It looks like our neighbors across the pond are about to become embroiled in a difficult and emotionally-charged abortion debate:
Some UK abortion clinics are falsifying paperwork so that they can carry out their clients’ requests for sex-selective terminations. Undercover reporters for the London Telegraph accompanied pregnant women and taped doctors arranging an abortion after an unequivocal request to abort a child because it was of the wrong sex.
The reporters visited nine clinics; at three of them they were able to obtain sex-selective abortions. At the Calthorpe Clinic in Birmingham, one of the oldest in Britain, a doctor was initially reluctant.
“It’s like female infanticide isn’t it?” he said. But the pregnant woman suggested that he record a different reason for the termination. “That’s right, yeah, because it’s not a good reason anytime,” he replied. “I’ll put too young for pregnancy, yeah?” The patient agreed and the doctor continued, “It’s common in the Third World to have a female infanticide.”
Another doctor, in Manchester, told the Telegraph team, “I don’t ask questions. If you want a termination, you want a termination”. She then telephoned a colleague to book the procedure and explained that it was for “social reasons” and the woman “doesn’t want questions asked”.
A Harley Street obstetrician was recorded organising the abortion of a boy because the couple already had a boy from the husband’s first marriage and wanted a girl. The Telegraph’s exclusive was greeted with outrage by Britain’s Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. “I was shocked when I read reports that some abortion clinics may have been behaving in this way. What is selecting by gender for termination of pregnancy is not just morally wrong it’s also illegal,” said Mr Lansley. He is referring the Telegraph’s allegations to the police.
Predictably, abortion activists said that doctors who breached the law were not representative. Darinka Aleksic, campaign co-ordinator for Abortion Rights, said the criminal practice of a minority should not be used to impose tighter restrictions. “If it is the case that a doctor has been found to be conducting sex-selective abortions for anything other medical purposes, then they are breaking the law and should be investigated. [But] It is absolutely vital that abortion providers adhere stringently to both legal requirements and professional guidelines, so that the public has confidence in the system.”
A columnist for the Telegraph, Allison Pearson, declared that abortion had bcome too easy, even though she supports it:
“Over the past 40 years, there has been a 3,700 per cent increase in abortions, and this in the era of the reliable oral contraceptive pill. This is not what the 1967 Abortion Act was intended for. It’s not a womb valeting service, ladies.
“So we really shouldn’t be a bit surprised if this particular slippery slope leads from guilt-free annual terminations – three for two, anybody? – to a “gender-balancing” service, which helps you plan the perfect family by vacuuming away infants of the wrong sex. There is a moral coarsening here that should concern us all. How desensitised have we become when an act of life or death – literally – is used as a tool to satisfy a curious desire to have one that you can dress in blue, as well as pink?”
It is important to note that the UK does allow for sex-selective pregnancy termination to avoid potential gender-based genetic disorders such as Hemophilia or Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Moreover, the law in the UK is not entirely clear as to the permissibility of sex-based abortions for non-medical purposes. While the HFEA prohibits the selection of embryos based upon gender, the Abortion Act (1967) is silent as to the right to proceed with a sex-selective abortion. Regardless, this is certainly going to invite a very impassioned debate as abortion foes seize upon this very controversial practice.
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