If babies may be aborted on the grounds of their sex, why not sexuality?

 

“Thank heaven for little girls,” sang Maurice Chevalier in the 1958 film Gigi. The reason? Well, mainly because they i) “get bigger every day”; and ii) “grow up in the most delightful way”. Librettist Alan Jay Lerner then fleshes out his rationale with an appeal to bewitchery and chemistry: “Those little eyes so helpless and appealing” which “One day will flash and send you crashin’ through the ceilin'”. But, basically, beyond this lyrical banality, we thank heaven for little girls “For without them, what would little boys do?” What, indeed.

Today Parliament votes on Fiona Bruce’s amendment to the Serious Crime Bill, the aim of which is to clarify the law. That is all. It is not to change the law on abortion, for the Abortion Act 1967 already sets out the parameters within which and by which a termination may be procured – namely that two doctors must agree that the continuance of the pregnancy presents greater risk of damage to the mental or physical health of the mother than termination; and that there should be substantial risk that the child, if born, “would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped”.

Fiona Bruce’s amendment would change neither of these conditions: it simply clarifies that, since being female is neither a physical nor mental abnormality, the sex of the baby in the womb cannot be considered a risk to the mental or physical health of the mother, and so justifiable grounds for termination. Being the ‘wrong sex’ and growing up to present the ‘wrong gender’ ought not to be a reason to kill a healthy developing baby in the womb. But those who framed the law in 1967 never clarified this because they simply never conceived that it would become so.

The abortion lobby and feminist groups have been campaigning hard against this amendment. Astonishingly hard. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the End Violence Against Women coalition, Voice for Choice, the Royal College of Midwives, and the British Medical Association are all ranged against the move. They argue that: “This is the wrong piece of legislation to address the issue of son-preference and gender discrimination and could disadvantage the very women it claims to be helping.” They don’t, of course, explain how we ought to “address the issue of son-preference and gender discrimination” (in which communities?). Presumably they advocate education as the preferred means of enlightenment, such that thousands of dead potential girls is a price worth paying for a 30-year generational shift in attitudes (that is, should the education work).

And the TUC (Labour’s paymasters) are reported to have written to all Labour MPs to exhort them to vote against the amendment because to prohibit sex-selective abortions would “divide communities”. Which communities they do not specify, presumably because to do so would divide communities.

But perhaps the most egregious misrepresentation of Fiona Bruce’s amendment comes from Alastair Kent, Director of Genetic Alliance UK. He argues that the law ought not to be changed (or, indeed, clarified) because sex-selective abortion in some circumstances “can be the only option if couples wish to avoid having a child with a life-limiting disease”. It doesn’t appear to occur to him that such an eventuality is already catered for in the two statutory conditions laid out in the Act, namely that to proceed with the pregnancy risks damaging the mental or physical health of the mother; and that the child, if born, would be disabled or otherwise abnormal. It beggars belief that Parliament should fail to clarify the law to prohibit sex-selective abortion simply because 0.001% of foetuses might suffer from X-linked Severe Combined Immunodeficiency.

But Alastair Kent then expounds his principal objection to the amendment, which rather belies his genetic conditions reasoning:

There is another reason why this amendment should be rejected. If adopted, it would require doctors to prioritise the foetus over the wellbeing of the mother. Once a specific characteristic of the foetus, in this case its gender, has been determined to be unacceptable as a ground for abortion, it opens the door to other reasons being added to the list on societally determined grounds and is a step towards recognising the “personhood” of the foetus. This would afford the foetus rights that would be in conflict with those of the mother.

God forbid that the sex of the baby in the womb might constitute an essence of identity. Maleness and femaleness can never become “a step towards recognising” the humanity of the baby, for if the foetus is neither ‘he’ nor ‘she’, it remains an impersonal, uncoloured, unemotional ‘it’.

But Alastair Kent is right in one respect: namely that to recognise that the sex of the foetus is unacceptable grounds for abortion might indeed open the door to other reasons being added. For if two doctors might agree that for an Asian woman to give birth to a girl presents any kind of risk to her mental or physical health, how much more so might the sexuality of the foetus? Science is not there – yet. But the ‘gay gene’, should it ever be discovered, would be a certain and sure justification for foetal termination among some communities (best not to say which). If there can be no sex equality in the womb, why should there be equality of sexuality? When these battles are raging in 2065, will they just dispassionately observe that those who framed the 2015 amendment never clarified this simply because they never conceived that it would become so?