The Associated Press recently ran a deeply moving story about a name-changing ceremony in Mumbai, India. "More than 200 Indian girls whose names mean ‘unwanted' in Hindi have chosen new names for a fresh start in life," reports the AP's Chaya Babu.

The ceremony—the brainchild of a district health official—came about as a response to a crisis in India. "This year's census showed the nation's sex ratio had dropped over the past decade from 927 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of 6 to 914," Babu writes. She goes on to explain,

Such ratios are the result of abortions of female fetuses, or just sheer neglect leading to a higher death rate among girls. The problem is so serious in India that hospitals are legally banned from revealing the gender of an unborn fetus in order to prevent sex-selective abortions, though evidence suggests the information gets out.

Sudha Kankaria of Save Girl Child, a group that advocates for Indian girls, told Babu that being known to family, friends, and everyone else as "unwanted" makes girls "feel very bad and depressed"—and no wonder.

The fact that so many girls are killed before birth on the mere basis of their gender, and that those who do survive are often given names like "unwanted," points to something deeply wrong with the culture's view of women. In the renaming ceremony, the girls chose happy- or strong-sounding new names for themselves—names like Vaishali ("prosperous, beautiful, and good") and Ashmita ("very tough"). Their choices demonstrate that this ceremony was a step toward changing that cultural paradigm—toward giving not just this one group of girls, but India itself, a fresh start …

When it comes to making children feel unwanted, though, India's not the only country with a problem. The United States may not have as high a rate of sex-selection abortion, but unfortunately, we've been all too willing to fall for the lie that a child's value is based solely on whether he or she is "wanted." Who could forget former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders's desire, expressed in a magazine interview, that "every child born in America" be "a planned, wanted child," as a way to cut the rates of crime and poverty? Her interviewer clearly understood this as a reference to abortion, as her very next question concerned abortion laws.

I've been haunted by those words ever since I first heard them, more than a decade ago. I've wondered, could Elders really have realized what she was saying? On the surface, the phrase can sound good, even noble: Let's make every child feel wanted! But the flip side of that statement is almost unfathomably cruel: If a child isn't wanted, then he or she shouldn't be allowed to join the rest of the human race. In the light of Elders's pro-choice beliefs, that supposedly noble statement takes on the quality of an Orwellian nightmare.

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The idea of "wantedness" vs. "unwantedness" affects me in a deeply personal way. I have an older sister who was adopted into our family at age 5. She was born to alcoholic parents in one of the poorest areas of the country, the fourth of five children who were neglected almost to the point of starvation. After that she was in and out of various foster homes, at least some of which were abusive.

I don't know my sister's biological family, but from the facts of her birth and early childhood, there seems no way around the hard fact that she was not what most people would call a "planned, wanted child." It makes me feel sick to think that her life could have been snuffed out because of that—that plenty of people would have advocated such a fate for her, based solely on her biological parents' circumstances.

Despite the emotional baggage that she carries to this day, my sister's life is of infinite value. She is loved and wanted now, but that's not where her value comes from. It comes from the God who made her, who knew her from the moment of conception, and who always wanted her. And that is why she has always mattered, even before she was wanted by other people.

We have one clue that my sister's biological parents may have recognized this fact: Despite their circumstances, they named her Joy. She kept that name when she came to us, because our parents wanted her always to have that one good thing—besides her life—that her biological parents had given her.

There's a great deal of power in a name, as the girls of India are finding out. May those 285 girls' new names remind them—as my sister's name reminds everyone around her—of their worth, which no one can take away.

Gina Dalfonzo is editor of and Dickensblog, and author of ‘Bring Her Down': How the American Media Tried to Destroy Sarah Palin. She wrote "What the Herman Cain Case Reveals about Harassment," "The Good Christian Girl: A Fable," "The Lost Virtue of Courtesy," and "Abstinence Is Not Rocket Science" "God Loves a Good Romance" for CT online, and "Guarding Your Marriage without Dissing Women," "Bill Maher Slurs Sarah Palin, NOW Responds," "The Social Network's Women Problem," "Facebook Envy on Valentine's Day," "What Are Wedding Vows For, Anyway?" "Why Sex Ruins TV Romances," and "Don't Think Pink" for Her.meneutics.