Sex-selective abortion: Criminalising isn’t the answer


By Emma Rosemurgey

A matter of days after MPs voted in parliament on whether to amend the law to make abortion based on gender a serious crime, I began thinking about the implications that would come with such a law.

In a modern, first-world society in which it is accepted by the majority that men and women are equal and both wholly significant to society, it is ludicrous to imagine that some people will still go to the lengths of aborting foetus’ due to their sex.

It is however a compelling issue that is ever present in the UK. The most severe issue that comes to mind regarding the potential amendment of the law is how it will affect the women in question. Ever since the Abortion Act was passed in 1967, our society has progressed to being widely accepting that abortion is acceptable practise given the right circumstances and environment.

The idea of then criminalising elements of an act that has come so far over the last 5 decades seems rather regressive, given the fact that women throughout history have been coerced into abortions for various reasons by family members, partners and sometimes their community – depending on their social values.

The UK is a melting pot of ethnicity and culture, and therefore such issues as FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and gender-selective abortion are increasingly coming to light. It is debatable whether criminalisation will have any affect other than the arrest and imprisonment of poor, vulnerable women who often feel huge amounts of pressure exerted on them to carry out such abortions.

There are many pro-life campaigners out there that will see the issue as black and white and say that criminalising gender selective abortion will make it go away – history however, tells us that this is not the case.

Just because abortion has not always been legal in the UK, it does not mean that it hasn’t always existed. Women all over the world have been known to go to great, and often horrendous lengths to get back-street abortions, where legal ones were not available.

As a feminist, I do not want to live in a society in which sexism and discrimination against gender is so rife that some women feel compelled to abort their female child; however an investigation by The Independent suggests that certain ethnic groups are using illegal abortion in order to avoid having daughters. This supports the argument that the criminalisation of the practise of safe and legal abortions, will in turn lead to the inevitable increase of the back-street practise.

Surely, the government of today should focus more on the source of the issue, in that regardless of how far we’ve come as the society, there are still people amongst us who de-value women to such an extent that gender selective abortion is actually an issue.

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