China Seeks To Combat Abortion of Girl Babies

China's top lawmakers want to make it a crime for doctors to detect an unborn baby's sex for non-medical reasons, in a bid to combat the abortion of female fetuses, government-run newspapers reported Sunday.

It is already illegal in China to use an ultrasound or other means determine if a fetus is a boy or a girl, but doctors who do so only face administrative penalties and not criminal charges, the China Youth Daily reported.

"Despite the ban on detecting the sex of a fetus, such illegal detection still exists, causing a serious imbalance in the sex ratio of the newborn population," the report said. "This issue has aroused attention from China's top legislators."

Sunday's reports didn't specify what penalties doctors might face, or whether parents might also be held accountable.

Government figures show 117 boys are born in China for every 100 girls — a gap blamed largely on a policy limiting most couples to one child. In a society that values sons, many parents abort baby girls, hoping to try again for a boy. In some rural areas, the ratio is approaching 150 boys for every 100 girls, leading to fears of a huge surplus of men who will be unable to find mates in coming decades.