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MPs reject “gender abortion” amendment

In November 2014 the Commons supported a bill proposed by Conservative MP Fiona Bruce which aimed to put beyond doubt that the practice of sex-selective abortion was illegal. The Commons supported the bill by 181 votes to one.   

The BBC reported at the time that, “Her 10-minute rule bill is unlikely to become law due to lack of time. i  

On 23rd February 2015, Parliament debated an amendment to the Serious Crimes Bill that would have explicitly outlawed abortion on the grounds of gender.  In a massive reversal of the November vote it was defeated by 291 votes to 201.

Writing in the Telegraph, Dr Tim Stanley commented, “The result was a surprise (in the light of the vote three months earlier). There was broad consensus across the Commons that terminating a pregnancy simply because the foetus is male or female is an abhorrent thing to do. Indeed it is already technically illegal: all the amendment would have done was make that fact explicit so that the law could not be creatively interpreted otherwise. Given how modest the amendment was, its sudden defeat was very strange indeed. Especially when one considers the number of self-described feminist MPs who opposed it.”

Making the case for the change, Mrs Bruce had said, "Why is this new clause necessary? It is necessary because there is no explicit statement about gender selective abortion in UK law. The law is being interpreted in different ways because when the 1967 Abortion Act was passed, scans to determine the sex of the foetus were not available."

The Congleton MP had said that her amendment would "clarify beyond doubt in statute that sex selective abortion is illegal in UK law."  i

On the day before the debate the Telegraph had reported that MPs were likely to vote against the amendment after Labour had warned that it would have "troubling consequences".  In a letter to MPs, the Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, warned that the amendment had the potential to undermine Britain's abortion laws because it uses the phrase "unborn child". i Tim Stanley comments, “This is nonsense: the 1967 Abortion Act already refers to a foetus as a ‘child’.”  He also lists and refutes other charges made by MPs against the bill, saying that they were, “based upon either misunderstandings or outright falsehoods. i

Speaking after the defeat Rani Bilkhu, a long-time campaigner on the issue, said: “This is an insult to the women we work with who have suffered under the burden of sex-selective abortion and have said they want clarity in the law. i

MARCH 2015


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