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Sex-selective Abortion

Volume 576: debated on Tuesday 25 February 2014

The Government will publish more detailed guidance on compliance with the Abortion Act 1967 shortly. That will include guidance on sex-selection abortions and restate our view that abortion on the grounds of gender alone is unlawful.

Britain’s biggest abortion provider, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, has advice on its website claiming that the law is “silent on the matter” of gender-selective abortion. In a leaflet, it actually states that it is not illegal. How does the Minister propose to address that, and to send out the clear message that strong legal action will be taken against anyone who is involved in that wholly unacceptable practice?

Although the Abortion Act does not mention gender specifically, the Government are clear that abortion on the grounds of gender alone does not meet the criteria set out in the Act. If evidence comes to light that doctors or organisations are sanctioning abortions for that reason alone, we will refer it to the police.

The Minister is quite right that the Abortion Act does not state that the practice is illegal. Organisations such as Marie Stopes International operate under an ethical and professional framework in which they state that they will not perform abortions on the basis of sex selection. However, the chief executive of BPAS has said that

“there is no legal requirement to deny a woman an abortion”

if she wants to abort a female. The Government commission abortion services from BPAS and Marie Stopes. Does the Minister not think it is about time to have a closer look at BPAS, which is headed by a chief executive who condones sex-selection abortions?

That is exactly why we want to reissue the guidance on this matter. I cannot add to what I have said. I say with complete clarity that the Government’s view is that sex-selection abortion—abortion on the grounds of gender alone—is illegal and we will report it to the police if we are given evidence of it.