Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sex Selection in the United States in the 21st Century

During the month of November, author Shobhan Bantwal is doing a virtual book tour with Promo 101 Virtual Blog Tours to promote her latest release - The Forbidden Daughter. While I was coordinating this tour, I spoke to many people who could not believe there are gender based abortions anywhere in the world in the 21st century. How could parents make the decision to kill a healthy child - just because the baby is a girl? Its hard enough to believe that people are doing this in other parts of the world, but I found an article today about this practice happening in the United States. To learn more about Shobhan Bantwal and The Forbidden Daughter, visit her tour page -

Nikki Leigh

Sex Selection Alive and Well
in South Asian Immigrant Communities in the U.S.

(India Currents, News Feature, Sunita Puri, Posted: Mar 17, 2006)

The woman lying on the examination table is clearly nervous. She has a look of troubled anticipation, brows deeply furrowed, lips pursed and pale, and forehead glistening with tiny beads of sweat. She takes a deep breath, and grasps her dupatta with moist hands, while mouthing prayers into the off-white wall.

“It’s a girl.”

I watch the woman’s blank expression, and catch the look of frustration on her husband’s face in the corner of my eye. Seconds later, she begins to cry.

As a medical student I first became interested in the issue of sex selection upon talking with South Asian women who told me they were abused or neglected by their husbands and extended family because they had given birth to girls. I was surprised to learn that such pressure to have boys exist even within immigrant South Asian communities in the United States. A number of factors have converged to actually enable this practice: easy access to routine ultrasounds (forbidden in India), the availability of abortion services, and the American fertility industry, which offers everything from preconception sex selection to at-home gender determination kits. Ads for sex-selection clinics have appeared in South Asian community papers and even The New York Times.

I thus decided to do a research project on sex selection and the reasons for its prevalence among both South Asian immigrants and non-South Asians in the United States. This research is formally intended for the master’s thesis required for my medical degree, but I also wanted to do this project to promote dialogue about a preference for sons and its impact on the lives of women and children. Any quotes and locations have been changed to protect the identities of my research subjects.

When I first began my project, I was extremely wary. I had seen that newspaper articles about the skewed gender ratio in India often make the front page, yet offer little insight into the reasons for sex selection, or the pressures and emotions involved in such decisions. I did not want to further stereotypes about the preference for sons among South Asians. I wanted to understand what drives women to seek three or more abortions in their quest for a male child. I wanted to know how the desire for a son, and not wanting any more daughters, affected a couple’s existing children. I wanted to understand how medical providers felt about offering sex selection services or simply early sex determination via ultrasound. And, I wanted to understand why this practice was occurring in the United States among South Asian immigrants.

“In this country?” is the incredulous response I most often hear when I discuss some of the trends I’ve observed. Yet my own surprise has lessened as I’ve researched the reasons behind son preference. Religious and cultural festivals are not the only practices that survive the processes of immigration: the ultrasound machine has retained its iconic status among some South Asian immigrants in this country. When I ask women why they want a son, they often expect that I should know and understand that this is “an expectation of women,” as one woman put it.

Yet, what draws couples to travel across the state and sometimes to other states to get an ultrasound scan? What motivates them to spend thousands of dollars to select fetal sex before conception? Surprisingly, it is often women themselves who firmly believe that they need to have a son. The couples visiting these clinics usually already have at least one daughter—I have never seen a couple try and select the sex of their first child. When I ask why, they often tell me, simply, that every mother has a right to a son. Sometimes, their stories are heartbreaking: their female in-laws taunt them, call them infertile, drive them to it. It is sometimes their own mothers or mothers-in-law who pressure them to have a boy. In other instances, the tension between the couple in clinic is palpable, and I wonder about the pressures women face from their husbands at home.

It is undoubtedly difficult for couples to speak with me about their most personal and intimate matters. Yet they patiently answered my questions, allowed me to sit in on their clinic visits, and afforded me glimpses into their emotional experiences. Many are deeply conflicted, and openly acknowledge the tension in being a woman and not wanting a daughter. Some do not want to have a girl because they want to prevent another woman from suffering as they have. Some hope that the newer technologies of sperm sorting will actually decrease their emotional suffering by avoiding an abortion.

A crucial question arising from this work is, what does this practice do to our daughters? Children are usually overlooked in the debate about sex selection, yet they are among the most immediately affected. Children who witness parents’ ongoing attempts to have a son are impacted emotionally and materially. A South Asian American student told me in an interview, “Do these parents think we don’t know what they’re up to? Of course we do. It’s no mistake that all the families I know have, like, four girls and the youngest is a boy. It’s obvious to us even if we don’t say anything. Because what can we really say?”

One could argue, as many physicians have, that patient autonomy and the concept of choice makes sex selection permissible if patients believe it is the best option for their family. However, it is not entirely clear whose choice it is. If a woman faces intense pressure, psychological or otherwise, to have a son, is she really exercising her choice? If she is harassed, threatened, or emotionally abused, is she free to seek or not seek sex determination or sex-selection services?

The real issue is not necessarily sex selection per se, but what sex selection signifies—the unequal status of women. While many couples say they need to have a son since they already have daughters, many do not know how to answer me when I ask if they would seek a daughter if they had only sons. Technology or physicians alone are not at the root of the problem. The use of technology and marketing of sex selection exist because of the preference for a male child. Technological advancement undoubtedly increases the pressure to use technology in order to have a boy. One woman told me, “Now that all these methods exist, if I don’t use them, my in-laws will harass me.” While I understand the role that technology plays in making this issue worse, ultimately it is the deep-seated preference for boys that we must question and challenge. For instance, why is it that some couples believe they have “too many daughters,” but we rarely hear complaints about “too many sons”?

We must acknowledge the societal pressures to have a son rather than condemn couples who succumb to them. Judgment and blame will only thicken the shroud of secrecy surrounding these practices, making it even harder to talk about it. Family planning decisions are naturally complex and emotional, but in this instance they can be influenced by expectations from family and community that result in unusual pressure and harm to both women and children.

How can the family and community provide a more positive influence? We can take steps towards change in small ways. For example, we can congratulate couples equally when sons and daughters are born. We can organize small meetings about creating more opportunities for women’s advancement, and more days to celebrate women’s many accomplishments. We can hold debates about the role and status of women, making space for women to talk about the ways they have experienced gender inequality. We can remind our daughters every day that they are equal to their brothers in every way.

When I look around me, I see strong, brilliant, beautiful South Asian daughters committed to improving the world around them. Our women are teachers, world-class athletes, artists, musicians, writers, activists, doctors, lawyers, models, actresses, mothers, daughters, and sisters. Let us celebrate our daughters, and all the women of our community, and take active steps towards achieving equality of women and men, daughters and sons.

Sunita Puri is a second-year medical student at the UC San Francisco-UC Berkeley joint medical program. She is currently conducting an ethnographic study of son preference and sex selection among South Asian immigrants in the United States.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Obama as Anti-Christ: Religious Extremism Not Dead as Political Influence

Now that a GOP campaign ad casts Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in the role of anti-Christ, maybe it’s time to acknowledge that the impact of religious extremists isn’t quite as dead as mainstream media keep reporting.

The John McCain ad, ‘The One,’ playing on YouTube not so subtly paints Obama as the anti-Christ for adherents to an extreme interpretation of Revelations. This YouTube spot stokes these believers’ worst fears of global conflagration in an ultimate war between God and the devil.
McCain’s spin doctors want to scare these people into voting against Obama by casting a ballot for the Arizona senator, even if they don’t like McCain all that much.

Although mainstream media articles keep declaring the death of religious conservatism, religious conservatives obviously could impact this year’s election outcome. Otherwise the McCain camp would not bother to try to scare up their votes.

It’s so eery–and alarming. My fantasy saga chronicles what happens when politics and piety collide, just as they have in U.S. elections since 200, all of which have been marred by extreme divisiveness and bitterly contested vote counts.

The fictional theocrats try to wrest power from the secular government of an island nation called Azgard, just as Christian Dominionists seriously seek to impose religious totalitarianism on the United States, and Islamic extremists want to impose a Caliphate on the Middle East. The fictional power struggle leads to civil war, eventually resulting in the destruction of the country and most of the world.

What might happen in real life if extreme religious viewpoints continue to influence the elections as well as public discourse and policies? Consider McCain’s statements about U.S. troops in Iraq for 100 years and supposedly joking comments about bombing Iran.

There is little humor and much to be alarmed about in any type of militant religiosity–Muslim, Christian, Hindu or whatever.

By StoneScribe

StoneScribe is C.L. Talmadge, author of the Green Stone of Healing® epic fantasy series. For a free ebook on the link between healing and spirituality, visit and sign up for the newsletter.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Subject of Race is Being Discussed in The Final Weeks of this Election Season

The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House – Will Race and Ethnicity Decide the Presidency?

Any way you look at it, this is a historic political season. Whether the next president is a Democrat or a Republican, there will be a “first” in the new administration. The first black president or the first woman vice president will be elected. The media and the internet are buzzing with the possibilities.

Race and politics is an interesting and sometimes explosive combination. This topic is the focus of Earl Ofari Hutchinson’s book The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House. Throughout this election year, we have all seen the news reports, the specials, the debates and much more that addresses the questions and curiosity about race and politics. More specifically, what it would mean to have an African American president in the white house.

Race isn’t a new issue in politics and The Ethnic Presidency delves into a vast array of details from the past three decades to demonstrate the difference race and ethnicity makes in any election. Race is a much bigger factor in the 2008 election than it has been in past elections.

For an inside view at the history of race in politics, take a deeper look into The Ethnic Presidency. This book is a must have for political junkies who follow each election, but it is also a great primer for the millions of first time voters who would like to understand more about the people and the elements of this election year and elections in the past. Get a real look at the way each political party used race and ethnicity to further their agenda through the years.

It examines:
The soaring Latino vote
The silent but potent Asian-American vote
The GOP’s love-hate relationship with black and Latino America
Will America accept a black president? Can Obama be that president?
Will the GOP use the same Southern Strategy that repeatedly won the White House?
Did blacks and Latinos elect Bush?
Have the Democrats taken the black and Latino vote for granted?

For much more information and to order your own copy, visit The Ethnic Presidency on Amazon -

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author, syndicated columnist, political analyst and commentator. He is a frequent guest on Hannity and Colmes, The O’Reilly Factor, The Big Story, EXTRA, and numerous CNN News and Talk Shows. He is associate editor of New America Media. His op-ed columns appear in the Baltimore Sun, Huffington Post, L.A. Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Newsday, the Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Christian Science Monitor, and other major newspapers. He is the author of ten books.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Energizing People of Integrity

By Dean Kilmer
(Author of “Igniting the Moral Courage of America” Moral Courage Publications)

Our integrity has been kidnapped, and we didn’t even notice what happened! The false concept that people of faith must not speak up in the public arena, the insidious concept that truth is relative, and an over indulgence in the idea of tolerating everything and anything have kidnapped our integrity! If we cannot understand real truth and we are never allowed to speak up for what we believe, how can we have integrity?
In order to restore integrity, we must understand all three aspects of integrity.
1. Integrity is discerning what is right and what is wrong.
2. Integrity is acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost.
3. Real integrity includes publicly stating that you are acting on your principles.

How do we bring back honesty and integrity to our people?

First, we restore God’s absolute truth as the basis of our personal lives. You can always trust people who are living up to God’s standards in the Bible.

Secondly, we restore courtesy, respect and a positive attitude in our homes. Yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am and no ma’am are powerful attitude developing words for our children. Since attitude is more important than reality, a positive attitude about life allows them to see the good in other people. When they look for the good in people, they will also look for truth and honesty.

Thirdly, each of us should write a mission statement for ourselves and our families. A strong sense of divine purpose keeps individuals and families in line with God’s eternal purposes. Take time to honestly consider why God put your family on this earth. What are your special talents and abilities? How can you and your children impact eternity? As you and your family work toward your mission, you will be developing integrity in their hearts.

The fourth step is to build community support for good character. While the news always highlights the negative, we need to build a positive encouraging community spirit. The Moral Courage Foundation (explained on my website can bring your whole community to an appreciation of those young people who are living with integrity. The attitude of a community is determined by where the spotlight shines! Makes sure it shines on the right people!

Some people believe that the tidal wave of destructive values including abortion, homosexuality, broken homes and child abuse is too powerful to ever be stopped. However, you need to remember that our God took a coward, Gideon and 300 hundred men and defeated an army of 132,000 men. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called and He has called you!

“People who lack integrity are changed by the circumstances of their lives, while people of integrity change their circumstances by acting on their principles.”