Today, the Department of Health released the study that the alternative amendment to the Serious Crime Bill on sex-selective abortion required them to carry out and publish. This includes an explanation as to why they believe no strategic plan is necessary to implement to tackle the substantiated concerns over sex-selective abortion. The Stop Gendercide campaign points out that this study does little to advance the investigation, or the tackling, of the serious issue of sex-selective abortion.
The Department of Health study is both too lacking in focus and too light in detail to be particularly helpful on the serious issue with which it attempts to engage. It focuses on sex ratios for births, concerning itself as to whether sex-selective abortion is taking place on a large enough level that it would be noticeable in that statistical form. Yet no-one has suggested that sex-selection is that widespread, and so this proves nothing as to the existence of such practices, or whether action needs to be taken to stop them.
Meanwhile, the statement and explanation of why a plan to combat sex-selective abortion is not required admits that “it was not possible to complete a systematic review of the literature”, and that they “do not have enough information to properly assess” the concerns of the stakeholder organisations – including those women’s groups that constitute the Stop Gendercide campaign – about pressure on pregnant mothers to abort on the basis of sex. Due to this, the study cannot function as an assessment of the reality of what has been reported.
Worse, by claiming – despite the ridiculous limitations of its approach and data considered – that there are no ‘substantiated concerns’ of sex-selective abortion occurring in the UK, this study discounts the first-hand testimonies of survivors of sex-selective abortion, falsely dismissing them as illegitimate (if not fabricated) evidence, and implying that such accounts are unworthy of active response. Instead, they concentrate on irrelevant ratios, ask stakeholder organisations for unnecessarily large-scale “qualitative data and quantitative analysis”, and thereby define away the problem. This is unacceptable, and fails to add anything of ultimate substance to an appreciation or solution of this dire issue.
Despite these profound flaws, the Stop Gendercide Campaign welcomes the few positive actions the Department of Health intend on achieving. These include further work with Jeena International (a member organisation of the Stop Gendercide campaign) to explore whether further information on misogynistic pressures on pregnant women are available, and more extensive consideration of other evidence. We also repeat our call however, for the Government to clarify the law so as to help end the reality of sex-selective abortion in British communities.
Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, said: “This response by the Department of Health to the harrowing experiences of women who suffer the pressure to abort their unborn baby girls is disingenuous and unacceptable. All that was actually necessary for them to do was to investigate the stories of those women who have gone through sex-selective abortions – and the women’s groups which support them – and prescribe solutions to the shortcomings in healthcare, culture, and law, which lead to this misogynistic practice occurring. We need to listen much more carefully to these women and fix the system and wider culture which is so cruelly failing them and their unborn children.”