LONDON, October 9, 2013 ( – Pro-life advocates have reacted with outrage at an announcement by the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that doctors are now free to carry out abortions based only on the child’s sex. Until this announcement the country's abortion law had been widely interpreted as clearly disallowing the practice.

In a statement released Monday explaining why authorities decided not to prosecute two abortionists caught on camera agreeing to sex-selective abortions, Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, said that the law “does not prohibit” such abortions. The two abortionists were filmed as part of an undercover exposé by The Telegraph.

The Christian Legal Centre’s Andrea Minchiello Williams said that the statement means the 1967 Abortion Act “isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”.


“It was hard to imagine how things could get any worse after the CPS’ decision not to prosecute even though it had found enough evidence to do so,” said Williams, an attorney.

Britain's Abortion Act 1967 only allows direct abortion under a given set of grounds that include “injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family.”  In all other cases “procuring a miscarriage” remains a criminal offence under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

While the “mental health” clause of the Abortion Act has been broadly interpreted by abortionists, an abortion based upon sex alone was still widely considered as a clear violation of the law. After The Telegraph released its undercover video, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley had responded to the revelations, saying, “If this is happened not only is it criminal act but it entails professionals falsifying the reports. It’s a shocking thing to have happened. We will follow it up urgently.”

However, according to Starmer, the mental health exception could even apply in the case of a purely sex selective abortion.

“Thus the law does not, in terms, expressly prohibit gender-specific abortions,” Starmer wrote in the statement published on the CPS website. The only requirement, according to the DPP, is for two doctors to sign off on abortions once they have decided “in good faith” that “the health risks (mental or physical) of continuance outweigh those of termination”. 

“This gives a wide discretion to doctors in assessing the health risks of a pregnant patient,” he said. 

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Starmer quoted guidelines issued by the British Medical Association (BMA) in February 2012 that said “There may be circumstances, in which termination of pregnancy on grounds of fetal sex would be lawful.” 

“It appears there is now no limit on what constitutes a ‘mental health risk’ to the mother,” Williams said in response. “What if a woman wants a termination because she doesn't like the skin colour or eye colour of her child? Where do we draw the line?”

Starmer’s refusal “to right this wrong means that doctors who agree to arrange illegal sex-selective abortions get off scot free.” She said that her organisation, that specialises in defending Christians from religious discrimination, will now be taking up the legal fight in the civil courts on behalf of unborn children.

“Since the CPS is unwilling to uphold the law and the medical profession is failing to discipline doctors we will now be pursuing legal action ourselves. At the Christian Legal Centre we will do all we can to hold the DPP and medical profession to account.” 

Analysis of the data has shown that the vast majority of Britain’s 200,000 + abortions are committed, according to the government’s annual abortion statistics, for what are usually termed “social or economic” reasons, listed formally under the “mental health” grounds. Starmer said that in 2011, 98 per cent of all of Britain’s abortions were carried out for “physical or mental health” grounds, and that of these, “99.96 per cent of terminations on those grounds relied on the risk to the woman’s mental health”. 

He adds that once an abortion has been requested, “doctors feel that forcing a woman to proceed with an unwanted pregnancy would cause considerable stress and anxiety,” therefore any abortion must be carried out in order to avoid possible harm to the woman’s “mental health” from refusal. 

Anthony Ozimic, Communications Manager for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children told LSN that this is the “circular logic of abortion advocates” and is a “bogus argument” that “twists the meaning of the Abortion Act”. It does nothing more than give doctors “the spurious rationalisations of the abortion lobby so as to wash their hands of the abortion decision,” he said. 

“The vast majority of women who are granted abortions are not, in the words of the Abortion Act, at ‘risk of injury to their physical or mental health,’ either per se, or from bearing children,” Ozimic said. 

“The ‘stress and anxiety’ of coming to terms with the natural phenomenon of being a mother does not equal an ‘injury’ or even a ‘risk of injury’. 

Abortion advocates, however, have dived into the editorial fray, claiming that the doctrine of “choice” includes the right to kill a child for any reason, including because it is the wrong sex. Ann Furedi, the head of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the nation’s busiest abortionist organisation, said in an op-ed on the libertarian website Spiked, that the “choice” doctrine is absolute and admits no exceptions or compromises in favour of the rights of the unborn. 

“We either support women’s capacity to decide, or we don’t. You can’t be pro-choice except when you don’t like the choice, because that’s not pro-choice at all.”

She continued, “Most people who think of themselves as liberal and modern-thinking believe that rape, incest, youth, poverty or even general ‘unwantedness’ are ‘good reasons’ for doctors to approve abortion; and they think ‘sex selection’ is a bad reason, which should be stopped.” 

“Today in Britain, it seems more acceptable to say you want an abortion because you don’t want to be pregnant than to say you want an abortion because you don’t want to be pregnant with a girl.”

Furedi pointed out a lack of consistency on the issue in the public mind and among politicians, saying that if someone thinks “an abortion carried out because the fetus would be born a girl child is an act of ‘violence against women and girls’” then is “the abortion of a fetus affected by a serious abnormality is an act of violence against disabled people?” 

Sarah Ditum, a freelance columnist cited Furedi’s column when she summed up the position in the Guardian: “As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter why any woman wants to end her pregnancy. If it’s to select for sex, that’s her choice.” The only thing that matters, she said, is whether the mother “actually wants to be pregnant and give birth to this child”. 

“In a world where it’s possible to end a pregnancy safely and legally, it seems like rank brutality to force anyone to carry to term against her will.” While admitting that her position may make her “sound like a radical,” she added, “It’s the woman’s say that counts, and even the most terrible reason for having an abortion holds more sway than the best imaginable reason for compelling a woman to carry to term.”