Now UK Health Ministry tells prosecutor, ‘Sex-selective abortions still illegal’

The sex of the child by itself constitutes an “unacceptable and illegal” reason for abortion, the Health Department said in a letter to GPs.
Thu Nov 28, 2013 - 7:27 pm EST

LONDON, November 28, 2013 ( – The UK health ministry has said they will be issuing new guidelines in the light of a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to prosecute cases of sex-selective abortion. The sex of the child by itself constitutes an “unacceptable and illegal” reason for abortion, the Health Department said in a letter to GPs. 

The letter seems to directly contradict a decision, announced on September 4th by Keir Starmer, head of the CPS,  that there would be no charges brought against two doctors who had been caught in a sting by the Daily Telegraph newspaper approving abortions only because the babies were girls. The CPS, after an investigation in the case, said that although there was enough evidence to prosecute the doctors, it would not  be “in the best interests” of the public to do so. Starmer claimed that he had consulted with police in the decision. 

But in their letter to doctors, the Department of Health said, “The law is clear that termination of a pregnancy on the grounds of gender alone is illegal and the CPS decision does not alter that.”


The Guardian newspaper reports that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in a separate letter to the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, said that where there is evidence “that a certifying doctor has not formed an opinion in good faith” about the reasons given for an abortion request, “then the doctor performing the termination is not protected by the act and has potentially committed a criminal offence by terminating the pregnancy.” 

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Starmer recently defended the decision not to prosecute against the outcry, saying that in some cases refusing abortion for the sex of the child could constitute a threat to the mother’s “mental health.” “The law does not, in terms, expressly prohibit gender-specific abortions,” Starmer said. “Rather, it prohibits any abortion carried out without two medical practitioners having formed a view, in good faith, that the health risks of continuing with a pregnancy outweigh those of termination.”

This statement was supported by one from the British Medical Association that said, “There may be circumstances in which termination of pregnancy on grounds of fetal sex would be lawful.” Previous guidance from the BMA, however, says it is “normally unethical” to abort only for the child’s sex “except in cases of severe sex-linked disorders”. 

But the Department of Health has responded, saying, “It is essential that all those involved in abortion provision understand the requirements of the Abortion Act to provide a safe, legal service for women.” 

In comments published on the website of the Catholic diocese of Shrewsbury, Professor Jack Scarisbrick, the chairman of LIFE, said the decision by the CPP was evidence that abortion in Britain has become a “runaway bus,” with the existing regulations being routinely flouted. 

“How else could gender-selection abortion – aborting unborn girls simply because they are female – be potentially widely available in abortion clinics across the country?” Professor Scarisbrick asked. 

“How can 98 per cent of abortions be done on mental health grounds when the experts, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, in a major study commissioned by them and funded by the Department of Health, conclude that abortion can never be better for a woman’s mental health and, on many occasions, can be the worse option?” Scarisbrick added.

  abortion, sex-selective abortion, uk

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