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Human dignity
9 September 2013

The real reason why we won’t act on gender-specific abortions

Sadly, there’s nothing new about the prejudice against baby girls. In many parts of the world female infanticide has been practiced since time immemorial. But as Fraser Nelson explains in an important article for the Daily Telegraph, the problem is getting worse not better – and it is modern techniques that are to blame:

  • “India’s 2011 census shows 7.1 million fewer girls than boys under the age of six – a gap that has almost doubled over two decades. So, rather than a function of villages being backward or poor, this is a phenomenon that grows more pronounced as Indians grow richer. Studies show that wealthier, better-educated Indians are more likely to have boys because they can afford the newish tools of ultrasound and gender-specific abortion.”

Female foeticide is not yet a major problem in this country – not to the extent of affecting the gender ratio. Yet it does happen:

  • “...a few months ago, The Daily Telegraph showed the ease with which these gender-specific abortions can be acquired in Britain. Undercover reporters found private doctors willing to authorise such terminations, with some agreeing to falsify the paperwork. Doctors were caught on film agreeing to an illegal request – all the evidence needed for prosecution. The Crown Prosecution Service initially agreed.”

Then, last week, came the news that the CPS had decided that the prosecution would not go ahead, despite the fact that gender-specific abortion in this country is against the law. However, as Nelson explains, bringing a prosecution would require that the abortion law be upheld as it was originally intended:

  • “In deciding not to prosecute the doctors exposed by The Daily Telegraph, part of the CPS’s argument was that doctors are given ‘wide discretion’ to ‘interpret’ the law. This is a polite way of saying that the law is almost entirely ignored. In theory, the mother’s health should be at risk before an abortion is authorised. In practice, Britain offers abortion on demand.”

In other words, the widespread availability of abortion in this country depends on a loose interpretation of the law. The implication, therefore, is that if the authorities were to uphold the law rigorously in order to prevent female foeticide, they would have to uphold it rigorously in other cases too.

Fraser Nelson argues that the solution is to make gender-specific abortion a specific offence against the law.

Any such move, though, would open up a debate that supporters of abortion on demand would not wish to take place. For instance, if it’s not OK to kill an unborn child because she is female, why is it OK to sanction her destruction because she has Down’s Syndrome?

These are questions that a ‘pro-choice’ society would rather not face – which is why we can expect this and any related issue to be quitely, but firmly, avoided.


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