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Outrage over decision not to prosecute doctors who permitted sex-selective abortions


It was reported in the July edition of image news that an investigation by the Care Quality Commission had found cases in 14 NHS trusts where abortions were being authorised on the signature of only one doctor; under the Abortion Act 1967, patients must acquire the signature of two independent doctors in order to ‘qualify’ for an abortion.   None of the doctors found to be practising in this manner was prosecuted and now outrage has occurred following the declaration that more doctors who had been offering terminations purely based on the sex of the baby will not be prosecuted either.  Originally reported by the Telegraph back in February 2012, nine clinics in different parts of the country were visited by a pregnant lady and an undercover reporter, posing as her step-sister.  On three occasions, doctors were recorded offering to arrange terminations – with one reassuring the pregnant lady that she “doesn’t ask questions” – and evidence seen of forms which had also been pre-signed.  

  

Further information about these consultations can be found in the Director of Public Prosecution’s report, which seeks to outline the reasons why no further action will be taken by the Crown Prosecution Service in either these gender-specific cases or the ones mentioned previously, where the pre-signing of forms was commonplace. The offers for terminations were made by the doctors after being informed of the reason why the patient did not want to continue with the pregnancy was because she had found out she was expecting a girl, which “wasn’t appropriate” for her or her partner.  The patient claimed that she had found out the gender at eight weeks whilst on holiday in France, by blood test, and that she had lost a baby girl before, at 22 weeks, due to a chromosomal defect, which neither her nor her partner were prepared to go through again.  None of these claims were investigated further and when asked for paperwork by one doctor she simply said she had forgotten to bring it with her.  In conclusion, the DPP’s report decides it is not in the public interest to prosecute, citing inconclusive evidence that the doctors concerned had not fulfilled their duty of care to the patient, when considered against the vague and indeterminate advice found in the British Medical Association’s Handbook of Ethics and Law:


This guidance is far from clear.  But it does indicate the BMA’s view that (a) termination on the sole grounds of the gender of the fetus is not lawful; but (b) termination on the grounds of the gender of the fetus may be lawful if the effects of the pregnancy may be such that 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 or any existing children of her family.”


The report therefore argues there is ‘no yardstick’ by which to measure the doctors’ conduct.  For this reason, the doctors involved have been referred to the General Medical Council’s Interim Order Panel and had conditions imposed upon their registrations, in almost a deferential gesture, suggesting the GMC – although it does not have any powers of prosecution – is much better placed to provide a judgement on the standard of care.

 

The decision not to prosecute by Keir Starmer, the DPP, has been met with outrage from Christians and members of Parliament, with many accusing him of holding doctors above the law.  In his blog, Dr Peter Saunders describes an alarming state of affairs where doctors have become the worst perpetrators of abortions, and “are being given a free hand to carry it out in Britain on an industrial scale without proper regulation and without fear of prosecution.” Saunders also cites David Burrowes MP, who has called for an urgent Parliamentary debate on the issue, supported by MPs from all parts of the political spectrum. Andrea Williams, of Christian Concern, says the Abortion Act is not “worth the paper it’s written on”, vowing that since no action has been taken by the authorities who should have undertaken the responsibility,  “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."

Australian doctor hits the headlines for refusing to perform an abortion, requested solely on the sex of the baby.


Ironically, the case of an Australian doctor who refused to authorise an abortion demanded solely on the sex of the baby has come to light as well. Dr Mark Hobart refused to grant permission for the abortion of the 19 week female baby, but crucially also refused to refer the mother to another doctor who might have been willing to give authorisation, which is required by Australian state law.  Abortions are allowed up to 24 weeks gestation.  His reasons for not referring the mother were given in the original story in the Daily Mail: 'It's very wrong, I don't know any doctor in Victoria that would be willing to refer a woman that wanted to have an abortion just because of gender at 19 weeks…I refused to refer the patient because there was no medical reason to do it and it offended my moral conscience.' In contrast to the case involving the British doctors, complaints had been made that he had not performed his duty of care in full, despite neither the patient nor her husband lodging a formal complaint.


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9099511/Abortion-investigation-doctors-filmed-agreeing-illegal-abortions-no-questions-asked.html


http://blog.cps.gov.uk/2013/10/statement-from-director-of-public-prosecutions-on-abortion-related-cases.html


http://pjsaunders.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/dpp-defers-to-doctors-practising.html


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10359608/Dominic-Grieve-under-pressure-to-explain-CPS-decision-not-to-prosecute-over-gender-selection-abortion-scandal.html


http://www.christianconcern.com/our-concerns/abortion/abortion-act-not-worth-the-paper-its-written-on


http://www.christianconcern.com/our-concerns/abortion/australian-doctor-could-be-struck-off-after-refusing-to-perform-sex-selective-


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2449568/Doctor-Mark-Hobart-struck-refusing-abortion.html#ixzz2hjBE7IW7


URL: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2449568/Doctor-Mark-Hobart-struck-refusing-abortion.html#ixzz2hjBE7IW7


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