“The Abortion Act gives doctors the power to make decisions about whether a woman can end a pregnancy on the basis of specific grounds. It does not prevent a doctor approving an abortion where a woman has mentioned the sex of the foetus, but they would not be able to authorise the abortion for that reason alone - as the Department of Health has repeatedly made clear. One of the grounds of the Act would have to be met. There is consensus on this, so it is unclear what this bill is designed to achieve. There will be rare circumstances where gender may be a factor in a woman's decision making - each case will be individual and doctors have the authority to decide whether that individual woman meets the criteria set out in the Act.
In our experience women in the UK are not requesting abortions for reasons of foetal sex, and extensive analysis by the Department of Health found no evidence of skewed gender ratios in any community in this country. If any woman were however under pressure to terminate her pregnancy on the basis of the sex of her baby, her needs would certainly not be served if she felt she was unable to divulge this fact. Any woman who feels she is being forced to end a pregnancy she wants to continue needs to be able to discuss in confidence what is happening. In this way appropriate help and support can be provided so that she can make the right decision for her. Women need to feel they can speak freely to staff about their reasons for requesting an abortion, and legislation which seeks to effectively criminalise these discussions could potentially make their situation much worse.
The UK is one of few countries which stipulates that a woman's request for an abortion needs to be approved by 2 doctors before it can be performed. Women in this country have no right to end a pregnancy, at any gestation. We should think extremely carefully before endorsing more restrictions on women's already limited ability to make their own reproductive choices. Where gender inequality exists, it will not be improved by further curbing women's ability to make decisions about their own bodies and lives."
For more information, please contact the bpas press office on 0207 612 0206 or 07788 725 185 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
About the British Pregnancy Advisory Service
bpas is a charity which provides reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception from more than 40 centres across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice.