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Three reasons against ‘gender’ abortion

In 2015, Abortion, Reproduction on February 11, 2015 at 8:28 am

Late last month several academics and medical professionals – including our own Prof. Roger Ingham – wrote an open letter published in The Telegraph opposing an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill 2014-15 that would result in the criminalisation of abortion on the basis of sex-selection, i.e., as a specific criminal offence. This amendment was tabled by Fiona Bruce MP, following her earlier Private Members’ Bill, the Abortion (Sex-Selection) Bill 2014-15 (which has since been withdrawn). Three key reasons were given against ‘gender abortion’, as outlined in the full text of the letter:

SIR – A proposed amendment to the Serious Crime Bill would make abortion on grounds of sex selection a specific criminal offence (“Gender abortion: it’s time for urgent action”).

Those pushing for this amendment claim abortions are being performed on women coerced into having the procedure, but any doctor in Britain performing an abortion on a woman against her will would already be committing a crime.

We have three main concerns about the proposed amendment. First, it would undermine the professional integrity of those who work in an already overstretched abortion service, as it suggests that they need to be stopped from doing something that constitutes a form of violence and abuse and thus need to be prevented from harming women. This is a serious claim.

Secondly, it risks encouraging doctors to enact some form of ethnic profiling that would, for example, require service providers to question Asian women specifically regarding their reasons for requesting abortion.

Thirdly, it seeks to construe abortion as an offence against “the unborn child”, specifically “the girl”. This is an attempt to secure a legal definition of a pregnancy that recognises the “rights of the unborn” – independent of the pregnant woman – and thus erodes women’s reproductive rights. MPs should seriously consider if they want to take that step.

Subsequent letters (in opposition) have been published in The Telegraph. Whilst, on the face of it, the ‘criminalisation’ of abortion on the basis of gender may appear attractive, it is already subject to the relevant legislative and regulatory frameworks in this area, and it is therefore difficult to see why further criminalisation (as it were) – through the creation of a specific offence – is either a necessary or useful addition to the statute book. The next step for the Bill is the HC Report stage on 23 February 2015.