Allow Sex-Selective Abortions - "Ethics Expert"
Women should be allowed to have abortions simply because their unborn child is the “wrong” sex, a leading ethics expert at the British Medical Association has said. In a highly provocative interview with The Mail on Sunday, Professor Wendy Savage, an influential member of the BMA’s 18-strong medical ethics committee, called for the law banning such abortions to be scrapped. Pro-life campaigners described her demands as “utterly abhorrent”.
Professor Savage also said women should be allowed to abort at any stage of pregnancy – even when the unborn child is developed enough to survive outside the womb – and that abortion pills should be available to women online, without them needing to see a doctor or nurse.
Her comments come amid growing concerns that British parents are seeking abortions based on the sex of babies – which has led to some NHS hospitals refusing to tell parents that information. Prof Savage said not telling parents the sex of their babies was “outrageous”.
Conservative MP Mark Field condemned Prof Savage’s remarks. “Suggesting that women should be able to abort babies solely because they happen to be either male or, much more usually, female, is utterly abhorrent,” he said. “To have someone like Wendy Savage with her extreme views at the heart of the BMA is a very worrying sign. The majority of people in this country, even those who support abortion, think sex-selective abortion is a step too far.”
Fears that British women are undergoing abortions based on the gender of their babies have grown since a 2014 study found that Britain had up to 4,700 fewer girls than would be statistically expected. And undercover journalists have secretly filmed doctors appearing to agree to carry out abortions for reasons of gender alone. This led the Department of Health to issue new guidance clarifying the law, which stated: “Abortion on the grounds of gender alone is illegal.”
Globally, sex-selective abortion is thought to have led to millions of girls being aborted, and both the United Nations and the World Health Organisation have campaigns to stamp it out. A UN report recently stated that around 117 million women are “missing” from the expected population in Asia and Eastern Europe.
But Prof Savage, a retired obstetrician and gynaecologist who personally performed 10,000 abortions, claims it is a “myth” that sex selective abortions happen in Britain or that women would choose to undergo a sex-selection abortion even if permitted to do so.
Many NHS hospitals have stopped telling parents the sex of their unborn child at their 12-week scan, instead waiting to 20 weeks, and “some hospitals have a policy of not telling patients the sex of their baby” altogether, according to the NHS Choices website. The 2014 study of census information suggested sex-selective abortions may be a particular issue in Britain’s South Asian communities, where there is a cultural preference for boys.
“Because of this sort of anxiety some places won’t tell the woman the sex of the foetus, which is outrageous,” Savage commented. “It’s her body and her foetus, so she should have that information... If a woman does not want to have a foetus who is one sex or the other, forcing her [to go through with the pregnancy] is not going to be good for the eventual child, and it’s not going to be good for [the mother’s] mental health.”
She has previously signed a letter claiming sex-selective abortion is “not gender discrimination” as that term “applies only to living people”.
Prof Savage is behind a bid to convince BMA members to back a policy calling for abortion to be removed from criminal statute, submitting a successful motion at last year’s BMA conference seeking a policy on decriminalisation. The BMA says it has no policy on the decriminalisation of abortion.
The Daily Mail. March 18.