MPs have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a Bill that is seeking to clarify the law on sex-selective abortion.
The Abortion (Sex-Selection) Ten Minute Rule Bill, which was brought by MP Fiona Bruce, was approved by 181 votes to 1, at the end of November.
It was co-promoted by MPs Fiona MacTaggart, Kate Hoey, Caroline Noakes, Mary Glindon, Angela Watkinson, Tessa Munt, Sarah Teather, Sheryll Murray, Naomi Long, Pauline Latham and Rosie Cooper, and was motivated by a desire to clear up an ambiguity in the law.
Under the current 1967 Abortion Act, the sex of the unborn child is not a ground for an abortion. However, recently, the British Medical Association and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service have both argued that the law permits sex-selective termination in certain circumstances.
According to Ms Bruce, 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. The Bill’s Second Reading is set for 23 January.
In 2014, Evangelical Times reported on several doctors who had been secretly filmed agreeing to give women abortions because their unborn babies were girls.
Rani Bilkhu, director of Jeena International and spokeswoman for campaign group Stop Gendericide.org, said, ‘Saying there is no evidence is tantamount to saying that the women we work with are lying and that my organisation is making things up’.
After the vote, Ms Bruce said, ‘The fact we are having this discussion is testament to how liberally the Abortion Act has been interpreted. 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 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, this 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’.
In a statement, pro-life campaign group CARE said, ‘This debate has put the issue firmly on the parliamentary agenda’.
Picture : Rani Bilkhu and Fiona Bruce MP