last month is higher than the 1.076 recorded in the same period last year, which indicates that there has been an increase in the use of technology-aided gender selection, the bureau said.