Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Monday, 23 February 2015

This Is Why You Need To Know About Sex-Selective Abortions

The Debrief: Women’s groups urge MPs to not ban women from aborting their babies based on their sex...

Women’s charities, polticians and support groups have urged MPs to not vote to ban women from aborting foetuses on the basis of their sex. It’s a tricky ethical issue to get your head around but here’s why it’s important.

There are various cultures (including Western ones) where women are encouraged to have male children, and punished for having female children. So, it follows that some women will do whatever they can to not have that female child. In some countries where access to abortion and medical treatment isn’t as easy as it is here, this results in things like girls being sold, abandoned or killed. Over here, sadly, an investigation done by The Telegraph in 2012 found that there were doctors willing to carry out abortions on the basis that the woman didn’t want to have a daughter. One of the doctors later admitted this would be 'female infanticide'. 

So MP Fiona Bruce has put forward her proposal for an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill, which, in normal-speak means she wants it to be illegal for women to have an abortion just because their foetus will be a boy/girl. These are the words she’s used: ‘[The law should] make it clear that conducting or procuring an abortion on the grounds that the unborn child is a girl – or a boy (although this practice mainly affects girls) – is illegal.’

And today, MPs are debating on whether this amendment to the law – which at present, states that all a doctor has to consider when aborting a foetus is the pregnant woman’s ‘physical or mental health’ – should happen.

Though it's basically understood that killing of female foetuses just because they'll one day be girls shouldn't happen at all, this amendment isn't the right way to combat it, according to the below:

1. The bill would make women turn to illegal abortions

The Iranian & Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation told The Times: ‘We believe that if the proposed law were to be enacted, that some women, who would not be able to get a safe, legal, regulated abortion, would elect or be forced by perpetrators to proceed with unsafe abortions and may suffer lifelong physical and mental health impacts’

READ MORE: So Your Friend's Having An Abortion? Here's How To Help Her Out

2. If they don’t, they could still face problems from whoever’s pressurising them to only have male children

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service published a briefing about the amendment to say: ‘If women are being forced into the abortion of female foetuses at home or abroad or assaulted by partners seeking to cause them a miscarriage, this needs to be taken seriously and acted upon. But the Abortion Act is not the vehicle to do this, and the answer does not lie in further criminalising women.’

3. Women’s reproduction rights have been hard-won and shouldn’t be taken back in any way shape or form

Lisa Hallgarten, chairwoman for the Voice for Choice coalition, told The Times that Ms Bruce’s intention was to: ‘seriously undermine abortion law and provision in this country. This is the wrong piece of legislation to address the issue of son-preference and gender discrimination. It is completely inappropriate for this aspect of women’s healthcare to be addressed in the Serious Crime Bill.’ TL;DR? Women’s rights should be more important than foetuses’ rights.

We Spoke To The People Behind The UK's Anti-Abortion Movement

4. These sorts of abortions don’t actually happen that much

In a letter to The Times, Dr David Richmond the president of the ‘no evidence that abortions based on gender alone are being carried out in the UK’. If that’s the case, what is the amendment trying to stop? According to The Socialist Worker, this amendment: ‘could lead to doctors and other medical professionals racially profiling women and then reporting them if they suspect their motives for wanting an abortion. Women might feel they can no longer speak to their doctor honestly.’

5. Abortions based on sex are already illegal

Labour MP Yvette Cooper MP has said that the practice of aborting a foetus simply based on their sex is already illegal, but changing the Serious Crime Bill could outlaw abortion when there are ‘gender specific abnormalities’. Say, if a male foetus could be harming its mother in the way a female foetus wouldn’t, someone somewhere could argue that that foetus cannot be aborted.

READ MORE: Why Is It Still Unaccpetable To Have More Than One Abortion?

As you can see - this might not affect you now, but could down the line. Those opposing the amendment believe that any way of curbing a women's access to abortion is an attack on all women's rights.

On the plus side? MPs are expected to vote against the bill. We'll keep you updated when more news comes in.

You might also be interested in:

Northern Ireland's New Health Minister Opposes Abortion For Raped Women

Meet The Woman Behind Spain's 'Abortion Travel Agency'

This Pregnant Women Just Summed Up Why Pro-Choice Beats Anti-Abortion

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

Tags: Abortion, Need To Know, Pure Politics, Health