In 2017, it was stated that there were 189, 8591 abortions for women resident in England and Wales and 194, 6681 abortions including non-residents. This is an increase of 2.3% since 2016 (Department of Health and Social Care. 2017).
An Abortion can be defined as a deliberate termination of a pregnancy. Abortions often take place during the first 28 weeks of pregnancy. Reasons why individuals choose to abort a child (ren) include, unplanned pregnancy, therapeutic abortions (medical problem where allowing the pregnancy to continue to birth would endanger the woman’s health) and in some cases selective abortions where pregnancies are terminated due to the sex of an unborn child.
Sex Selective abortions which constitute to a small percentage of overall abortions occur when it perceived that the foetus has a defect, the foetus does not suit the parents in some way and in some cases if the unborn child is a girl.
According to BBC (2014), the preference for male children in some communities is largely dependent on economic reasons. Listed below are other justifications for male preference:
- Females cannot hold property in some societies, so a male child is essential for a family to retain its wealth
- Females are transitory members of a family – they marry and leave home
- females generally earn less than boys
- Males bring in a dowry when they marry, adding to the family wealth however, dowry payments are made when a female gets married.
- A wife’s status (and thus her economic security) is not consolidated until she produces a son
The practice of sex selective abortions is illegal in the UK and other countries such as India. A report constructed by The Department of Health and Social Care (2015) found “no substantiated concerns of gender abortions occurring in England, Wales and Scotland” however, some argue that these findings could be false.
The argument challenging the above “false statement” is due to the fact that parents can find out about the sex of their unborn child before termination. Parents therefore do not need to disclose during termination that, the reason for their choice to abort is due to gender and could present other cover stories to support their decision to terminate a pregnancy.
Professor Savage (Senior doctors’ union member) stated that “It is the women’s right to decide, It’s her body. She is the one taking the risks.” Some individuals have critcised Professor Savages’s comments and have called her views “extreme” (Conservative MP Mark Field) and “incredibly disturbing” (Aisling Hubert- pro-life campaigner).
Under current law (Abortion Act 1967) in the UK, it is not unlawful to terminate a pregnancy “where two registered medical practitioners (RMPs) are of the opinion, formed in good faith, “that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped”. Subsequently, it is illegal to abort a foetus on the grounds of gender under The Serious Crime Act 2015.
The Serious Crime Act 2015 does require “evidence of termination of pregnancy on the grounds of the sex of the foetus in England, Wales and Scotland” to exercise prosecution.
United Nations Populations Fund (UNPF) states that, “tackling the root cause of son preference and gender-biased sex selection – gender inequality – may be more effective, and it yields benefits for all of society. Empowered women and girls contribute to the health and productivity of families and communities and improve prospects for future generations. Awareness of their value and contributions is essential to changing behaviours”.
It is important to know that sex selective abortion is not a religious practice. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism do not promote or encourage this practice.
Consequences of sex selective abortions
The shortage of women will have social consequences as men may not be able to marry leading to concerns around reproduction and societal development. An increase in human trafficking for “cross country brides” is also likely which further increases risk of domestic violence, modern slavery, sexual and emotional abuse. It is possible that if sexual needs are not met sex industries may expand putting more females at risk of significant harm.
The imbalance may cause women to “marry up,” leaving the least desirable men with no marriage prospects. This may cause further dysfunction within society especially amongst males who have a desire to get married. There may also be an increase in infertility, an increase in homosexuality and crimes related to homosexuality.
Over many years of research, evidence suggests that many crimes committed by both males and females are often by individuals from “broken” homes. The imbalance ratio of men to women will mean that children will grow up in an environment without the input of both a mother and father (a key part of any child’s development.).
Sex selective abortions also send out and encourage the bias views that females are inferior to men. A world without females is a world without order- Pamela Simwanza (2018).
Where do I go for help if I feel pressured to abort my unborn child?
In the UK, you can contact The National Domestic Helpline on 0808 2000 247 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This organisation works in partnership with women’s aid and Refuge who can assist victims with finding safe accommodation. In cases of emergency please call 999.
References and Further Reading