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ACTION: Sex-Selection Amendment to the Serious Crime Bill

In the last few minutes, Fiona Bruce MP and just over 70 other Members of Parliament tabled an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill aiming to force the Government’s hand on sex-selective abortion, and the Stop Gendercide campaign (which Right To Life has has supported) has released a video in which Stop Gendercide spokeswomen Rani Bilkhu (of Jeena International) and Jasvinder Sanghera CBE (founder and CEO of Karma Nirvana), and Fiona Bruce MP herself, explain the importance of this issue:

The amendment will only become law if enough MPs vote for it, so please ask your MP to take action and vote Aye to end sex-selective abortion. All you need do is visit StopGendercide.org, and send an e-mail as prompted. It only takes 10 seconds, and crucially the amendment could be debated in under a week, so your help is needed urgently!

The Basics:

The amendment has been tabled to Part 5 of the Serious Crime Bill, a section that deals with female genital mutilation and other crimes with a disproportionate effect on children, including girls.

The amendment has two aims:

1. To clarify that sex-selective abortion is impermissible in UK law.

2. To oblige the Government to think creatively about ways to help women who are under pressure to have sex-selective abortions.

Why does the law need clarification?

While the Prime Minister and Department of Health are clear that ‘abortion on the grounds of gender alone is illegal’, they are flatly contradicted by the British Medical Association (BMA) and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), who between them represent those who constitute the vast majority of the sector. This is despite numerous clear ministerial statements and new Government guidance reiterating the illegality of the practice. The Government’s view is therefore reduced to an interpretation. The ‘Sex-Selection’ amendment clarifies existing abortion law in line with the Government’s interpretation.

How would this amendment oblige the Government?

Clause 74(2) of the Serious Crime Bill provides that “the Secretary of State may by regulations make provision that is consequential on any provision of this Act”. Regulations would be an opportunity for the Government to consider and implement measures offering concrete help to these women.

Would this stop abortions for sex-linked disabilities?

Abortions performed for this reason fall under s1(1)(d) of the Abortion Act 1967 ‘substantial risk of serious handicap’. The ‘Sex-Selection’ amendment does not change this.

Would this require singling out a particular community or racial profiling?

No. As with FGM and forced marriage, the problem does seem to be prevalent in some minority communities. Like FGM and forced marriage, the Government has a duty to work out a way to help those affected with sensitivity. Mandating changes to doctors’ and counsellors’ guidance does not require racial profiling, and is just one way of tackling the issue.

Is sex-selective abortion an issue in the UK?

Yes, but on a very minor scale when compared with China or the Indian subcontinent. In 2012, the Daily Telegraph ran investigations proving that it was possible to get doctors to refer for a gender abortion in the UK. One of the doctors exposed as being willing to violate the law in this way is now being privately prosecuted. Though the Department of Health produced an in-depth breakdown of birth data statistics, showing that there was no statistically significant gender ratio imbalance in the UK across ethnicities, researchers from Oxford and Imperial College have found that sex-selective abortion could be detected from birth and census data. Moreover, there is a growing body of anecdotal testimony (such as that reported in the Independent, and on ITVs This Morning) comprising the experiences of a number of women who have spoken about their experiences as UK residents having sex-selective abortions in this country as well as abroad. Rani Bilkhu, director of Jeena International which works with women who have had sex-selective abortions said “Saying that there is no evidence is tantamount to saying that these women are lying and that our organisation is making things up.” That sex-selective abortion is a grim reality is practically indisputable, which is why action is needed both through the law and in giving support to women who are in danger of being coerced due to the sex of their unborn baby.

Please then, visit StopGendercide.org today, contact your MP, and help end the wicked misogyny of sex-selective abortion.