It has emerged that leading figures in the Labour party, notably Yvette Cooper, are plotting to defeat Fiona Bruce’s amendment on sex-selective abortion, which will be debated in the House of Commons this evening. They are using all sorts of arguments against the amendment.
It has been argued that this amendment will lead to racial profiling, that it will criminalise women, that it will target people having abortions for disability, that it will make doctors uncertain and nervous. None of these arguments really stand up.
The amendment in no way affects the legal status of women seeking abortion, and does not create any new criminal offence; it does not mandate or allow ethnic profiling, any more than laws against female genital mutilation do; it specifically avoids addressing the law on abortion for disability.
There are two main purposes to the amendment: first, clarity in the law, and second, enabling and encouraging the government to address the problem of sex selective abortion if it arises.
Which of these aims is it that Yvette Cooper doesn’t like?
It’s time for those opposing this amendment to answer some simple questions: do they think it is acceptable to abort a child because it is a girl? If they do not, what is the problem with this amendment? Surely it would be entirely right and proper for the Abortion Act to be interpreted as not allowing sex-selective abortion, given that it contains no existing defences for female unborn children.
If they do think it’s acceptable to have a sex-selective abortion, this seems like an odd position for feminists of all people to take.