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Stop Gendercide Alarmed At New BMA Policy That Would Legalise Sex-Selective Abortion

Stop Gendercide is expressing alarm and deep concern towards the ill-conceived adoption this week by the British Medical Association (BMA) of a policy that would legalise sex-selective abortion, either up to 28 weeks of gestation, or even up to birth.

This week, the BMA held their Annual Representative Meeting (ARM), and voted for a Motion that would support ‘decriminalisation’ of abortion: the repeal of sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against The Person Act 1861 (OAPA), a foundational and historic piece of UK criminal legislation, and possibly also the Infant Life Preservation Act 1929 (ILPA).

The full consequences of such a policy were barely discussed in the ARM. If it were ever implemented, the repeal of those sections of the OAPA would mean the voiding of the limitations on abortion provided by the Abortion Act 1967.

This is because the Abortion Act works as a set of exemptions from prosecution from the criminal provisions in the OAPA, and the ILPA. The exemptions provided by the Abortion Act allow for abortions to occur only on certain grounds: to safeguard the life and health of the mother. This is why sex-selective abortion is currently implicitly illegal: all grounds for abortion are subject to criminal penalty unless specifically exempted by the 1967 Act.

The 1967 Act only limits abortion, by relying on the OAPA and ILPA penalties. The criminal penalties in the OAPA apply all throughout pregnancy, whereas the penalties in the ILPA only apply at 28 weeks and after. If the OAPA provisions were repealed it would mean that there would be no legal limitations on abortion at all prior to at least 28 weeks, effectively legalising sex-selective abortion explicitly up to that point. If the ILPA were also repealed, it would mean legalising sex-selective abortion up to birth.

Whilst this was briefly pointed out by speakers opposing the Motion at the ARM, neither the Medical Ethics Chair, nor any other official BMA figure recognised this danger. Nor did it feature in the briefing given to ARM members by the BMA on the question of ‘decriminalisation’ prior to the Meeting. This shocking oversight means the BMA is, for now, committed to a policy that would remove all protections against the misogyny of femicide.

Rani Bilkhu founder of Jeena International and spokesperson for Stop Gendercide, said: 

This is a shocking and deeply concerning move by the BMA.

Women ought to be able to rely on doctors to help them avoid misogynistic pressures, backed up by strong and humane law. Yet this decision shows the chief medical trade union has betrayed either a breathtaking legal illiteracy in failing to recognise the full consequences of their policy, or an unbelievable lack of care about the full social consequences of their goals.

The proposals for which the BMA are now going to campaign are extreme, dangerous, and culturally toxic in their implications. We call on them to listen to the over 1,000 doctors who have objected to this move, to women’s groups, and to the 92% of women who in a recent poll supported the Stop Gendercide campaign’s call for an explicit ban on sex-selective abortion in law.

This is no time to go backwards. Let’s help women who are subject to sexist pressures in minority communities by not merely retaining the protections in the law, but building on them to make sure that sex-selective abortion has no place in our society”.

Dr. Rachael Pickering, speaking at the BMA ARM, said:

Let’s look at a couple of the very few countries who have decriminalised [abortion]:

China. Not exactly a bastion of human rights and freedom, is it?

And interestingly, Canada, where data collection is very unreliable, and the Canadian equivalent of our own BMJ described their country as being “a haven for parents who would terminate female fetuses in favour of having sons”, to the extent that some Canadian communities now have an 8-10% disparity between boys and girls.

This feminist is angry to hear of women undergoing sex-selective abortions, no doubt pressured by men in most cases, and often within patriarchal cultures in which there is no legislative framework to protect women from abuse. Our own law may not be perfect, but at least it has criteria that need to be satisfied…

This motion is not coming from a groundswell of BMA members. No, it is coming from a very small minority of extreme campaigners. Please… don’t make the BMA the unwitting stooge of these extremists. Whether you are pro-life, or pro-choice, is not even relevant here. If you sympathise even a little it with the feminist cause, vote this motion down”.


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