As researchers claim thousands of female foetuses are being illegally aborted in the UK, the government proposes major overhaul for abortion law…
Female foetuses are being illegally aborted by families from certain ethnic groups, according to a major investigation undertaken by The Independent.
“There is absolutely no doubt that these terminations, where a mother has an abortion because the child is a girl, are taking place within the South Asian population in Britain"
The Independent published statistical analysis of the 2011 National Census, demonstrating that there have been "illegal" sex-selective abortions within communities from the subcontinent, resulting in the ‘disappearance’ of up to 4,700 girls.
The Independent reached its findings after analysing data from the 2011 National Census. They examined data relating to immigrant families and looked at the instances of boys being born as second children after a firstborn girl.
Presently the UK ratio of boys to girls stands at 1.05 meaning that for every 100 girls, 105 boys are born. In India and China, the discrepancy is as high as 120 or 140 boys being born for every 100 girls.
They explained: "[This] can only be easily explained by women choosing to abort female foetuses in the hope of becoming quickly pregnant again with a boy."
According to researchers, many in the UK are choosing to abort if they discover they are pregnant with a baby girl
So why are so many choosing to abort their female foetuses?
It's all down to the fact that, among some South-Asian communities, women are pressured to produce a son due to the widely-held belief that boys are “culturally, economically and socially more desirable” than daughters.
Jasvinder Sanghera - who runs the charity Karma Nirvana and campaigns against forced marriage - said to The Independent:
“There is absolutely no doubt that these terminations, where a mother has an abortion because the child is a girl, are taking place within the South Asian population in Britain.
"I think almost any Asian woman you talk to would say she feels a pressure to have a male child… If you have a daughter, these women will tell us, they feel they have let their husband or in-laws down.”
Should women be allowed to learn the gender of their unborn baby before the abortion cut-off point?
While current laws state that an abortion can be carried out in the UK until 24 weeks into the pregnancy, most medical practitioners advise it is done as early as possible - ideally by 12 weeks.
However research has revealed that about 10% of the 190,000 abortions carried out in England and Wales in 2011 took place after 13 weeks of pregnancy, when the sex organs of the foetus are clearly visible from ultrasound scans.
Abortions based solely on gender are illegal in Britain and in many other countries, even those where the practice is widespread. In parts of India and China there are now as many as 120 or 140 boys for every 100 girls despite a ban on sex-selective abortion.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “Abortion on the grounds of sex selection is against the law and completely unacceptable.”
In an attempt to stop parents selectively aborting female foetuses, campaigners are now calling for a ban on revealing the sex of a foetus before the 24-week abortion limit.
This would mean that parents would have to wait until they were six months into their pregnancy before they could find out if they were expecting a son or daughter - and, while this would make it difficult to decorate the baby's room, it would also help to stop gender-selective abortion.
The government has also proposed that women should be allowed to have an abortion without the approval of a doctor
However Clare Murphy, director of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, has issues with the idea.
She said: “Withholding information such as gender has unpleasant implications that you cannot trust a woman with information about their own body.”
This isn't the only change to abortion laws that has been suggested; a new government proposal has suggested that women should no longer need to seek a doctor's approval before having a termination.
Currently, under the 1967 Abortion Act, two doctors are required - as "good practise" - to approve every abortion.
However ministers have now explained that more than half of aborions – a massive 96,000 a year – are carried out without either doctor ever even meeting the patient.
Opponents say this move trivialises abortion and opens the door for abortion on demand, doing away with the protections for women intended by the Abortion Act.
“It is entirely unnecessary for women to see a doctor... Nurses are often much better at dealing with the emotional and psychological needs of women”
Lord Alton, a cross-bench peer, said: “It disturbs me that women are making the most serious of decisions without any chance to reflect or discuss their situation with a doctor face-to-face.”
But some say the proposals should go further. “It is entirely unnecessary for women to see a doctor,” said Tracey McNeil, director of Marie Stopes International, “Nurses are often much better at dealing with the emotional and psychological needs of women.”
Do you think that women should be allowed an abortion without seeing a doctor first? Do you think the gender of an unborn baby shouldn't be revealed until 24 weeks into the pregnancy? Let us know your thoughts below via our Comments Box, now.