10:21 GMT +320 September 2019
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    Sex Discrimination at Birth, Britain Debates Gender Abortion

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    Conservative Member of Parliament - Fiona Bruce, is calling for a change in law to make abortion on grounds of gender illegal. MPs are set to vote on the amendment tabled by Bruce who is also chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group.

    The amendment states that the 1967 Abortion Act does not specify the illegality of an abortion sought on the grounds of gender. If passed it would "make it clear that conducting or procuring an abortion on the grounds that the unborn child is a girl — or a boy (although this practice mainly affects girls) — is illegal", according to Fiona Bruce MP.

    Gendercide or foetal femicide sex-selection abortion: so called ‘son-preference' — is a sad reality for some Asian women living in Britain — however, very little is known about the practice. 

    A recent investigation by the Independent revealed that abortion is being widely used in some immigrant communities in England and Wales to avoid having daughters.

    Statistical analysis of the 2011 census suggested widespread discrepancies in the sex ratio of children in some families; most significantly families from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal and India.

    "Aborting an unborn child because it's a girl is the first act of gender inequality", Rani Bilkhu, founder of Jeena International, a charity that helps and empowers women, and spokeswoman for Stopgendercide.org told Sputnik News.

    The British Pregnancy Advisory Service says the bill will restrict women's choices:

    "Rather than tackling the root cause of gender discrimination, this amendment seeks to place a criminal burden on women and the doctors who care for them".

    The amendment is opposed by many women's health organisations including the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives.

    The British Medical Association states that, "abortion solely on the basis of parental preference of feotal gender, where there are no health implications (for the feotus or for the woman), does not meet one of the legal grounds for an abortion under the 1967 Act, and is therefore unlawful." 

    "The BMA believes that it is normally unethical to terminate a pregnancy on the basis of feotal sex, except in the case of severe sex-linked disorders. However, as part of their assessment, doctors should consider all relevant factors, which may include the woman's views about the effect of the sex of the feotus on her physical and mental health."

    But according to Rani Bilkhu from Stopgendercide.org, "people don't understand the cultural bias and the deep rooted cause of sex selection abortion.

    "I know some third or fourth generation British Indian women who are doing very well in their careers but are choosing to abort female foetus' because they define their success by giving birth to a boy."

    Bilkhu recently worked with a women in her late 20s who had three abortions in one year because she thought her in-laws would like and accept her more if she gave birth to a boy.

    The law, according to Bilkhu is not fit for purpose and needs clarifying.

    Meanwhile other women's rights organisations are urging a ‘no' vote to the amendment on sex selective abortion on the Serious Crime bill.

    A statement by Southall Black Sisters, Centre for Secular Spaces and other individual organisations says: "We urge a NO vote, even though we acknowledge the threat to women of pre-natal sex selection. We simply consider this measure to be unnecessary and to have unintended consequences, which will be harmful to women.

    "The current laws on abortion already make clear that sex selection is unlawful, except for specific medical (genetic disorder) reasons. There is no reason why existing criminal laws that already cover acts of domestic violence, including an assault-causing miscarriage, cannot be used." 

    Rani Bilkhu says the clarification of the law is more for the stake holders, but those opposed to the amendment are concerned it will criminalise abortion. "They don't understand the real inequality that it's the first act of gender inequality of women", says Bilkhu.

    Among others calling for a ‘No' vote from MPs is the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation, IKWRO. "We oppose the proposed amendments to the legislation around abortion which we believe are ill thought out and if enacted will be detrimental to women, whilst failing to tackle the perpetrators who pressurise women into sex selection abortion".

    Other campaigners believe that while sex-selection abortion must be stamped out, changes must be made to attitudes, not the law, with more funding made available for specialist services to help women — whom, if the bill is passed — might be forced to have unsafe abortions.

    MPs are set to vote to amend the Serious Crime bill to clarify the law to definitively ban sex-selective abortions in the UK.

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