Abortion providers are to be issued with updated guidance to make it “abundantly clear that gender selection is illegal”.
Speaking in the House of Lords last week, health minister Lord Howe responded to concerns about gender abortions following an investigation into the issue by the Independent.
The paper based its findings on census figures and attributed the ‘disappearance’ of between 1,400 and 4,700 females to sex-selective abortions.
One statistics expert agreed it was likely that some of the ‘lost’ 4,000 girls were the result of gender-selective abortions, but Lord Howe disputed this commenting that there were “alternative explanations”.
The minister said the gender balance was affected by a number of events that occurred after birth, such as when dependent children leave home.
However, he made clear that guidance to abortion providers would be updated to say that gender selection is unlawful.
Howe also said that his department is “currently engaged in discussions” to publish guidance for doctors on the subject.
The Department of Health has previously written to doctors and abortion providers, emphasising that sex-selective abortions are illegal.
Responding to the Independent’s report, a lecturer in statistics at Imperial College London, Christoforos Anagnostopoulos, said: “The only readily available explanation that is consistent with a statistically significant gender shift of the sort observed in the census data is gender-selective abortion”.
“In the absence of a better theory, these findings can be interpreted as evidence that gender-selective abortion is taking place”, Dr Anagnostopoulos added.
In 2012 The Daily Telegraph newspaper also looked into gender abortions – finding that women were being granted abortions after telling doctors their baby was the ‘wrong sex’.
The Telegraph’s investigation found two doctors offering to arrange abortions after being told that the women did not want the baby because of its sex.
Following the revelations the then Health Secretary said carrying out an abortion on the grounds of gender alone was “morally repugnant”.
He also reported the information to the police, but the Crown Prosecution Service later said no charges would be brought.