British Health Official Proposes Ban on Sex-Selection Abortions

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 12, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Health Official Proposes Ban on Sex-Selection Abortions Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 12, 2006

London, England ( — The British government has announced a new plan to ban sex-selection abortions there for non-medical reasons. The ban comes at a time when nations like India and China are struggling with the use of ultrasounds to determine the sex of the baby for abortions.

Health Minister Caroline Flint told MPs she intended to introduce a "clear and specific ban" on using ultrasound machines to find out the gender of a baby before birth for the purposes of having an abortion.

Flint warned that allowing parents to do that to "balance" the makeup of the children in their family would be the beginning of a "slippery slope" to designer babies, according to a report in the Evening Standard newspaper.

The ban is necessary, she indicated, but it could not prevent couples or women from traveling to another nation for a sex-selection abortion.

The sex-selection abortion ban is part of a comprehensive review of birthing technology laws. Detailed proposals are expected later in the year, she said.

Flint also indicated that the government will press for scrapping rules that cover fertility clinics and prevent them from working with single or lesbian women without a father’s input. Current laws require the father’s input on the well-being of the child.

Another possible rule change involves preimplantation genetic diagnosis, where parents who carry the genes for a specific disease or problematic medical condition seek to avoid passing it along to their children. Britain has had a particular problem of abortions being performed on unborn babies with physical or mental handicaps.

Revised rules would allow testing of embryos to determine if the gene will cause the disease or just make them carriers of it.

Flint has previously rejected calls to limit late-term abortions in Britain. Current law allows abortions to be done as late as 24-weeks into pregnancy, but she said the Tony Blair government doesn’t want to change the law.

However, pro-life organizations, religious groups and many MPs want to change the law and put the limit further into pregnancy because babies can now survive outside the womb at earlier points.