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Private prosecution of 'sex-selection' abortion doctors

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Issued by the Christian Legal Centre


News Release

For immediate release
25 October 2014
 

Private prosecution of ‘sex-selection’ abortion doctors

A member of the public has taken the dramatic step of starting criminal proceedings against two doctors who were identified by a national newspaper as authorising the abortion of two babies because they were not the sex that the mother wanted.

In early 2012, the Daily Telegraph carried out a covert investigation at abortion clinics, with undercover reporters accompanying pregnant women to nine clinics in different parts of the country. In two instances doctors were recorded offering to arrange abortions after being told that the mother did not want to go ahead with the pregnancy because of the sex of the unborn child.

At the Pall Mall Medical Centre in Manchester, Dr Parabha Sivaraman was filmed giving consent for a woman to have an abortion purely on the grounds that the pre-born child was the “wrong gender”. The second was at the Calthorpe Clinic in Birmingham where Dr Raj Mohan was secretly filmed offering to arrange an abortion for a woman who said she wanted to abort her baby because it was a girl. He officially documented that the reason for the abortion was that the woman was too young.

The Telegraph decided to investigate the issue of sex-selection abortions after doctors, academics and pro-life campaigners all alleged that the procedure was being offered at specific organisations. In 2007, two Oxford academics, Sylvie Dubuc and David Coleman, carried out a study into sex ratio using the annual birth registrations in England and Wales between 1969 and 2005 and found that there was “indirect quantitative evidence of prenatal sex selection against females performed by a small minority of Indian born women in England and Wales”.
 

No public prosecution

Despite a police investigation of the two doctors and the case being referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for advice about possible criminal charges, the CPS decided not to prosecute the doctors, referring them instead to the General Medical Council. The CPS said that one of the key reasons not to proceed was that there was no guidance on how a doctor should go about assessing the risk to physical or mental health, no guidance on where the threshold of risk lay and no guidance on a proper process for recording the assessment carried out. "The discretion afforded to a doctor in assessing the risk to the mental or physical health of a patient wanting an abortion is wide,” the CPS concluded.

Following the CPS decision, Aisling Hubert, aged 21, from Brighton instructed solicitors to bring a private prosecution. Miss Hubert is a volunteer with pro-life campaign group, Abort67, and is being supported in her case by the Christian Legal Centre. Miss Hubert has sought expert legal and medical opinion, the latter offering to give evidence in court.

Three senior physicians, including a GP with a special interest in Medical Education, a Professor and Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and another Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist are all prepared to help Miss Hubert challenge the CPS decision.
 

‘Patently absurd’

Miss Hubert said: “The CPS rested its decision on the stated belief that there were no specific guidelines to help doctors in these cases. However, I believe that the counter-argument to this position is stronger.

"It is simply not the case that in order to establish that inadequate and / or incompetent practice took place, specific guidelines are required. This argument effectively means that in all areas of medical practice, that any standard of practice is to be tolerated where there are no specific guidelines. This is patently absurd.

“In this case, the practice of the Doctors concerned – the one choosing to ignore the real reasons for requesting a termination and stating that she did not “ask questions”, the other falsifying the reasons for termination, having expressed an opinion that this was “female infanticide” – was so far beyond the bounds of acceptable practice to make it probable not only that the terminations were secured for foetal gender alone, but were also performed without adequate assessment.”
 

‘Illegal’

Abortion in Britain is still illegal unless the mother’s life is at risk; or the physical or mental problems to the mother are considered to be greater if she continues with the pregnancy than if she has an abortion; or there exists a substantial chance that the child will suffer from severe physical or mental abnormalities. One of these reasons has to be signed off by two medical doctors in every case. Abortion on the grounds of sex-selection is not a legal justification for abortion and so would be classified as illegal, and doctors who authorised such an abortion would be brought in as accessories to a criminal act. To date there has been no General Medical Council disciplinary action taken against the GPs despite overwhelming public unrest when the cases hit the public awareness last year.

Miss Hubert’s solicitors have this week lodged papers with the Magistrates Court and should hear shortly when a summons will be issued to commence the proceedings.
 

‘Abused for 40 years’

Miss Hubert added: “A clear criminal offence has been committed here and is being brushed under the carpet. The law is clear, sex-selection is not a ground for abortion and yet the CPS and GMC don’t want to touch this case because of the wider political implications of abortion.

“The 1967 Abortion Act has been abused for 40 years and sex selection of babies for abortion is just the latest way in which the wholly inadequate rules are being manipulated by doctors. It is time that as a civilised nation, we woke up to the way in which we are aborting tens of thousands of babies every year, simply to suite life-style choices. That is not what the Act was brought in for and is not acceptable. My aim is for these two doctors to be brought to justice and for the Judge then to ask the Attorney General to review the application of the Abortion Act and draw up tighter guidelines.”
‘Spotlight on the issues’

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre added “I find it extraordinary that it has taken a brave young woman such as Aisling to come forward to protect girls from being aborted merely because they are girls. The Director of Public Prosecutions has refused to enforce the law and this sends the wrong message to the medical world. This case shines a spotlight on this grave injustice against women.”

ENDS

 

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