NRL News

With only a single dissenting vote, Members of Parliament vote to clarify law to end “uncertainty” over legality of sex-selective abortions

by | Nov 4, 2014


By Dave Andrusko

MP Fiona Bruce

MP Fiona Bruce

Talk about great news and bad news, all in the same situation. Members of the British Parliament today overwhelmingly voted to ban abortions on the grounds of gender (girls, in almost all cases).

Indeed, there was only one “no.” 181 MPs voted in favor of the Abortion (Sex-Selection) Bill, which MP Fiona Bruce introduced on behalf of a cross-party group that included 11 other female MPs.

But the government is “not behind the change,” according to the Daily Mail’s Tom McTague. “The Bill will now be taken forward for a second reading in January. It is, however, highly unlikely to become law in its current form without Government support and parliamentary time.”

The story does not make clear what the government’s objection is, but reading between the lines it appears the government of David Cameron is waiting until official figures come out to prove a ‘national skewing’ in the number of girls born compared to the number of boys.

Mrs. Bruce was having none of that. As NRL News Today reported in an earlier story about the bill, Bruce said the coalition “isn’t seeking to change the law.”

The bill is “extremely straightforward,” Bruce said today. “It merely clarifies that nothing in section one of the Abortion Act [of] 1967 allows a pregnancy to be terminated on the grounds of the sex of the unborn child.”

Why the need? It is not in dispute that sex-selection abortions are occurring in Great Britain; some critics would say the number is insignificant.

But there are others, however, that maintain that abortions based on gender are not illegal under the Abortion Act. That is the position of BPAS, the largest abortion provider in Great Britain—some 60,000 each year.

Bruce pointed out, “Even today they are still advising women in one of their leaflets and on their website that abortions for reasons of foetal sex is not illegal because the law is silent on the matter.”

And then there is the British Medical Association. The BMA “holds yet another interpretation,” Bruce said. “They argue there may be cases where having a child of a particular gender may be a legal and ethical justification for an abortion on the grounds that the sex of the child may severely affect the pregnant woman’s mental health.”

Ms Bruce said “The main motivation” for the measure “is we know sex-selective abortions are happening in the UK and little is being done to stop this. …We know because of the growing number of courageous women speaking out about their experiences.”

According to McTague, there is widespread support for such a ban. “A poll by ComRes for the lobbying group Christian Concern found that 84 per cent of people believe gender abortion should be ‘explicitly banned by law.’”

For more background, see here.