The British parliament is set to debate banning abortions performed purely on the grounds of the baby’s gender, as a cross-party group of MPs is pushing for Britain’s abortion laws to be clarified over whether doctors can be prosecuted for the practice.
Last year, Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Keir Starmer decided not to bring charges against two doctors caught agreeing to arrange abortions purely because the babies were female, as the 1967 Abortion Act was not clear enough on whether they had committed a crime.
He later said that the law “does not, in terms, expressly prohibit gender-specific abortions”, while the British Medical Association said that there may be circumstances where the procedure “would be lawful”.
Britain’s biggest abortion provider, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), has also regularly said that gender-specific abortion is not illegal, and that the law is “silent” on the subject.
The Telegraph reports that tomorrow, however, a cross-party group of female MPs are to introduce a bill to the House of Commons to clarify the Abortion Act and outlaw the practice. The bill will be tabled by Fiona Bruce, a pro-life Conservative MP who claims to have wide support from across the political spectrum, including from pro-choice MPs.
Mrs Bruce said: “This isn’t seeking to change the law, that’s the important thing, we are only seeking to clarify it and also to eradicate any confusion that there might be about this issue.
“[The Act] never was intended to be this, it has been pushed way beyond the boundaries and I can say quite confidently, from the support I’ve had on this proposed bill, that my view is shared by a huge number of my colleagues here.
“And that’s right across the political spectrum, that is from many different parties and it is very interesting that some of the women who are supporting my bill you would consider would be in many cases diametrically opposed to me on many issues relating to women, on this one they are standing full-square with me.”
“It goes along with forced marriage, it goes along with Female Genital Mutilation, it is the ultimate form of discrimination,” she added.
The bill will be introduced as a ‘Ten Minute Rule Bill’, which allows the person tabling it just ten minutes to propose it, at the end of the day’s business. Such bills rarely become law, and are instead used by MPs to highlight a particular issue.
Mrs Bruce added: “I want to send out a strong signal from Parliament and I also want to ensure that the executive, the Government, receives that message from parliamentarians that we want the Government to apply the law in this case, which requires them to inspect registered providers and ensure they are not carrying out abortions on this ground.”