Recently, I noticed in work that the issue of sex-selective abortion has been discussed in Britain. Calls are being made to make the already criminal offence illegal (or more illegal?) which are gathering large levels of support in Britain. Primarily, the types of arguments used to impose greater restrictions on abortion are emerging due to cases of abortion based on the sex of the foetus and the need to protect vulnerable Asian women in Britain who are being forced into abortions due to the sex of the foetus. Of course, I am not an Asian woman (surprise, I know) but I thought I’d write something to be able to explore the issue a little more.
For the most part, these arguments seem perfectly noble and are managing to garner large amounts of support from the public. To me, this seems rather strange for a few reasons.
Firstly, the fact that the practice is already illegal seems pretty obvious. Abortions made on the basis of the sex of the foetus are illegal expect when the health of the mother is taken into account. So, there have been cases of doctors terminating pregnancies based on the impact that the sex of the child would have on the mother or her other children, such as being made homeless due to the foetus’ sex. I believe that this is valid, it seems more reasonable that this is a more effective way to actually help any mothers which may be coerced into abortion due to the sex of the foetus rather than further criminalising the practice.
Secondly, is the idea that further criminalisation would surely just drive women away from the safe means of abortion and to more unsafe and illicit means. If a woman is being forced to have an abortion based solely on the sex of the child then surely she can just as easily be coerced to abort in a non-safe way. Making all sex-selective abortion would in this way simply increase the number of unsafe abortions, harming those involved. Moreover, it is a possibility that the mother may have to see out the pregnancy just to be forced to abandon the child or sell the baby to slavery or prostitution. This prospect is obviously hugely concerning. Making all sex-selective abortions criminal with no considerations made for impacts such as this and the safety of the mother would surely cause more harm to those which the legislation supposedly wants to defend.
The push for greater control on abortion seems to be just that, wanting to put limits on abortion. the way to actually help any women which may be forced into abortion would surely be to better understand the cultural issues surrounding the practice and be able to contribute something useful as opposed to simply branding the practice illegal and sweeping it under the rug.To very firmly place the blame for this practice at those forced into it and to make them accountable for it seems ludicrous. It seems that it is domestic violence which should be addressed here and not abortion laws.
The actual enforcement would be highly questionable, too. The practice has been illegal in India for some time but rarely is it actually enforced.
I hope that the amendment to the Serious Crime Bill proposed is actually fully considered, as opposed to a knee-jerk reaction to condemn and ban the practice due to the arguments which its proponents are using, which seem to be in service of simply limiting women’s reproductive rights.