Should it be legal to abort your baby because of its sex?

Published Tuesday, Oct 1 2013, 02:00 BST  |  By  |  2 comments
Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), sparked debate when she suggested it isn't against the law for mums-to-be to terminate their pregnancies because of a baby's gender. So, should finding out you're carrying a boy or a girl be a legitimate reason for abortion?

Should learning your baby's sex be reason for an abortion?

© Getty Images

Yes, says Ann Furedi, 53, chief executive of BPAS

"What it comes down to is this: can women be trusted to make good decisions about abortion? I think they can.

Abortion is not a pleasant procedure – women don't choose to go through it lightly. Even most women who are sure they don't want a baby tend to think twice about it if they become pregnant. It's a big deal.

Ann Furedi, head of BPAS

© PR shot

Ann Furedi, head of BPAS

So I don't think they need politicians laying down laws stating why and when they can end their pregnancies.

The law states that a termination can only be granted if the continuation of the pregnancy "would likely cause injury to the mental or physical health of the woman". While it is true that the sex of the foetus is not a legal ground for abortion, nor is rape, incest, or being 13 years old. Nor is being homeless, or abandoned, yet they are all reasons why a doctor may believe a woman has sufficient grounds to abort a baby.

For some, a baby's sex would cause sufficient mental distress that justifies the heart-breaking decision to terminate. It may be that a woman's family will disown her, she may face losing her home or the husband she loves. She might be worried that her child would be threatened or would inherit a genetic condition.

So doctors need to be free to openly discuss requests for abortion. The law sets out clearly when doctors can approve it. Whatever the reasons, your doctor needs to genuinely believe it's better for you than if they refuse.

That's worked since the 60s and there's no reason to think it's not working now."

No, says Sarah Welsh, 36, writer and mum-of-one

"You can argue that the law is ambiguous on whether it's legal to abort an unborn baby because of its gender, but my views are not. As a mother, I think the idea is morally repugnant.

Sarah Welsh head shot for debate

© Sarah Welsh

I find this whole topic very uncomfortable but that doesn't make me anti-abortion. I'm absolutely pro-choice – but only for the right reasons. Abortion is nothing if not complex. But to me, getting rid of a child simply because it's a boy or girl is veering into very dangerous territory.

In China, women are forced into abortions because of the one-child-only law and in other cultures – including some UK Asian communities – women feel compelled to terminate if they're not having a boy, and that's appalling.

And what about a woman's right to not be bullied into aborting a baby because of gender? The number of hospitals who refuse to tell couples their baby's sex at the 20-week scan indicates this is happening in Britain today.

Aborting on the basis of gender implies one sex is more valuable than the other and as a mum, I find this horrific. My daughter is the greatest gift I've been given and whether the baby had been a boy or a girl, we would have been absolutely thrilled at the birth.

Many women suffer miscarriages and many couples battle with the heartbreak of infertility. The message that it's OK to abort a child on the basis of sex is an insult to them.

I cannot comprehend how any woman could ever choose to end a pregnancy because of the child's gender. And if that sounds emotional, that's because it is."

Let us know your thoughts below:

Should it be legal to abort your baby because of its sex?
Yes - I agree with Ann38.02%
No - I agree with Sarah61.98%