Cross-posted from The Telegraph
English MPs will tomorrow urge the Government to introduce monitoring of the sex of aborted babies to establish whether or not British couples are being granted terminations illegally on grounds of gender.
It follows an investigation by The Telegraph last year which uncovered evidence of doctors agreeing to remove foetuses simply because they were either male or female.
Earl Howe, the health minister, disclosed recently that Government analysis of birth figures showed that illegal “sex-selection abortion” could be taking place within some immigrant communities in the UK.
But the Department of Health has refused to release a list of nationalities whose mothers tend to have far more boys than girls, arguing that it is not in the “public interest” to do so.
Now a cross-party group of MPs has launched a parliamentary drive to persuade the Government to record the gender of aborted foetuses.
Fiona Bruce, the Conservative backbencher, and Labour’s Jim Dobbin, are jointly introducing a private bill to be debated tomorrow, with the support of dozens of MPs.
Mrs Bruce, who is also chairing a parliamentary inquiry into abortion on grounds of disability, said: “It is a tragedy that in some countries the words ‘it’s a girl’ are not always a source of joy but of danger; the illegal abortion of baby girls and the resultant imbalance in the number of young men and women in certain parts of these countries is surely something which no one in this country can condone.
“What should cause real distress is that babies are being aborted because they are the wrong gender.
“The most dangerous place for girl should not be in her mother’s womb.
“After all the endeavours on the part of successive governments to outlaw and end discrimination, the fact that a baby could be aborted just because she is a girl (or, indeed, a boy) remains the most basic form of discrimination, and concerns about it cross communities, cultures and countries.
“We need to be willing to open up a dialogue about this in the UK and to ensure that that dialogue is properly evidence-based – hence the call for the Department of Health to take action.”
Earl Howe’s disclosure followed a parliamentary question by Lord Alton of Liverpool, a cross-bench peer and prominent Roman Catholic.
Officials analysed boy-girl ratios of all births between 2007 and 2011, and broken the figures down according to the mother’s birth country.
Across the country, 105 boys are born per 100 girls. For some nationalities this figure is as high as 108 boys born per 100 girls.
Ministers acknowledge that there are disparities but argue that more research is needed to know whether thy can be explained by natural variations.
But campaign groups claim the Government is reluctant to publish the list for fear of marginalising some communities.
Sex-selection abortions are thought to be behind a growing demographic imbalance in several countries where baby boys are more highly prized for cultural or economic reasons.
In China, where the official one child policy has been in operation for decades, there are now 37 million more males than females in China – the equivalent of the entire population of Poland.
In India, which has around 1.2 billion people, the number of girls has declined significantly in the last decade in comparison with boys.