LONDON, February 24, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – While the revelations that British doctors are performing illegal sex-selective abortions has caused a furor in the media, abortion advocates have lost little time defending the practice.
The day after the Daily Telegraph published the results of an undercover “sting” operation that showed the law was being routinely flouted, Marge Berer, a major player in the international abortion movement, wrote that a doctor can justify sex-selective abortion on the grounds that the woman’s health may be endangered by the abuse she will suffer from male relatives “whose cultures practise discrimination against women and girls” if she gives birth to a girl.
Berer is the founding editor of the online magazine Reproductive Health Matters and has been the chair of the Steering Committee of the International Consortium for Medical Abortion since 2002. She contends that sex-selection can be justified by “taking the woman’s social situation into account, and because the woman’s physical and mental health and well-being may be at risk, and also her existing children.”
“The potential for abuse of a woman by her husband and family, and poor treatment of and even purposeful neglect of girl children (leading to poor development and even death), are common outcomes in Asian cultures that demand that women produce boys.”
Berer continues, “Moreover, it is also the case that a woman may not want another baby anyway, for other valid reasons, and fetal sex may be the only acceptable excuse she can give in her family situation for seeking an abortion.”
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She reiterates the pure abortionist ideology, saying, “I believe health professionals and everyone who is pro-choice on abortion should support pro-choice doctors and women seeking abortions, whatever their reasons, even when sex selection may be involved.”
Berer blasted the Telegraph for what she called an “unethical” attack on abortionists, saying their aim was only to “stigmatise abortion and women who have abortions, to frighten women and abortion providers that they are breaking the law, and to seek to restrict the law on abortion.”
While the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has called sex-selective abortion “morally repugnant” and illegal, and today police have reportedly visited the Telegraph offices, Berer pointed out that the law does not contain a specific prohibition against sex-selection.
Meanwhile, pro-life advocates have condemned Britain’s abortion law, the provisions of which are regularly interpreted by doctors to allow abortion on nearly any justification, filed under the sweeping grounds of the woman’s “mental or physical health.”
The British government’s own statistics show that 185,000 of the of the UK’s 200,000 annual abortions, 92 percent, are granted under the “mental health” grounds, but a review by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC) published in December last year, showed that abortion does not improve mental health outcomes for women with unplanned pregnancies. In fact, the review found that in some circumstances the risk of serious mental health issues increases after abortion.
Dr. Peter Saunders, head of the Christian Medical Fellowship, contends that this means that the great majority of Britain’s abortions are being carried out illegally. Saunders wrote today that the Telegraph’s revelations are just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to illegal abortions.
“By forcefully making the point that some abortions (ie. for sex selection) are illegal [Health Secretary Lansley] has already opened the question as to where exactly the line should be drawn.”
“Having started asking questions, Mr. Lansley may now find it very difficult to stop, because in reality sex selection abortions are actually just the tip of a large iceberg of illegal activity.”
The Abortion Act 1967 does not specify any particular circumstance under which it is illegal to have an abortion. The Act is worded entirely in the negative, listing only those circumstances under which an offense has not been committed. This means that it does not give any provision for prohibiting abortions under specific circumstances, including for reasons of sex selection.
In addition, it provides for no penalty for coercion of abortion or if the woman is under age, both recognized by both social workers and police as ongoing problems in Britain’s Asian community.
The law requires two doctors to sign off for each abortion, but specifies that the requirement can be waived if one physician “is of the opinion, formed in good faith, that the termination is immediately necessary to save the life or to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.”
In 2007 Dr. Vincent Argent, the former medical director of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, gave evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology committee, saying that there is widespread abuse around signing of abortion permission forms.
He said he had personally witnessed doctors signing batches of forms before patients are even seen for consultation. He said that doctors commonly sign the forms with no knowledge of the particular patient and without reading the notes, without seeing or examining the patients and even signing after the abortion has been completed. Forms are regularly faxed to other locations for signature and in some cases, abortion facilities use signature stamps without any consultation with the doctor.
At that time, the Labour government’s Health Secretary did nothing about these allegations.