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Abortions on grounds of gender are legal in Britain, says director of public prosecutions

By on Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions (PA)

Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions (PA)

Abortions on grounds of gender are legal in Britain, the country’s top prosecutor clarified in a letter to the Government.

Keir Starmer, director of public prosecutions, said in a letter to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, that the 1967 Abortion Act “does not… expressly prohibit gender-specific abortions.”

In the letter he explained the reasons why the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had declined to lay charges against two doctors who had agreed to arrange abortions of female foetuses because of their gender.

He said the Act prohibited “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 a termination.”

“The only basis for a prosecution would be that the doctors failed to carry out a ‘sufficiently robust assessment’ of the risks to their patient’s health,” he added.

In September, Grieve had asked Starmer to clarify the decision of the CPS not to prosecute the doctors amid an outcry from politicians and Church leaders who were concerned that the law had been broken.

In a September 10 statement, Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark, vice president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and chairman of the bishops’ Department of Christian Responsibility and Citizenship, said the “existing law should be enforced”. In a further statement released on Monday, the bishops’ conference defended its intervention, saying that people were “right to be outraged that some parents are seeking to use abortion as a means of gender selection.” Such abortions, the statement said, were the “worst form of discrimination.”

“Abortion is always an injustice toward a child who is unwanted, whether unwanted because of her gender or for some other cause,” the statement said.

“The answer to ‘unwanted children’ is to help parents want their children – which almost all parents will do quite naturally by the time the child is born,” it added. “If parents are genuinely unable to care for their own child, that child should be passed to others’ care.”

Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, a British pro-life lobby group, said that the decision of the prosecution service “actually encourages doctors to offer an abortion to any woman who says she wants one”.