By Nora Sullivan
The news came out of the United Kingdom (UK) last week that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has determined that it would not be in the “public interest” to prosecute two doctors who agreed to arrange illegal sex-selective abortions. This decision was made despite the fact that prosecutors admit there is more than enough evidence to take these doctors to court for violating British law.
In February of last year, the newspaper the Daily Telegraph launched an undercover investigation of UK abortion providers and published the results. Doctors at British clinics were secretly filmed agreeing to terminate pregnancies based solely on whether the unborn child was a male or female. The doctors declared their willingness to falsify paperwork to arrange the procedures even though sex-selective abortion has long been illegal in the UK.
Dr. Raj Mohan, a physician in Birmingham, was secretly filmed agreeing to arrange an abortion for a woman claiming that she wanted the procedure because the child was a girl. “It’s like female infanticide, isn’t it?” remarked Dr. Mohan before agreeing to carry out the abortion. Another practitioner, Dr. Prabha Sivaraman, told her patient who had claimed that she wanted to abort her child on the ground that it was a girl, “I don’t ask questions. If you want a termination, you want a termination.”
Following an inquiry, the CPS acknowledged that there was sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution with a “sufficient prospect of conviction.” However, the CPS told the police that a “public interest test” has not been met. They announced that there was no need to launch an investigation as the General Medical Council (GMC), which oversees the conduct of doctors, would deal with the case. The GMC, however, has no legal enforcement powers and does not have the authority to prosecute breaches of the law.
Andrea Williams, Director of the UK’s Christian Legal Centre, stated, “This is contrary to the law. Parliament makes the law and the CPS should enforce it.” She added, “We believe in the rule of law and that girls should not be terminated because boys are wanted, or that a baby should be terminated because of a cleft palate.”
In January of this year, the British government released the first statistical data backing up concerns that sex-selection abortions are being carried out in the UK. A health minister said that the ratios of male and female births among mothers of certain nationalities may “fall outside the range considered possible without intervention.” Sex-selective abortion has long been considered a serious problem throughout India and China, where sons are considered preferable for a long list of cultural as well as economic and social reasons.
Sex-selective abortion poses a multitude of concerns, both ethical and practical. As demographer Nicholas Eberstadt cogently points out, the world is now facing a bleak new form of gender discrimination in the form of sex-selective abortion. The practice has become so much a part of some societies (most noticeably in China and India, but it can been seen in many other countries as well as in subpopulations in the US and now the UK) that it has skewed the sex ratio of the entire world, as millions of girls have disappeared. In the words of Eberstadt, “In terms of its sheer toll in human numbers, sex-selective abortion has assumed a scale tantamount to a global war against baby girls.”
The CPS has stated that it is not in the public interest to prosecute these doctors. The CPS is wrong. It is always in the public’s interest that the rule of law be upheld, if the law is just – as this law is. Additionally, it is in the public’s interest to banish lethal sex discrimination and prevent society from devolving into a system where girls are eliminated based on their sex before they are even born. Not only is it a disservice to them as individuals but to women everywhere, whose perceived value is fundamentally diminished by such acts.