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India Anti-Abortion Activists Target Google, Yahoo and Microsoft

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on August 19, 2008

The big three American Internet companies are facing what could be trouble in India, trouble that could also spill over into problems back home. India has a serious gender-imbalance problem; many Indians prefer boys to girls and so opt for abortion if they discover their fetus is female. As AFP reports here, Indian activists are taking Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to court, alleging the three accept ads for products enabling expectant parents to learn their fetus’ gender. “These companies are making a lot of money by doing highly targeted and selective advertising of these products,” said Sabu George, an activist leading the campaign, according to AFP. “Our petition seeks to block these advertisements.”

Google won’t comment about the merits of the case itself, saying it is still waiting to receive the court’s request. “We have not yet received the petition from the Supreme Court,” says Google spokesman John Pinette in an email reply to a query from BusinessWeek, “but we take local laws seriously and will review the petition carefully.” The search giant’s advertising program, he adds, “is managed by a set of policies which we developed based on several factors, including local legal requirements and user experience.” A Google spokesman in India adds: “In India, we do not allow ads for the promotion of prenatal gender determination or pre-conception sex selection.”*

Yahoo and Microsoft offices in India have not replied to requests for comment from BusinessWeek.

The companies have good reason to be careful about this one. If there’s an issue that can get the pro-life movement in the U.S. to focus on Asia, it’s the practice of sex-selection in India and other parts of the region. Steven Mosher, president of anti-abortion group the Population Research Institute, last month put up a video on YouTube calling on American feminists to speak out against sex selection in Asia. “In China, India, and other Asian countries, there is a strong preference for boys,” quoted him saying. “This combination of a preference for boys and modern technology—the ultrasound machine—has proven deadly for millions upon millions of baby girls.”

* Last sentence added Aug. 20.

Reader Comments


August 19, 2008 1:26 PM

Let the Indians murder their babies! More opportunity for Americans!

F. I.

August 19, 2008 2:17 PM

Mr. Bruce, One thing I would like to mention here is that India has very strict anti-gender bias laws and all this furor over the carrying of such (sic.) advertisements is really a cause for worry for all of us.
We support our government and law agencies to bring the guilty to book. Including those people who ran the ad campaign. The companies should be punished for carrying what we in India call the sex-determination ads.


August 19, 2008 3:06 PM

This event has unearthed only a part of a macroscopic issue. Nevertheless I am glad it has because most of us are of the assumption that sex-preference exists only amongst rural India. It is more than shocking to know that educated folks having access to internet succumb to such ill-faith.


August 19, 2008 3:32 PM

its jsut pathetic these companies do for money...


August 19, 2008 3:56 PM

It's sad state of affair in India at least, but it's same reason Bruce writes and same reason Businessweek exists- Business! The other reason is perhaps "Greed".

Marriages are a business in India and so is act of bequeathing inheritance. Both are colluding with greedy medical practitioners and creating sex-selection business. They are the worst humans and still worst businesspeople- for the lack of foresight in the monstrous imbalance they are creating.

Laws exist but I'll give you an example how these sinners are circumventing the laws: A couple goes into a clinic for routine ultrasound and doctor upon observation utters the name of female deity if the unborn is a female. You can't prove if anyone broke the law. The couple can then opt for an abortion. How sinister is that?

The pro-choice/pro-life movement in US and the one in India are not the same, so let's not go there. In India it's pro-selection and whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, you should and any US corporation should vehemently oppose this practice. Please put things in perspective!

Bruce, please don't say "many indians prefer". It's best not to generalize for this case.

Karim Varela

August 19, 2008 8:03 PM

If the population research institute was actually doing any useful research, they'd release the world is way too overpopulated, and they'd fully endorse any abortion. Shouldn't the focus here be on human rights??? If women were just treated equally, then it wouldn't be a disappointment to have a girl.


August 19, 2008 11:38 PM

If all the families in the world were given the same amount of land as the average American family, all 6 billion people in the world would fit on a piece of land the size of Texas. This is a mathematical fact. The world is not overpopulated and could support a much greater population. Don't believe that myth.


August 20, 2008 12:45 AM

Just goes to show how greedy Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are. To make money, they will carry any damn ads, without checking the content. They deserve nothing less than being hauled to court and mauled. That's the height of desperation. Why blame the Indians, when the American corportions will do anything to grab eyeballs. Shame on you!


August 20, 2008 1:45 AM

You all seem to forget; someone is buying that add space. Someone in India. Blame the greedy American capitalists if you like, but the fact is, we couldn't sell adds like that if no one were buying them. Duh.


August 20, 2008 1:45 AM

It is wrong to assume that everybody wants to use sex determinants to decide whether to abort or not. Other people would rather know the sex of their child so that they can prepare early.
If this be the case then the search engines should be prosecuted for carrying ads on knives, cause those who buy knives are out to Kill. So lets not prosecute the means because of a predetermined end.

D. Jose

August 20, 2008 1:49 AM

Does anybody knows if companies like google or microsoft have some rules to see the content of the advertisements before posting in their websites? It could also be that they might not cared much about the content of the ad.( of this controversial ad) before they put in their wesites.

In my opinion, it is not the google nor microsoft that has to be targetted, but the people who put the ad, the actual culprit are them.

note: Guys, do u think this problem of gender selection is there in the advanced states like Kerala in India?

KC Rupesh

August 20, 2008 1:59 AM

If most couple prefer for boy baby, there will soon be extreme shortage for brides a few years from now and there will be reversal of the "dowry" (money the bride's father has to pay to the groom's family for marriage) system in India. It is already happening in some states like Haryana where prospective grooms are literally buying brides from other staes.


August 20, 2008 5:31 AM

Google and Yahoo are NOT promotiing abortion. They sell ad space to companies that don't promote abortion. The product we are talking about is a sex indicator, which is a very useful product and allows people to plan for the child's needs - clothing, toom colours, nappies, etc.
If the anti-abortion bullies and the bigoted religious zelots should be pointing the finger at anyone, it's the people that are allegedly aborting female child pregnancies, not people selling ad space for a legitimate product.In fact, it's a pity that their isn't a test kit for bullies and bigots, then perhaps we wouldn't have had to put up with such ignorant, ill-informed ranters!


August 20, 2008 8:17 AM

Commenting as an assimilated American citizen who spent her teenage years in India - the main reason expectant parents prefer having a boy is the DOWRY SYSTEM. The old traditional dowry system puts a lot of financial pressure on the parents who not only have to worry about 'arranging' for a responsible young husband for their beloved daughter and funding the entire cost of the wedding - but then also gifting (dowry) wealth in the form of money/gold/land to the husband, a socially expected tradition. I suppose this was initially propagated as a means of giving the young couple a nest egg to start a new life together. However, since then it has been exploited and it is not uncommon for a family to demand absurd amounts of dowry especially if the boy/man is highly educated etc. Imagine, if you have four daughters who will grow up and need a dowry to get married!!! Maybe, if this ridiculous outdated tradition (women now work and bring in a paycheck...) is made illegal, bias towards male children might fade. Remember, SATI (the tradition where a widow was expected to jump into the cremation site of her husband - sometimes pushed by relatives) was made illegal! No culture is without that 'crazy aunt we hide in the closet'.


August 20, 2008 11:50 AM

Companies have to be really careful about sensitive issues in different countries. Mostly they dont do it intentionally. Its the automated nature of the software which displays the ads without any particular intention by the company itself. What about the actual products itself...should'nt they be blamed for all this?


August 20, 2008 12:00 PM

Both India and China have this problem, and here's an unexpected benefit I think we'll see: sexbots, or androids that pass for human females that will mop up any male sex drive. This will I think be a good thing, since rather than Asia becoming less socially stable, things will work out fine. Increasing numbers of Indian and Chinese males will find that desires for physical and emotional bonds with females will be satisfied even better by fembots than by biological women. Women in these societies will be able to realize their full potential as human beings, and won't have the pressure to become baby factories as now. Japan is already working on fembots and I would expect we'll see something pretty good in 10-15 years. Smart stock tip: whichever Japanese company gets a really good fembot first, will make incredible profits in China and India alone. Followed by profits from North and South America.


August 20, 2008 4:03 PM

Google has required that our company discontinue advertising in India, for patently ridiculous reasons.

Beginning at the beginning, there are some flaws in this conversation, including a misunderstanding of Gender Selection. There are two kinds, Postconception and Preconception.

Postconception gender selection is aborting babies after testing their sex via ultrasound, blood tests, or other methods. It is, and should be, illegal everywhere - not just in India.

Preconception Gender Selection (PGS) has to do with taking steps BEFORE conception (getting pregnant) to choose the sex of a child. PGS includes sperm sorting, embryo selection, our product (GenSelect), using the Chinese Lunar Calendar, reading an internet-purchased book about PGS (there are several), dietary modifications, intercourse timing and positions, douching, dancing in the moonlight on the third Thursday of the month while wearing a garlic necklace, and all other old wives' tales.

In India, advertising all of these and any other PGS methods is illegal, according to the 2002 Amendment to their 1994 Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques (PRDT) Act. One of the amendment's restrictions is advertising: "sex selection including any procedure, technique, test or administration or prescription or provision of anything for the purpose of ensuring or increasing the probability that an embryo will be of a particular sex."

Unfortunately India doesn't apply as much effort to enforcing the rest of the PRDT Act as they do to "advertising preconception sex selection techniques." Despite their 1994 law, they are still losing an estimated 7,000 baby girls PER DAY. GenSelect sells about 1,000 Home Kits in India per year, and about half of those are for boy babies. That's 500 potential lost girl babies, and our 96% proven effectiveness reduces that number to 480. So, 7,000 X 365 days equals 2,555,000 estimated lost girl babies annually. GenSelect would account for .019% (.00019) of that total. Talk about misplaced priorities!

Cutting off Google advertising seems a little shortsighted.

Fred Farkle

August 20, 2008 5:34 PM

These cases are without merit. There are legitimate uses of these types of tools that help parents determine the gender of their baby - for example: planning on how to decorate a baby's room, or advising friends & family on clothing they might buy as gifts for the child. To assume purchasers will use these tools to devide if they will terminate a pregnancy is pure stupidity, ignorance and media manipulation at its worst.


August 20, 2008 8:16 PM

I agree with Foxx and Kennie. The web companies are just selling ad space for 'sex determination' and not advocating or helping in abortion or 'sex selection'. Early 'sex determination' of babies can have so many other reasons. The companies are going to win this case.

Jonathan Clark

September 14, 2008 3:01 AM

GOOGLE - byline "Do no evil" but if there is revenue in encouraging the evildoers to advertise on Google - well - let's take the money - and figure out the PR issues later

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