Constructing abortion as a social problem: “Sex selection” and the British abortion debate

Fem Psychol. 2017 Feb;27(1):15-33. doi: 10.1177/0959353516678010. Epub 2017 Feb 12.

Constructing abortion as a social problem: “Sex selection” and the British abortion debate.

Abstract

Between February 2012 and March 2015, the claim that sex selection abortion was taking place in Britain and that action needed to be taken to stop it dominated debate in Britain about abortion. Situating an analysis in sociological and social psychological approaches to the construction of social problems, particularly those considering “feminised” re-framings of anti-abortion arguments, this paper presents an account of this debate. Based on analysis of media coverage, Parliamentary debate and official documents, we focus on claims about grounds (evidence) made to sustain the case that sex selection abortion is a British social problem and highlight how abortion was problematised in new ways. Perhaps most notable, we argue, was the level of largely unchallenged vilification of abortion doctors and providers, on the grounds that they are both law violators and participants in acts of discrimination and violence against women, especially those of Asian heritage. We draw attention to the role of claims made by feminists in the media and in Parliament about “gendercide” as part of this process and argue that those supportive of access to abortion need to critically assess both this aspect of the events and also consider arguments about the problems of “medical power” in the light of what took place.

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