Britain’s largest abortion provider is stirring outrage for advising women that sex-selective abortions are not against the law. The Sunday Express reports that the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, which carries out 55,000 abortions a year, is informing women that they can legally obtain a gender-based abortion procedure contrary to British law.
According to a pamphlet produced by the service titled Britain’s Abortion Law, What it Says and Why, the organization addresses whether abortions based on gender are legal under the country’s Abortion Act. The answer: “No. The law is silent on the matter.”
“It is outrageous that a publicly funded organization still has on its website gender abortion is not illegal, totally contradicting ministerial statements,” told Fiona Bruce, co-chairwoman of the All-Party Pro-life Group, to the Express.
According to the Express, BPAS said Britain’s Department of Health is aware and has no issues with the document despite the government’s repeated affirmation that the practice is illegal.
BPAS chief, Ann Furedi, came under criticism last year over comments favoring a woman’s right to a sex-selective abortion procedure. Furedi noted that she believes it is perfectly legal for a woman to end her pregnancy if she does not like the sex of her unborn child.
Currently in Britain, parents can determine the gender of their child after 13 weeks of pregnancy. The Daily Mail reports that in 2011, ten percent of the 190,000 abortions in England and Wales occurred during this stage of pregnancy. According to the Daily Mail, although a inquiry conducted by the British government “found no evidence that women born abroad and now living in the UK were opting to abort females,” an “analysis of the 2011 National Census has shown widespread discrepancies in the sex ratio of children in some immigrant families, which suggests girls are being aborted.”
An investigation conducted by The Independent this year claims that 1,400 to 4,700 females have disappeared from the national census records of England and Wales, suggesting the possible practice of sex-selection abortion among some families.
The practice of gender-based abortions is illegal in many countries, including countries where the practice is common. Britain’s Department of Health has stated that abortion based on gender alone is illegal.
The Crown Prosecution Service ruled in September that it would not be in the interest of the public to prosecute doctors accused of committing sex-selective abortions since the law did not specifically ban gender-specific abortions. Britain’s health secretary then acted to affirm a ban on the practice, but the British Medical Association criticized the government guidance, noting that under some circumstances, abortion based on gender is justifiable.
However, Britain’s Department of Health reaffirmed that it is illegal for abortion providers to perform abortions based solely on gender and the BMA guidance does not exempt doctors who refuse to comply.