So, a few days ago our MP’s voted against an amendment to our current Abortion legislation which would have made it explicitly clear that performing an abortion on the basis of gender would be illegal. Fiona Bruce who tabled the amendment suggests her clause has two aims, ‘first, to state with absolute clarity that UK law prohibits sex-selective abortion, second, to provide the Government with an opportunity to develop guidance and regulations aimed at tackling the problem‘. You may intuitively think that there is nothing controversial about that amendment, you would, however, be wrong. It sent some pro-choice feminists into a frenzy of action and scaremongering, and if there’s one thing the pro-choice community are good at it’s scaremongering. This case was no exception.
It’s ironic and disheartening that some women’s rights groups are so ideologically blind, that they find themselves defending a position that doesn’t extend to protecting young humans being killed based solely upon their gender, mostly females. Worldwide it is suggested that there are now over 100 million missing girls because they are either aborted, killed or neglected. These same people suggest that opposing the amendment will actually better protect and empower women. Nonsense.
The pro-choice feminist Sarah Ditum is an example of the moral confusion endemic to modern feminism, she wrote an article in NewStatesman arguing that feminists ought to oppose the ban on sex-selective abortion. Let’s have a look at some of the points she raises and see how persuasive they are.
Ditum begins her polemic by attaching a picture of Fiona Bruce delivering a petition against same sex marriage, what this has to do with making sex-selective abortion is anyone’s guess. I suppose it fits the make believe narrative that people who oppose abortion for some reason must be nasty people. She begins by bringing up the subject of male violence and femicide, I agree with her that it can be a tough topic to raise. But I have no problem acknowledging and condemning male violence against women, and also thinking that making sex-selective abortion illegal is a good thing. Male violence against women is still a serious problem that I don’t see improving anytime soon. With the ease of which young boys can access and view violent pornography (it’s hard to learn how to treat women properly when you have absorbed copious hours of porn that teaches you women exist to satisfy your sexual desires), absent fathers (after all, how can a boy learn how to properly treat women without a father figure to lead by example?), a culture of male violence and the rise of ‘ladism’. It’s hard to not be cynical.
Bans on sex-selective abortions don’t work. Ditum uses India and Taiwan as examples of where legislation against sex-selective abortions is already in place, but hasn’t been effective. However, no one is arguing that making something illegal stops it happening at all, nonetheless, it will stop some people from breaking the law. A few problems with the comparisons with India and Taiwan are that sex-selective abortions were already rife in those places prior to changes in legislation.Women were already viewed less favorably than men in there, and so it is not at all surprising that the legislation alone has had little or no impact. In the UK sex-selective abortions are not common practice, nevertheless, with a rise in immigration comes a rise in different cultural ideals and worldviews and so the demand for sex-selective abortions could increase. A change in legislation would make it clear to everyone that performing an abortion based solely upon the sex of the human fetus is illegal and morally wrong.
The India comparison is especially poor because current Indian legislation completely contradicts the equality of both men and women: women rarely inherit anything which they are legally entitled to, have no right to marital property, and the rape of your estranged wife carries a lesser punishment than the rape of any other woman. Whereas, UK legislation has reinforced the equality of men and women for decades, supporting the claim that they ought to be treated equally throughout their existence. Therefore, to claim that a ban on sex-selective abortions won’t work here because it hasn’t worked in India is nonsense.
We have had the right kind of egalitarian legislation in place for quite some time, and it provides a sound legal basis for making sex-selective abortions illegal. There is a similar problem with comparing the UK with Taiwan, we are culturally and geographically miles part, and it would be simplistic, ignorant and naive to compare our cultural views of women to India or Taiwan. We have our own problems, but we do not have the ‘extreme femicidal culture that fatally devalues women‘ that Ditum correctly observes exists in those places. I don’t find her comparisons with India or Taiwan to be at all analogous to the UK. It may be the case that the legislation against sex-selective abortion doesn’t have a huge impact on its own (Fiona Bruce acknowledges this much) in a misogynistic culture without accompanying egalitarian changes to their laws. However, sometimes it’s just sensible to deal with a little problem before it becomes a bigger one.
Sex-selective abortion in the UK is rare. This is true, sex-selective abortion is not rife in the UK but they do happen and they are on the increase. I think the CPS made a serious mistake when they ruled that convicting the doctors that offered sex-selective abortions was ‘not in the public interest’. What sort of message does this send out to the general public? This also goes against the argument given by a number of MP’s like Yvette Cooper who argued that under the current legislation sex-selective abortions are already illegal. If sex-selective abortions are already illegal under the 1967 Act, then why weren’t they prosecuted, and why weren’t those same MP’s previously arguing that they should be?
Making sex-selective abortions illegal will turn women into criminals. Ditum suggests that the amendment to the current legislation would ‘criminalise’ women who procure sex-selective abortions. It does no such thing. No new criminal offence is created and those legally responsible for upholding the law are the authorising doctors, not the women who procure them. It will certainly not turn women into criminals as Ditum claims, it’s just more uninformed preaching to the pro-choice choir. Nor has any group or individual who supported the amendment suggested that men who assault women should not feel the full force of the law. A number of organisations and groups from both sides of the abortion debate who support the amendment are dedicated to helping women who experience abuse or have been coerced by a partner into having a sex-selective abortion.
It will stop women gaining access to an abortion for a sex-related congenital disorder. These concerns were raised by the pro-choice organisation Antenatal Results and Choices, Fiona Bruce herself has said that this claim has no basis in reality. This would have been made clear in the presentation and wording of the amendment. This was simply another smear tactic to encourage MP’s to be wary about voting for a change to the Abortion Act, and it is tactics like this that seemed to have worked.
It’s a clandestine way of giving the unborn greater rights at the expense of women. Ditum suggests that because Bruce uses the phrase ‘unborn child’ that this somehow equates with granting the human fetus the legal status of a person. It does nothing of the sort. It in no way gives the unborn humans the legal rights of a person which is why a number of pro-choice organisations and individuals support the amendment. It would simply make it illegal for doctors to offer or perform abortions on the basis of ones gender. Unborn child is simply a colloquial term for an unborn human, it’s only controversial in the pro-choice community because they prefer to hide behind terms that make it emotionally and intellectually easier to kill unborn members of the human community. Most damning for her criticism is that the 1967 Abortion Act already refers to the fetus as a ‘child’ in 1 (d).
Savita Halappanavar. I’m surprised Ditum brought up the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland in her article as if this supports her case, Ireland is one of, if not the safest place in the world to give birth. Contrary to popular belief, Savita’s death had nothing to do with not having access to an abortion. The HSE inquiry pointed out that her death was due to very poor and ineffective management of her sepsis, which was the cause of her death. Savita died because she received poor medical treatment, and not because she didn’t have access to an abortion. Her unfortunate death was the catalyst for much clearer legislation and a number of improvements to the care of critically ill pregnant women.
Sadly we know because of leaked emails that Irish pro-choice organisations and individuals were made aware of Savita’s case before all the facts were fully known and the story broke to the media. They exploited her case by asserting that if legal abortion was available she may not have died. This simply isn’t true, but why does truth matter when you have an ideological axe to grind?
What this decision tells us is that the government has no intention of enforcing the law on abortion, the truth is that we effectively have abortion on demand which is why around 200,000 abortions take place each year in the UK. If our MP’s can’t even agree that killing members of the human community because of their gender is wrong then it just demonstrates how much work we have to do.