'An appalling practice': David Cameron vows to fight sex-selective abortions


Steve Connor
Wednesday 19 March 2014 18:08 GMT
Abortions based solely on gender are illegal in Britain
Abortions based solely on gender are illegal in Britain (The Image Bank/Getty Creative)

The Prime Minister David Cameron said today that sex-selective abortions – where female foetuses are deliberately destroyed because they are the “wrong sex” – are appalling and that he is determined to raise the matter with Britain’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies.

Mr Cameron told parliament that aborting foetuses because they are girls is “simply an appalling practice” and needs to be challenged within the ethnic communities where it might be a problem, not least because it is illegal in the UK.

In answer to a question from Paul Uppal MP, Mr Cameron said that Dame Sally and the Department of Health are preparing new guidance to doctors over abortions which will try to tackle the pressure that some pregnant women face to have sons in preference to daughters.

The Independent published an interview on Saturday with a young British-born mother of Pakistani parentage who said that she was pressured by her husband to have two abortions after pregnancy scans had shown that the foetuses she was carrying were female.

This followed our revelations earlier this year, based on an analysis of the 2011 national census records suggesting that up to 4,500 girls may be “missing” from the census data of England and Wales because of sex-selective abortions either in the UK or abroad within certain ethnic minorities.

Mr Uppal, MP for Wolverhampton south west, said that he raised the issue at Prime Minister’s questions in the House of Commons after seeing The Independent’s coverage and realising from discussions with his own constituents that there is a hidden problem within some ethnic groups.

“I’ve had conversations with people who’ve told me it’s going on and I trust what they are telling me. It’s a very subtle pressure on women to have sons. The expectation is there – I’ve seen it first hand myself,” Mr Uppal said.

“By talking about it and raising the profile, I’d like to take on the cultural pressure within families to have boys. Some Asians have such a preference for boys that they even define themselves by how many they have,” said Mr Uppal, who is from a Sikh background and has two daughters and a son.

“Anecdotally, I’ve had conversations with people about the pressure within extended families to have boys and how women sometimes come under pressure to abort foetuses if they are girls,” he said.

Earl Howe, the health minister, has said that there is no evidence for sex-selective abortions in the UK and that there are other explanations for The Independent’s census findings.

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