There is no doubt that female foeticide, notably in China, India and Korea, is distorting the gender balance of their societies and devaluing women and girls. That has consequences for all women reinforcing disempowerment and a lesser status.
There is no room for complacency in the UK and we need to remain vigilant.
The Department of Health has updated their analysis of male to female birth rates with data from 2008-2012 and this now includes ethnicity. Without exception, birth ratios were within the expected range for all UK communities, including analysis by ethnicity and birth order.
There may be individual cases but it would be entirely wrong to stigmatise entire communities in Britain by suggesting that this is in any way a common or systematic practice here ...it is not.
For those individual women who do feel under pressure not to continue with a pregnancy purely on the grounds of gender, Fiona Bruce's proposed amendment to the Serious Crimes Bill, will have unintended consequences. Far from protecting them, fear of criminalisation means that these women will not attend their doctor's surgery or clinic prepared to discuss the pressures they face but will present with an entirely different reason for requesting a termination of pregnancy. The opportunity will be lost to talk about any threats or actual domestic violence an individual may face for giving birth to female children.
The amendment is also unnecessary because doctors already know that it is against the law to carry out an abortion solely because of the gender of the foetus unless there are other grounds, for example the risk of a sex-linked inherited medical condition. The updated guidance from the Department of Health and the Chief Medical Officer clearly allows the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute should any cases arise. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives have made it clear that they consider the amendment unnecessary as sex selection is already unlawful. Their members know this.
If passed there is a grave danger however, that it will create uncertainty in the law for those families affected by serious sex-linked medical conditions for example X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome and X-linked spinal muscular atrophy. There are a number of these conditions and it is not always possible to detect them by genetic testing. The proposed amendment may make it impossible for these families to retain the choice not to proceed with pregnancies where there is a risk of one of these terrible diseases.
There is another reason to oppose the amendment and that is because it is a veneer, its underlying effect will be to erode the Abortion Act. The term 'unborn child' within this amendment completely changes the framework of abortion law. Across our legislation and common law, children are afforded a wide range of protections and rights that are not afforded to the foetus.
It would be entirely wrong to effect such a major change on the basis of a short debate on an amendment sneaked onto the coat tails of wording which appears at first sight to have the intention of protecting women.
This is a Trojan horse. The underlying agenda of many of those behind this amendment is to erode women's access to safe and legal abortion altogether and I will be voting against it.