In early September, uproar over sex-selection abortions not being prosecuted in the United Kingdom broke out, and the furor has continued. The debate began when it was revealed (via a Daily Telegraph investigation last year) that two doctors who had committed sex-selection abortions against baby girls escaped prosecution due to a so-called lack of “public interest” in regards to the case.
Pro-life advocates in the UK pointed out that it was indeed a public interest case, unless females are not counted among the public. Concerned citizens called on Parliament and the Prime Minister to clarify the law. The Prime Minister skirted the issue of prosecuting doctors who commit sex-selection abortions, but strongly affirmed that sex-selection abortion is wrong and illegal in the United Kingdom.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales echoes the concerns of pro-life Brits, saying in a statement:
It is the worst form of discrimination to kill a baby because she is the ‘wrong’ gender.
The following month, however, Britain’s top prosecutor Keir Starmer contradicted the Prime Minister’s statement, vouching for the legality of sex-selection abortions, citing England’s Abortion Act of 1967. He said that nothing in the law protected girls from abortion solely on the basis of their sex. But Starmer also affirmed that it is criminal to abort without the approval of two doctors who affirm that the abortion is necessary to protect the health of the mother.
How sex-selection abortions promote women’s health (which they must do in order to remain legal) is still a bit of a mystery. Parliament member David Burrowed accurately referred to the issue as “gendercide,” but officials higher-up in the government persist in condoning the act as a matter of women’s health not meriting review.
The wide acceptance of gendercide among prosecutors in the UK, Burrowes pointed out, could be the result of unclear wording in the Abortion Act of 1967. He said:
There is a lack of transparent information and no real safeguards. It is up to Parliament to deal with that.
The British Medical Association did make a statement on the issue, saying that it is “normally” unethical to commit sex-selection abortions, but skirted the issue with its conclusion that,
The pregnant woman’s views about the effect of the sex of the fetus on her situation and on her existing children should nevertheless be carefully considered.
In other words, if a woman states that she does not want a daughter, not killing her child could jeopardize her health by requiring her to live with something that she claims she does not want. Sex-selection abortions tend to be a trend among Indian and Chinese populations, and it is possible that the “boy preference” of these cultures motivates women to abort their daughters, rather than a so-called personal desire on the part of the mother.
The Daily Telegraph has raised this suspicion, citing research by Oxford University that sex-selection abortions in the UK are taking place disproportionately among ethnic groups with a boy preference:
A study by Oxford University academics has previously found evidence that suggested Indian women giving birth in Britain were terminating more female than male unborn babies between 1990 and 2005.
If this is indeed the within the United Kingdom, the ‘maternal health’ conclusion of the British Medical Association and other prominent officials in England could be seriously undermined.