An MP in Northern Ireland has criticised the Government in Westminster for imposing a new abortion regime on Northern Ireland that legalises sex-selective abortion.
In the wake of a debate concerning the availability of abortion throughout the region, DUP MP Carla Lockhart asked the Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Robin Walker:
“On implementing what the Government term adequate abortion provision in Northern Ireland, is the Minister concerned that under Northern Ireland’s abortion regulations, sex-selective abortion is permitted?”
“The regulations permit abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks, within which time it is possible to determine the sex of the foetus. What measures will he take to address this matter of deep concern?”
In reply to this question, the Minister said:
“The Government publish an annual analysis of the male-female birth ratio for England and Wales to see whether any evidence of this issue arises. The latest reports show no evidence that this is an issue in England and Wales.”
However, a BBC investigation published in September 2018 revealed evidence that new NIPT pre-natal tests were being used on a widespread basis to determine the sex of babies, with women discussing that they were under intense pressure to undergo sex-selective abortions.
There is also a body of first-hand testimonies from UK-resident women who say that they have come under intense pressure from family members to have sex-selective abortions and have gone on to obtain these abortions in the UK.
A report from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, a government advisory body, found a number of websites offering baby gender tests for around £170. In that report, the Council warned that the increasingly widespread use of the tests in the UK could lead to the country becoming a haven for sex-selective abortions.
An investigation by the Telegraph revealed that doctors were agreeing to provide sex-selective abortions ‘no questions asked.’
Independent polling undertaken by SavantaComRes shows that 89% of the general population and 91% of women agree that gender-selective abortion should be explicitly banned by the law.
Abortion in Northern Ireland
Since the imposition of a new extreme abortion regime last year, abortion has been available in Northern Ireland throughout the first 12 weeks of gestation on demand. This abortion provision also allows abortion on the basis of the sex of the child.
Polling from 2020 showed that the majority of voters only want abortion to be available in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, which is in line with where the law was before the Westminster Parliament imposed a change to the law in Northern Ireland..
Sex-selective abortion: a global problem
Since amending its abortion law in 1998, sex-selective abortions have become a major issue in Canada.
An article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal describes how “easy access to abortion and advances in prenatal sex determination have combined to make Canada a haven for parents who would terminate female fetuses in favour of having sons”.
In other countries such as India and China, where sex-selective abortion and infanticide is widespread, baby girls tend to be aborted leading to a skewed sex ratio at birth. Research released last year suggests that the lives of almost 5 million baby girls in India will be lost over the next decade due to the prevalent use of sex-selective abortions.
A recent report from India’s Government also found an estimated 63 million women were “missing” from the country’s population.
Census data from 2011 showed there were 919 girls to every 1,000 boys for children up to the age of six. In some northern states that ratio was as low as 830, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
In 2019, it was revealed that out of 216 births across dozens of villages in northern India, over a three-month period, not a single girl was born.
Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “Abortion has been widely available in Northern Ireland for less than a year, so it is impossible to know whether or not the availability of sex-selective abortion will have a long-term impact on the sex ratio in the region”.
“In either case, the fact that sex-selective abortion is legal at all is appalling. It is a truly monstrous practice that any civilised nation should ban outright. Abortion providers, who sell their product in the name of women’s rights, have nothing to say about this most profound attack on the rights of women and girls in the womb whose lives are ended for the crime of being girls. As we see with disability selective abortion, while our nation is doing much to end unjust discrimination against people with disabilities and the unfair treatment of women, those sentiments do not apply to disabled babies or girls in the womb”.