UK MPs want probe into possible sex-selection in immigrants



London: British lawmakers are calling for an inquiry into sex-based abortions among immigrant families in the UK, following recent reports that sex selection may be taking place among Asian families.

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce has tabled an early day motion (EDM) which calls on the Department of Health to ensure the data of aborted foetuses is reported "so that statistical evidence of crime cannot be hidden".

The EDM, which has cross-party support here, is tabled to initiate a debate on the issue in Parliament as soon as possible.

It follows recent revelations that illegal terminations on gender grounds may be taking place among Asian families in the UK.

Health minister Earl Howe had tabled statistics last week that showed the ratio between the number of girls and boys born in the UK among mothers of certain nationalities did not match the national average.

The practice of aborting unborn babies on the basis of sex has been considered a problem in Asian countries like India and China, where boys are seen as favourable for cultural or economic reasons.

Dr Sudhir Sethi, a Leicester-based paediatrician has been campaigning on this issue for years and fears many families of Indian-origin families based in the UK have been travelling to India to abort a female foetus.

"Most families do it covertly and travel abroad," he said.

There has been little official research on whether the practice is in fact prevalent in some of Britain's immigrant communities.

Bruce's EDM calls on Parliament to join her in registering "its profound shock at recent confirmation by the Department of Health that there are discrepancies in the balance between the number of boys and girls born to groups of women from some overseas countries to an extent that 'falls outside the range considered possible without intervention'".

Lord Alton of Liverpool, a crossbench peer and former MP who campaigns against abortion, has called on the government to reconsider its decision to not collect data on sex selection abortions.

Many UK hospitals have stopped giving parents information on the gender of their babies until late in the pregnancy.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Abortion based on sex selection is illegal and is morally wrong... Identifying the gender of aborted foetuses raises serious ethical and clinical issues. We absolutely have no plans to introduce such a practice".

PTI