In the mid-1970s, amniocentesis, which reveals the sex of a baby in utero, became available in developing countries. Originally meant to test for fetal abnormalities, by the 1980s it was known as the "sex test" in India and other places where parents put a premium on sons. When amnio was replaced by the cheaper and less invasive ultrasound, it meant that most couples who wanted a baby boy could know ahead of time if they were going to have one and, if they were not, do something about it.
The book explores how sex selection, by means of abortion, has skewed the male-female ratio in some countries, especially India and China. The resulting shortage of women not only fuels the practice of abortion but also turns women into a commodity to be bought and sold. Again, from the review:
The economist Gary Becker has noted that when women become scarce, their value increases, and he sees this as a positive development. But as Ms. Hvistendahl demonstrates, "this assessment is true only in the crudest sense." A 17-year-old girl in a developing country is in no position to capture her own value. Instead, a young woman may well become chattel, providing income either for their families or for pimps. As Columbia economics professor Lena Edlund observes: "The greatest danger associated with prenatal sex determination is the propagation of a female underclass," that a small but still significant group of the world's women will end up being stolen or sold from their homes and forced into prostitution or marriage.
In a screwy twist of logic, the author of the book (a woman, no surprise) worries that this shortage of women might endanger the sacred cow of abortion that feminists champion.
This is a very interesting review and makes a number of good points, most all of which were accounted for and predicted in Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae.