British Labour party leaders are trying to protect unborn babies from discriminatory sex-selection abortions by urging new restrictions on a prenatal blood test.
Sex-selection abortions are a problem across the world, and some countries are suffering from extremely imbalanced male populations because so many girls have been aborted. Earlier this year the Government of India estimated 63 million girls are missing from its population.
This week, British Labour MP Naz Shah, shadow minister for women and equalities, said she does not want the same thing to happen in the UK. She warned that new early prenatal blood tests known as NIPT are likely being used in England to abort unborn babies based on their sex.
“NIPT screenings should be used for their intended purpose, to screen for serious conditions such as Down’s syndrome,” Shah told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire program. “The government needs to look into this exploitative practice and enforce appropriate restrictions.”
The National Health Service provides the non-invasive blood tests to pregnant mothers but only to screen for abnormalities. However, the Daily Sabah reports private clinics offer the tests to parents who want to know the sex of the baby for £150 to £200 ($197 to $262).
Tan Dhesi, a fellow Labour MP for Slough, said one way to prevent discriminatory sex-selection abortions would be to prohibit private clinics from advertising NIPT for sex determination, according to the Independent.
A BBC investigation found thousands of pregnant women discussing online how to use NIPT to find out their baby’s sex.
Abortion activists already are pushing back against the proposals, but charity leaders say sex-selection abortions are hurting women and girls in the UK.
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Here’s more from the report:
A charity established to support pregnant women from ethnic communities, Jeena International, said that there have been cases in which women were repeatedly forced to abort their babies because of their female gender.
Rani Bilkhu, founder of the charity, said “No wonder they’re resorting to sex-selection abortion, because they’ve got no choice… They don’t want to be homeless, they don’t want their marriage to fail – all because they couldn’t give birth to a boy.”
A Nuffield Council on Bioethics report for Genetic Alliance UK also acknowledged that sex-selection abortions are a major concern involving the tests. However, the council argued that any restrictions could negatively impact a woman’s choice to have an abortion, Yahoo News reports.
“In the UK public opposition to sex selection for non-medical reasons has been repeatedly and clearly demonstrated, including in the form of a specific prohibition in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008,” the report states. “However, it is very challenging to enforce this without negatively impacting on the reproductive autonomy of the woman.”
British Pregnancy Advisory Services, an abortion chain, also opposes the proposal.
“… the solution to issues of gender inequality do not lie in further restricting women’s reproductive rights,” a BPAS spokesperson said in response to the proposal.
Though sex-selection abortions are illegal in England, there is evidence that they may be happening anyway. A 2014 study found that there were about 4,700 fewer girls in Britain than what statistics would suggest – leading many to speculate that they may have been aborted, according to the report. In 2013, another British government report also found evidence that unborn girls are being targeted for sex-selection abortions.
Further, in 2012, an undercover investigation by the London Telegraph exposed several British abortion doctors who were willing to help facilitate illegal sex-selection abortions.
Experts estimate that as many as 200 million girls are missing world-wide because they were aborted based on their sex. Even research from the United Nations, which is no champion of unborn babies’ rights, points to sex-selection abortions as a huge discrimination problem against women and girls.
Evidence of the discriminatory practice is especially strong in Asia. In China, for example, the birth ratio was 115.88 boys to 100 girls in 2014, according to research by the Charlotte Lozier Institute.
In the United States, sex-selection abortions are legal in most states.