i Editor's Letter: Proof for gender-based abortion


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The Independent Online


Today’s front page investigation had its genesis in a conversation back in February 2012. A rival paper (The  Telegraph) had just run a superb undercover report revealing that several British doctors were agreeing to abortions of baby girls after parents objected to the foetus’s gender. Abortions based solely on gender are illegal in the UK.

What the reporters couldn’t show was whether these were isolated  incidents or part of a wider pattern.  i’s Science Editor, Steve Connor, was  already in touch with researchers to try to find statistical evidence that might prove or disprove such a pattern.

I pestered him for a while, then forgot about it. Steve meanwhile kept digging. Two years later, his persistence has paid off. His investigation shows that the practice of aborting baby girls to ensure families have sons is now practised widely enough in certain communities to show up in the official population statistics. Aborting baby girls is so commonplace, he writes, that it has skewed the natural 50:50 balance of girls to boys. We commissioned a series of tables about England and Wales from the Office for National Statistics, then  had the analysis checked by professional statisticians.

Their conclusion? Ultimately, that the gender imbalance of kids born to mothers originally from Pakistan and Bangladesh can only be explained by gender-based abortion. This shocking finding will have implications beyond these communities: it will prompt heated political, social and medical debate – even on whether pregnant women should be legally allowed to know their baby’s gender at 13 weeks.

The Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, born in India, writes i’s My View column today on this distressing form of sex discrimination, and its impact on women and society.

Expect further coverage this week.


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