Spare me this faux outrage at sex-selected abortion

By Dominic Lawson, Independent

[…]  On Sunday, the implacably pro-choice Observer pronounced in its leading article that those on both sides of the abortion debate had “rightly spoken as one in soundly condemning the practice [of sex-selection terminations]”. Two days earlier, The Independent declared: “In some other regards, this newspaper would defend to the hilt the individual’s right to choose an abortion. Not in this one.”

Why the sudden consternation? It is generally agreed that abortion is available on demand in this country – at least up until the 24th week of the pregnancy. As Dr Gillian Lockwood, a former vice-chairman of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology’s Ethics Committee, last week told the BBC’s Today programme, termination is lawful if “the mental or physical health of the woman would be more severely affected by continuing with the pregnancy than by ending it”.

In practice, doctors do not second-guess, let alone reject, the woman’s own assessment of her mental state: so if she says that having the child would cause her acute mental distress, the necessary papers are signed and the unwanted occupant of her uterus is sucked out and disposed of. This is what pro-choice means: it is a bit late for newspapers such as this one to express shock and horror. We went over this particular precipice a long time ago.

As one doctor wrote last week: “If the consultants offering sexually selected abortions should be struck off the register, so should a probable majority of British practitioners.” This was in response to Andrew Lansley’s rushed-out statement that abortions on the grounds that the women concerned didn’t want a girl-child were “illegal and morally wrong”.

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