Abortion Rights have stated publicly that they believe "arguments in favour of criminalising sex-selection are imbued with prejudice towards ethnic minority communities." But proponents of the Bill still seem intent on presenting the people who disagree with them as a small group of "radicals", concerned by a hypothetical and petty erosion of their right to choose, while dismissive of the practical concerns of South Asian women, who are purportedly being coerced into having abortions on a significant scale, and who have, so far, been abandoned in their plight by the government.But scratch the surface, interrogate the evidence, and it's unclear how the Bill is going to help – and not damage – the interests of South Asian women most of all. It's unclear whether "helping" was ever the intention of the people behind it.In the same way that the Anti-Abortion Lobby have a vested interest in passing a Bill that restricts access to abortion, Purewal believes that anti-immigration groups had a vested interest in producing "evidence" of sex-selective abortion in the UK, because this perpetuates "the idea of [health] services under pressure, and deviant minorities using these public services for their health practices."In her talk, Purewal pointed out that one of the most influential pieces of research on sex-selective abortion in the UK was produced by the Oxford University demographer David Coleman. Incidentally, as well as being a respected demographer, Coleman is one of the founders of think tank Migration Watch UK – an "independent, voluntary non-political body concerned about the scale of immigration to the UK".
Interrogate the evidence, and it's unclear how the Bill is going to help – and not damage – the interests of South Asian women
If sex-selective abortion does happen in the UK, and if women are indeed coerced in to it (which, let's be clear, is a huge assumption), it's still unclear just how criminalisation could help them. Stop Gendercide argue that criminalisation would send a strong message, presumably to the coercive men they believe are making women have abortions. But even if this is true, it's likely to happen at the expense of pregnant, victimised women who are denied recourse to abortion.The fact that the law is unclear now – which seems like a deliberate thing, allowing practitioners to be sensitive to each woman's specific, complicated situation – reflects how difficult and murky an issue this is. Current UK law simply says that an abortion is justified when "continuing the pregnancy may involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated."Purewal points out that the danger to the physical or mental health of a pregnant woman who is being victimised for being pregnant with a female foetus could, on these grounds, legally justify a sex-selective termination. In effect, denying a woman an abortion in this situation would squash her between two oppressive forces: a coercive patriarchal community, and an authoritarian, patriarchal law.In India, Purewal believes there is little evidence that criminalising sex-selection abortion has helped at all, primarily because criminalisation does nothing to challenge the economic cultural and social dimensions of son preference. There's no reason why it would be any different in the UK, where Abortion Rights suggest that, if sex-selective abortions are happening, efforts should be "directed towards gender equality education instead.""I want to see the government think about how they can help these women, so that they don't have to go through these traumatic situations," Bruce argues in her Bill. But it bears repeating: proposing a criminalisation of women demonstrates little understanding of the broader context and reasons why women might be seeking sex-selective abortions. As Abortion Rights argue, "the solution to societal gender inequality is not further removing women's rights."Then again, there's not much evidence to suggest that Bruce cares about helping women, at least not as much as she cares about gradually eroding access to abortions.@CharlottEngland
The "abuse" of health services by "deviant minorities" is an excellent excuse for the government to continue this agenda, justifying further cuts and implementing more restrictions.