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 In Press Release, UK news

Stop Gendercide has called on New Zealand MPs to support an amendment to the Abortion Legislation Bill that will ensure that sex-selective abortion is not legalised in New Zealand.

Melissa Lee MP has brought forward an amendment to the Bill to explicitly prohibit sex-selective abortion, ensuring that the Bill would not legalise sex-selective abortion.

The Abortion Legislation Bill would introduce abortion on request in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. This would make abortion lawful for any reason, which could include sex-selective abortion, and there would be no legal grounds for a health professional to refuse to perform a sex-selective abortion. 

This is a change from the current New Zealand law, where abortion is only available on specific grounds and these do not include sex-selective abortion.

The new criteria outlined in the Bill for abortions provided after 20 weeks would also make sex-selective abortion after 20 weeks significantly more accessible than under the current law for this stage of pregnancy.

Due to technological improvements in non-invasive pre-natal testing (NIPT), fetal sex can now be detected after 7 weeks. This means that, assuming passage of the proposed Bill, sex-selective abortion would soon become an explicit and viable possibility in New Zealand after 7 weeks’ gestation.

These concerns were highlighted in a submission from Stop Gendercide to the Abortion Legislation Committee. Stop Gendercide made the following recommendation:

“That the New Zealand Government amend the Bill to make it clear that sex-selective abortion is explicitly illegal under the proposed legislation.”

Unfortunately, the Abortion Legislation Committee ignored the recommendation from Stop Gendercide and has made no changes to the Bill to ensure that it does not introduce sex-selective abortion. 

Instead, in what appears to be a politically motivated move to appear to be taking action, without actually making material changes to remove this major flaw in the Bill, the Committee have required that the Government produce a report five years after the Bill has passed reviewing whether abortions are being sought solely because of a preference for the fetus to be a particular sex. This means that for this five-year period, and possibly longer, sex-selective abortion will be free to occur in New Zealand.

This reporting requirement has been accompanied by a statement in the Bill, which would be legally meaningless in practice, stating “This Parliament opposes the performance of abortions being sought solely because of a preference for the fetus to be of a particular sex.”

Sex-selective abortion is a well-documented problem in a number of countries where a preference for sons has resulted in highly skewed sex ratios. Sex discrimination carried out via abortion has resulted in millions of “missing” girls in some societies. A study that was published last year estimated that over 23 million of these “missing” girls were as a result of sex-selective abortion.

There is evidence that sex-selective abortion has been a problem in other jurisdictions where abortion has been decriminalised and abortion is available on request without an explicit ban on sex-selective abortion.

In Canada, abortion law was struck down in 1998, introducing abortion on request. Sex-selective abortion has been identified as a major issue, with an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal outlining that ‘easy access to abortion and advances in prenatal sex determination have combined to make Canada a haven for parents who would terminate female fetuses in favour of having sons…’

Victoria, Australia introduced abortion on request in 2008. A recent study from La Trobe University, analysing more than a million births in Victoria, suggests some parents could be aborting unborn female babies in order to have a son. Following the law change in Victoria, Dr Mark Hobart was investigated by the Medical Board of Victoria for failing to refer a woman for a sex-selective abortion. An investigation by Australian broadcaster SBS found higher numbers of boys than girls being born in some ethnic communities in Australia.

Diya Grover, spokesperson for Stop Gendercide said: 

“We are calling on New Zealand MPs to support Melissa Lee’s amendment to the Abortion Legislation Bill when it is brought forward at committee stage.

We are appalled at the Abortion Select Committee “wait and see” approach to dealing with this major flaw in the Bill. The proposed review of whether sex-selective abortion is occurring under the new law will not have to happen for another five years. 

This means that for this five-year period, and possibly longer, sex-selective abortion will be free to occur in New Zealand, and the evidence from Victoria, Australia shows it likely will. This is not good enough. Parliament must ensure that sex-selective abortion is not made legal in New Zealand.

Sex-selective abortion has been an issue in regions overseas which have made similar changes to the law to what is proposed in New Zealand. Melissa Lee’s amendment will ensure that this new law is not used to enable sex-selective abortion in New Zealand.”

ENDS

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