The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, yesterday declared that it was right not to prosecute doctors who authorised abortions which, according to a Telegraph investigation, were requested because of the gender of the foetus. It seems that the women mentioned more than one reason for the abortions so it wasn’t possible to isolate the gender selection element from the other factors.
‘The only basis for a prosecution would be that although we could not prove these doctors authorised a gender-specific abortion, they did not carry out a sufficiently robust assessment of the risks,’ he said.
And just what might a ‘robust’ assessment of risk amount to? As Mr Starmer made clear it’s possible for doctors to authorise an abortion without actually ever having seen the woman concerned. On this basis, pretty well any abortion is justified, on the basis that any pregnancy, carried to term, would be worse for the mental or physical health of the mother than not carrying on with it. Which may of course be true. But it wasn’t quite what parliament was led to believe when it passed the Abortion Act in 1967 on the basis that the written consent of two doctors would be some sort of guarantee that it would only happen in serious cases.
Mr Starmer has, in fact, pointed out the inherent absurdity of the present law on abortion. As indeed did Ann Furedi of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service when she observed that the present law did not prohibit abortion on the basis of gender…which it doesn’t, not specifically. That set the Guardian’s website alight, as did one of its bloggers, Sarah Ditum, who wrote that a woman’s right to choose shouldn’t be curtailed on the basis of the gender of the foetus.
I’m in two minds about it myself. Obviously, not about aborting a foetus on the basis that it’s a girl foetus. But about the premise that it’s just fine to kill that same foetus on the basis of…well, pretty well anything at all so long as it’s not on the grounds of gender. Because you feel like it.
What were meant to be the safeguards around the Abortion Act are a joke, a token, procedural hypocrisy, a mere form which involves no possible impediment to an abortion taking place. I’ve never myself come across anyone being denied an abortion because her pregnancy really wasn’t a threat to her mental or physical well being. And if it takes the disgusting and discriminatory practice of gender-selection to bring home this obvious truth, well some good has come out of the Telegraph investigation.