Press Release: 19 February 2015
If passed the amendment to the Serious Crimes Bill (which MPs are due to vote on on Monday 23 February) could lead to a woman who has been pressurised in to an unwanted abortion being given a prison sentence. Moreover, it may deter midwives and doctors from giving vital individual counselling and support to women around these issues for fears they themselves may be charged with a crime.
Rebecca Schiller, co-chair of Birthrights says, “Attempting to tackle the complex social and cultural issues at the root of gender bias by criminalising vulnerable women is damaging to us all. Once again it punishes women for broader issues while pretending to protect them. It is right that we should tackle gender discrimination in this country but this amendment would do nothing to address the underlying issues in communities who may put pressure on women to have an abortion based on gender. Women need to be free to make decisions about their reproductive futures without fear of criminal sanctions. I fear that, were this amendment to be passed, it could be a step to encroaching on all women’s rights to abortion.”
“Existing legislation and guidance is sufficient. A 2012 undercover investigation found no doctors willing to perform abortions solely based on gender and Department of Health guidance is already clear that abortion based solely on gender is not permitted. This amendment adds nothing to protect women, but would prevent those who have concerns about gender-specific foetal abnormalities from accessing abortion. Women in South Asian communities are also being profiled by this amendment and are likely to face difficulty accessing abortion for any reason should it be passed.”
Rebecca Schiller’s book All That Matters: Women’s Rights in Childbirth is published by the Guardian’s e-imprint as part of the Guardian Shorts series. Ebook: £1.99, with 10% profits going to Birthrights.