The Daily Telegraph has tonight published the results of an undercover investigation showing that women are being granted illegal abortions by doctors based on the sex of their unborn baby.
Doctors at British clinics were secretly filmed agreeing to terminate babies purely because they were either male or female. Clinicians admitted they were prepared to falsify paperwork to arrange the abortions even though it is illegal to conduct such ‘sex-selection’ procedures.
Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, is reported to have said: ‘I’m extremely concerned to hear about these allegations. Sex selection is illegal and is morally wrong. I’ve asked my officials to investigate this as a matter of urgency.’
Ministers have clearly stated that a decision to abort a foetus on the basis of gender is illegal. Last year, Lord Howe, the health minister, told Parliament: 'It is illegal in Great Britain to abort a foetus based on its sex alone, and we have no evidence that this is happening.'
The British Medical Association warns doctors that foetal sex 'is not one of the criteria for abortion listed in the Abortion Act of 1967' and therefore termination on this ground alone would be outside the scope of the law.
The Daily Telegraph carried out the investigation into sex-selection abortions after concerns were raised that the procedures were becoming increasingly common for cultural and social reasons.
The women accompanying Telegraph reporters to consultations were from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. At each appointment, the pregnant woman explained that she had taken a blood test abroad or had a scan to determine the sex of the baby and wanted a termination because of the gender. Staff at several clinics agreed to arrange abortions for women who said they did not want to continue with their pregnancies because of the sex of their babies.
The Telegraph names some of the consultants and the clinics concerned in the article including Claudine Domoney, who works with Chelsea and Westminster Hospital* and Prabha Sivaraman who works for Pall Mall Medical in Manchester. The latter appears in the film on the Telegraph website.
Sex selection, as outlined above, is not a ground for abortion in Britain. This means that these abortions, if carried out, would have been illegal – ie. ‘unlawful killings’ under the terms of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
If the abortions had been carried out the doctors could then have been the subject of a police investigation.
Of course, as I have previously argued, about 98% of the 200,000 abortions performed in this country are arguably illegal. This is because almost all abortions in Britain are carried out on the grounds that the continuance of the pregnancy constitutes a greater risk to the mental health of the mother than abortion does. But, as confirmed by a major study late last year, there is no evidence that continuing a pregnancy ever poses a greater mental health risk than abortion.
In reality they are being performed for the (illegal) reasons of failed contraception or unwanted pregnancy, effectively on demand.
This means that when two doctors sign forms (as they do over 500 times every day) saying that ‘in good faith’ they believe that having an abortion will lead to better mental health outcomes they are committing a form of perjury under section five of the Perjury Act 1911. And when a third doctor performs the abortion on the strength of that certificate he/she is actually carrying out an ‘unlawful killing’.
In the case in question the doctor filmed for the Telegraph website does appear to be signing an abortion authorisation form. If so then this form could constitute further evidence that might provide the basis for a charge against her under the Perjury Act.
The government and the police have turned a blind eye to gross breaches of the Abortion Act for decades. But the Telegraph's investigation also raises searching questions about the watchdog charged with monitoring abortion facilities, the Care Quality Commission.
These questions need answering and I hope that the Telegraph goes about seeking those answers as meticulously and persistently as it sought answers over MPs' expenses. After all that was only about money, but this is a matter of life and death, of babies quite possibly being illegally killed.
In any event doctors working in abortion facilities should be warned that they are being watched very closely. They should be careful what they sign.
(*The Telegraph reported in error that Dr Domoney worked at the 312 Healthwise Clinic in Harley Street. She apparently does not)