LONDON (AFP) - British lawmakers rejected a bid to explicitly outlaw abortion based on the gender of the foetus on Monday.
Cultural preferences for boys is thought to lead to mothers aborting female foetuses in India and China, and the attempt to strengthen the law against the practice reflects concerns it could be taking place in some immigrant communities in Britain.
Health minister Jane Ellison had argued against the bid, saying that abortion on the grounds of whether the foetus is male or female was "already illegal".
But some MPs had said the amendment was needed because the law does not specifically address the practice.
"It is necessary because there is no explicit statement about gender selective abortion in UK law," said lawmaker Fiona Bruce as she proposed the amendment.
"The law is being interpreted in different ways because when the 1967 Abortion Act was passed, scans to determine the sex of the foetus were not available."
Yet those opposed had argued that an explicit ban would be unenforceable and have unintended consequences such as complicating women's access to abortion.
The amendment was defeated in the lower house of parliament by 292 votes to 201.
The clause was to be added to a bill currently moving through parliament, the Serious Crime Bill.
Instead, lawmakers approved an alternative amendment providing for a review of the prevalence of gender-based abortion in Wales, England and Northern Ireland.