But why should either doctor be prosecuted? Neither has broken the terms of the Abortion Act.
Don't believe me? Here is the current UK law governing abortion:
Abortion Act 1967 as amended by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (HFEA) 1990This Act applies in England, Scotland and Wales, but not in Northern IrelandA legally induced abortion must be:
- performed by a registered medical practitioner, performed, except in an emergency, in a National Health Service (NHS) hospital or in a place for the time being approved for the purpose of the act, and
- certified by two registered medical practitioners as justified under one or more of the following grounds:
- the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman greater than if the pregnancy were terminated;
- the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman;
- the pregnancy has NOT exceeded its 24th week and the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman;
- the pregnancy has NOT exceeded its 24th week and the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of any existing child(ren) of the family of the pregnant woman;
- there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped;
As it is not possible for the doctors to officially approve an abortion on sex-selective grounds, they would have used grounds C shown in bold above when authorizing the abortion. Grounds C is used to authorize the majority of abortions carried out in the UK.
Here's the important thing to note: There is not a single pregnancy in the world to which grounds C could not be truthfully applied. Regardless of the reason for termination, the risk to physical health is always lower for abortion than it is for continued pregnancy.
But wait a minute... isn't sex-selective abortion illegal in the UK? Jeremy Hunt certainly thinks so. But sex-selective abortions (like all abortion) meet the conditions specified in the Abortion Act for legal termination.
So we have a situation where either (a) a government minister is calling for doctors who have not broken the law to be prosecuted, or (b) our laws regarding abortion are self-contradictory.
It is unreasonable to expect doctors to operate according to laws that explicitly allow the termination of any pregnancy on the basis that any termination reduces risk to health, while contradicting this statement by banning certain types of abortions.
This confusion - as well as the postcode lottery that exists because some doctors refuse to authorize abortions, even when grounds C could be truthfully applied - is why the UK abortion law needs to be updated to explicitly allow abortion on demand.