Gender Based Abortions: Question – “If it’s illegal and immoral” (Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley) in these cases, why is it legal and OK in other cases? I thought it was all just a matter of choice….
Gender-based abortion claims probed by Department of Health
Health officials have been asked to carry out an investigation “as a matter of urgency”
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The Department of Health has launched an inquiry into claims that doctors agreed to carry out abortions on the grounds of the sex of unborn babies.
The Daily Telegraph said it had secretly filmed doctors at a number of British abortion clinics.
The doctors are said to have agreed to terminate foetuses when women did not want their baby because of its gender.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said sex selection was “illegal and morally wrong” and he had ordered an inquiry.
“I’m extremely concerned to hear about these allegations. I’ve asked my officials to investigate this as a matter of urgency,” he said.
In its report, the Telegraph said doctors had admitted they were prepared to falsify paperwork so the illegal procedures could go ahead.
The newspaper said undercover reporters had accompanied pregnant women to nine clinics in different parts of the country.
In three cases, the Telegraph reported, doctors were recorded offering to arrange terminations after being told the women did not want to continue with the pregnancy because of the gender of the unborn child.
In England, Wales and Scotland abortions are allowed on certain grounds before 24 weeks of pregnancy including that:
• Continuing with the pregnancy would be a greater risk to the woman’s life, physical or mental health than ending the pregnancy
• Continuing would be more of a risk to the physical or mental health of any of the woman’s existing children
• There is a real risk the unborn child would have a serious physical or mental disability
Two doctors have to agree to the abortion, or one, in the case of an emergency.
Conditions are stricter for abortions carried out after 24 weeks. In Northern Ireland abortions are illegal usually, unless the mother’s life is at risk.
The Conservative MP Nadine Dorries has campaigned for the government to provide independent abortion counsellors for women considering terminations.
She said clinics needed to be regulated more effectively: “What we also need is the CQC — the Care Quality Commission — who are supposed to ensure that abortion clinics operate according to the law…what they need to do is get on top of this situation as soon as possible.”
Abortion investigation: doctors filmed agreeing illegal abortions ‘no questions asked’ – Telegraph
Doctors at British clinics have been secretly filmed agreeing to terminate foetuses purely because they are either male or female. Clinicians admitted they were prepared to falsify paperwork to arrange the abortions even though it is illegal to conduct such “sex-selection” procedures.
Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, said: “I’m extremely concerned to hear about these allegations. Sex selection is illegal and is morally wrong. I’ve asked my officials to investigate this as a matter of urgency.”
The disclosures will add to growing concerns about the regulation of abortion clinics and the apparent ability of women to secure terminations “on demand”.
The Daily Telegraph carried out an investigation into sex-selection abortions after concerns were raised that the procedures were becoming increasingly common for cultural and social reasons.
Acting on specific information, undercover reporters accompanied pregnant women to nine clinics in different parts of the country. In three instances doctors were recorded offering to arrange terminations after being told the mother-to-be did not want to go ahead with the pregnancy because of the sex of the unborn child.
One consultant, Prabha Sivaraman, who works for both private clinics and NHS hospitals in Manchester, was filmed telling a pregnant woman who said she wanted to abort a female foetus: “I don’t ask questions. If you want a termination, you want a termination”.
She later telephoned a colleague to book the procedure, explaining that it was for “social reasons” and the woman “doesn’t want questions asked”.
She said to her colleague: “This [the termination] will be under private, she doesn’t want to go through NHS. OK, so — that’s right, because you’re part of our team and she doesn’t want questions asked”.
Miss Sivaraman, who works for Pall Mall Medical in Manchester and is an obstetrician and gynaecologist at North Manchester General Hospital, said the cost of the termination would be £200 or £300, on top of the £500 already paid to the clinic for the consultation.
After taking the woman’s contact details, Miss Sivaraman asked her if she had considered her options.
“Oh, absolutely … I can’t have it, this baby, because of the gender, so that’s just how it is …” replied the woman.
The doctor booked the pregnant woman in for a termination the following week despite the reason for the abortion being clearly explained.
Another consultant, Claudine Domoney, who works with 132 Healthwise clinic in Harley Street, central London, agreed to arrange for a woman to abort a boy after being told that she and her husband already had a son from his first marriage. The practice is known as “family balancing”.
In a consultation room in the Chelsea and Westminster hospital, the woman, who was about 18 weeks pregnant, explained her reasons for the termination “It’s a boy, and that’s the reason, we don’t want to have a second boy.”
“It’s obviously taken a little bit of time to decide this?” asked Miss Domoney, in reference to the fact that the woman was 18 weeks pregnant.
The consultant was still happy to proceed but explained that as she was going away she would be unable to perform the procedure, so she telephoned a colleague to see if he could fit the pregnant woman in for the following week. “He is OK for Tuesday”, said Miss Domoney when she returned.
“So the two of us are very experienced in this area. He [the other doctor] will organise for you to have a room on the private ward he’s OK to do it on Tuesday.”
Miss Domoney said she was “uncomfortable” with the situation, so decided to refer the case to a colleague.
Stephanie Byrom, the chief executive of Pall Mall Medical, denied that the clinic offered terminations on the grounds of gender determination and said that if one of its consultants had breached its rules it would take “immediate action”.
At both clinics offering the sex-selection abortions, the pregnant women were not offered in-depth counselling on their decision to request a termination — despite the questionable grounds.
The Daily Telegraph intends to publish more disclosures from the investigation tomorrow, in particular a recording of a doctor offering to falsify paperwork.
MPs have raised concerns over the growing commercialisation of abortion clinics and David Cameron and Mr Lansley are under pressure to accept proposals that women should receive independent counselling before a procedure takes place.
Last year, the Council of Europe recommended that member states, including Britain, stop telling parents the gender of their baby because of concerns that this was encouraging sex-selection abortions. Many hospitals have stopped giving parents this information.
However, blood tests that disclose the sex of a foetus are widely available on the internet or abroad. An undercover reporter telephoning an abortion advice line was also told private clinics would be able to offer a scan — for a fee.
Abortions for non-medical reasons are legal until 24 weeks, but terminations on grounds of sex of the foetus are illegal under the 1967 Abortion Act.
Doctors must agree that there is a compelling case for termination, but it is claimed that many abortions are agreed “on demand” and that the official paperwork does not fully reflect the discussions that have taken place.
In 2010 there were 189,574 terminations in England and Wales, an eight per cent increase in the past decade. There is some evidence that more female than male foetuses are aborted.
The women accompanying Telegraph reporters to consultations were from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
At each appointment, the pregnant woman explained that she had taken a blood test abroad or had a scan to determine the sex of the foetus and wanted a termination because of the gender. Staff at several clinics agreed to arrange abortions for women who said they did not want to continue with their pregnancies because of the sex of their babies.
However, at other clinics, doctors made it clear that terminations because of gender were not legal and said they were unable to help. The disclosures will increase pressure on the Care Quality Commission, the NHS watchdog, which is already facing criticism over its failure to regulate care homes properly.
Months have passed since these reports and in June 2013 Ministers in the House of Commons and House of Lords gave contradictory responses when questioned about what action they are taking….
Fiona Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Health with reference to the answer of 5 March 2013, Official Report, column 938W, on abortion, what progress has been made in (a) cases referred to the Crown Prosecution Service, (b) prosecutions commenced, (c) random inspections of licensed abortion centres and (d) other follow-up steps following the chief medical officer’s letter to abortion providers sent in February 2012. 
Anna Soubry: The Crown Prosecution Service has reviewed the evidence and decided not to take further action against some individuals investigated for sex selection abortions. Other investigations continue and we will consider if any further action is required once investigations are fully concluded.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is exploring how it can strengthen the registration process alongside regular inspection activity. The CQC has put in place procedures to identify if pre-signing or other instances of non-compliance are taking place and will review these as part of their inspection activity.
The CQC and the Department will continue to act on information received in relation to any allegations of non-compliance with aspects of the Abortion Act 1967 and related regulations. This may include random inspections.
All allegations of abortions failing to comply with the Abortion Act 1967 are taken very seriously; an allegation of an illegal abortion should be reported to the police, who should conduct a full investigation.
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm130606/text/130606w0002.htm#13060672000394 House of Lords
Thursday, 6 June 2013.
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Derby.
Baroness Knight of Collingtree
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken to cease the practice of terminations of pregnancy in NHS hospitals that are not compliant with the Abortion Act 1967.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe):
My Lords, in 2012 the Secretary of State instructed the Care Quality Commission to inspect NHS and independent abortion providers to ensure compliance with the Abortion Act 1967. The Chief Medical Officer also wrote to all providers of abortion services, reminding them of their obligations under the Act. All allegations of illegal abortions are taken very seriously and should be reported to the police, who will, if appropriate, conduct a criminal investigation.
Baroness Knight of Collingtree:
My Lords, is it not the case that early last year the Government’s own care quality inspectors found, in a number of abortion clinics, piles of forms signed by doctors authorising abortions for women they had never seen, let alone examined? Was it not also reported that other abortions were being done for non-medical reasons such as that the child coming was a girl? Why has so little been done to stop these happenings when they are so blatantly against the law of the land?
My Lords, the Care Quality Commission has put in place procedures to identify pre-signing or other instances of non-compliance, and they are confident that these would now be picked up during inspections. However, my noble friend is right; there was a concern early last year that this pre-signing was happening. Since then, however, the CQC has been working directly with providers who are registered to provide termination of pregnancy services to ensure that they are complying with the requirements of the Act. It is beginning to explore how it can strengthen the registration process alongside its regular inspection activities. I therefore suggest to my noble friend that it is not a case of nothing having happened.
On sex selection, we have no evidence at all of gender-related abortions in the UK. Again, concerns were expressed about this in the press, but analysis has been done that shows that the UK birth ratio is within normal limits
Lord Alton of Liverpool:
My Lords, does the noble Earl accept that some cases were referred to the police last year where gender abortions were identified? Will he welcome the decision of Ranjit Bilkhu and a group of Asian women in this country to set up an organisation to challenge the attitude that it is permissible to take the life of an unborn child merely because of its gender? Has he noted the Private Member’s Bill of the Member of Parliament for Congleton, Mrs Fiona Bruce, and the Early Day Motion, signed by more than 50 Members of another place, drawing attention to the need at least to collect the data where the gender of a child is known so that we can truly know whether or not this phenomenon is occurring in this country as it does in many other parts of the world, where the three most dangerous words are, “It’s a girl.”?
My Lords, I am aware of all the initiatives mentioned by the noble Lord. The issue of the sex selection of foetuses is, of course, extremely serious. However, as I mentioned in my earlier Answer, following extensive investigation and analysis we do not believe that there is any evidence that this is happening in the UK. That is the prime reason why we do not agree with the noble Lord that measures should be put in place to collect data regularly on the sex of the aborted foetus. Were we to do that it would require changes to legislation. It would also require changes to clinical practice, and it has ethical implications. I hope the noble Lord will understand that we have thought about this very carefully.
Will my noble friend tell us how many prosecutions have taken place in the last year for terminations that fell outside the Act?
I am not aware of any prosecutions in the last 12 months. The Crown Prosecution Service reviewed the evidence of the pre-signing of HSA1 forms and decided not to take further action against some individuals, but other investigations are continuing.
Lord Steel of Aikwood:
I thank the Minister for the steps that have been taken to stop abuses of the 1967 Act. Will he confirm that there has been a welcome drop in the total number of abortions recently, but that there is still a problem of what are called repeat abortions, where women present who are clearly using abortion as a form of contraception, which is thoroughly undesirable?
My noble friend is right. The abortion rate across England and Wales has been static since 2009. The good news is that the abortion rate for women under 18 has gone down. There was a 9.6% decrease in the rate between 2010 and 2011. On repeat abortions, the news is not so good. The proportion of repeat abortions for women who had abortions in 2011 was 36%. The figure was higher than it had been the previous year, which is a matter for concern.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon:
My Lords, I very much welcome the figures that the Minister gave on the number of abortions going down for younger women, and regret the figure for repeat abortions. Naturally, we must do everything possible to stop illegal abortions. However, will the Minister confirm that it is important that women who need abortions should not be impeded in any way, and that sex education and education about relationships are terribly important? I hope that the Government will be open to accepting amendments to the forthcoming education Bill on that issue.
I am sure that those issues should be discussed very thoroughly. I agree that young people should be taught about relationships. However, I also believe that access to contraception is very important. Our data show that there has been no decrease in the number of women using contraception, and that more women are turning to extremely effective measures such as long-acting contraception. It is encouraging that the abortion rate for the under-18s is coming down.
Baroness Masham of Ilton:
My Lords, how many late abortions have there been for babies who may have had a handicap?
The vast majority of abortions are performed at under 13 weeks. The figure was 91% in 2011. There has been a continuing increase in the proportion of abortions that are performed under 10 weeks. Again, that is positive news. I do not have detailed information on the issue which the noble Baroness asked about, but I will write to her.
Follow up letter to Earl Howe…
Given your answer to Baroness Knight and myself yesterday I was intrigued to see the following written reply in the Commons to Fiona Bruce MP. It confirms that there was indeed evidence of sex selection abortions – which in your own answer you said did not exist. I would be grateful for clarification on this and also wonder whether we could be told what were the reasons why the CPS has decided to take no action. I would also be grateful for clarification of the statement that other investigations are underway and wonder what these investigations are examining.
You also said that ethical considerations prevent you collecting data on illegal gender abortions . I am mystified by this. If data is collected anonymously what possible ethical issues arise? Furthermore, surely all the ethical arguments are about the illegality of such abortions and the failure to properly monitor the taking of the lives of unborn children because of their gender? Surely both constitute a failure of both law and ethics.
This must surely warrant a re-think.
I will copy this to Baroness Knight.