BBC News - Sex selection: The forgotten story - Did the West stoke the scourge of sex selection in Asia?
But the story of sex selection in Asia is not as simple as it looks from the outside, writes award-winning science journalist Mara Hvistendahl in her startling new book Unnatural Selection.
Hvistendahl points a finger at the West for encouraging the epidemic of sex selection which has gripped Asia since the early 1970s.
Amniocentesis tests and ultrasound scans have led to more than 160 million girls being aborted in Asia alone since then, according to one widely quoted 2005 estimate.
It had to do, Hvistendahl writes, with the West's paranoid population control movement during the Cold War - a growing fear that more hungry babies would grow up and turn to communism. The "monster of sex determination in Asia" lead to vastly skewed ratios in countries like India, China and South Korea.
Western money, she writes, was used to set up an extensive network of family planning advisers and doctors that encouraged women to opt for amniocentesis.
In 1969, sex determination was included as one of the 12 new strategies for global birth control at a US workshop. Henry Kissinger, then secretary of state under Richard Nixon, signed a classified memo stating that "abortion is vital to the solution" of population growth in the world.
So in India, Hvistendahl says, advisers from the World Bank and other organisations pressured the government to "adapt a paradigm" where population was the problem. The Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation poured money into "research into reproductive biology".
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