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MPs Vote for Introduction of Abortion (Sex-Selection) Bill

MPs from across the party political divide have voted 181-1 for the introduction of the Abortion (Sex-Selection) Bill, which would clarify the law to ban sex-selective abortion. The sole opponent of the bill (for as yet unexplained reasons) was Glenda Jackson MP (Lab, Hampstead & Kilburn). The proposer of the bill, Fiona Bruce MP (Con, Congleton), chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, released the following to the press release after the vote:

Today MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of a Bill seeking to clarify the law on sex-selective abortion.

The Abortion (Sex-Selection) Ten Minute Rule Bill, was approved by 181 votes to 1.

The Bill, promoted by MPs Fiona Bruce, Fiona MacTaggart, Kate Hoey, Caroline Noakes, Mary Glindon, Angela Watkinson, Tessa Munt, Sarah Teather, Sheryll Murray, Naomi Long, Pauline Latham and Rosie Cooper, was motivated by a desire to clear up an ambiguity in the law.

While the sex of the unborn child is not a ground for an abortion under the 1967 Act the British Medical Association and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service have argued that the law permits sex-selective termination in certain circumstances.

The Government has always disagreed, making clear that “abortion on the grounds of gender alone is illegal”.

The Abortion (Sex-Selection) Bill was designed to clear up the confusion, confirming the Government’s line and requiring the Secretary of State for Health to consider ways in which help can be offered to women who are under pressure to have sex-selective abortions.

Deciding that they wanted a vote on this issue, MPs ensured that a division was called.

The Bill’s Second Reading is set for 23rd January, though it is unlikely to be given time for debate in this Parliamentary session.

A growing body of case studies have put beyond doubt that women have obtained sex-selective abortions in the UK. However, some still argue that there is no evidence for the practice.

In response to these critics, Rani Bilkhu, director of Jeena International and spokeswoman of www.stopgendercide.org said:

“Saying that there is no evidence is tantamount to saying that the women we work with are lying and that my organisation is making things up.”

In the House of Commons, Fiona Bruce outlined the need for clarification and cited some case studies that have recently come to light.

Responding to the vote, Mrs Bruce said:

“That we are having this discussion is testament to how liberally the Abortion Act has been interpreted. Today Parliament agreed that more legislation is needed to silence those claiming that sex-selective abortion can be legal. Never would Parliamentarians in 1967 have imagined that 47 years on, there would be dispute about whether their Act permitted abortion where the baby was the a boy or a girl. If the social clause of the Act permits sex-selective abortion, the time to revisit it is long overdue. Until then, today’s vote has given a clear signal that MPs are united in working towards a time when the words “it’s a girl” are met with celebration rather than despair.”