Mary Glindon

Sex-specific abortion is gruesome – but not explicitly illegal in Britain

Imagine that you became pregnant. Imagine that you were entirely dependent upon your husband. Imagine that you became the victim of domestic violence during that pregnancy, and your husband began demanding that you did not give birth to a baby girl.

Facing strong social pressure, coercion, or violence to end a pregnancy because you are carrying a girl, is a reality for a disturbing number of women in Britain, according to women’s advocacy organisation Jeena International, which helps women escape domestic violence.

To begin tackling this issue, a large group of MPs led by Fiona Bruce have proposed the Abortion (Sex Selection) Bill. This is a short and simple piece of legislation that seeks to clarify the exact legal status of sex-selective abortion, which has been cast into doubt in recent times.

There have been several catalysts over the last few years for this renewed discussion about sex-selective abortion. First came a series of media allegations about clinics offering seemingly unlawful sex-selective abortions. These allegations led to a police investigation lasting eighteen months, but the Crown Prosecution Service ultimately decided not to proceed with a prosecution although there was some evidence that an offence may have been committed.

Then came the Independent’s analysis of birth data, which appeared to show discrepancies in sex ratios at birth. Although this analysis was heavily disputed, some academic papers also suggest sex imbalances in birth rates in certain areas of the UK, along with anecdotal evidence from organisations such as Jeena International and from health professionals.

One ob/gyn consultant, Dr Vincent Argent, a former employee of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, told the Telegraph in 2012 that he had ‘no doubt’ women were terminating pregnancies because of the sex of the baby, and that there were ‘an awful lot of covert abortions for sex selection going on’.

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