British abortion clinics are committing illegal abortions based on the sex of the unborn baby, an undercover investigation has disclosed. Reporters from The Telegraph secretly filmed doctors agreeing to perform sex selective abortions and offering to falsify official paperwork to arrange the illegal abortions. British Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said he was extremely concerned by the allegations. “Sex selection is illegal and is morally wrong,” he said. “I’ve asked my officials to investigate this as a matter of urgency.”
The disclosures will add to growing concerns about the regulation of British abortion clinics and the apparent ability of women to secure abortions on demand. The regulator of the clinics, the Care Quality Commission, has faced numerous questions over the rigour of its inspections, adding to the concerns that any malpractice was unlikely to have been uncovered through conventional channels.
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 abortions after being told the expectant mother did not want to go ahead with the pregnancy because of the sex of the unborn child.
One doctor, Prabha Sivaraman, a consultant 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 abortion, explaining that it was for “social reasons” and the woman “doesn’t want questions asked”. After taking the woman’s contact details, Dr Sivaraman, who works for the Pall Mall Medical Centre in Manchester and also as a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at North Manchester General Hospital, 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 an abortion the following week.
Another consultant, Claudine Domoney, who works with 132 Healthwise Clinic in Harley Street, 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. In a consultation room in the Chelsea and Westminster hospital, London, the woman, who was approximately 18 weeks pregnant, explained her reasons for the abortion. Dr Domoney explained that as she was going away that afternoon she would be unable to perform the abortion, but she telephoned a colleague to see if he could fit the pregnant woman in.
At neither of the clinics offering the sex-selection abortions were the pregnant women offered in-depth counselling on their decision—despite the questionable grounds. MPs have raised concerns over the growing commercialisation of abortion clinics and Prime Minister David Cameron is under pressure to accept proposals which would mean that women have to receive independent counselling before an abortion could take place.
Over the course of three weeks, four pregnant women of different ethnic backgrounds, accompanied by undercover reporters, travelled around Britain to appointments with staff working for clinics offering abortions. The Daily Telegraph decided to investigate the issue of sex-selection abortions after doctors, academics and pro-life campaigners all alleged that the illegal abortions were being offered by specific organisations. Initially, reporters contacted abortion providers by telephone to see if they were willing to arrange abortions due to the sex of the foetus. Some, such as Marie Stopes, made clear it was policy not to arrange abortions for that reason, but others indicated they could help.
Stephanie Byrom, the chief executive of Pall Mall Medical, insisted that abortions were not offered on the grounds of gender determination. “We categorically confirm that the service is only offered on medical grounds,” she said. “The information we have is that the service has not been sought on the grounds of gender determination. If we are provided with any information that one of our consultants has breached this then we will take immediate action. We take the provision of the law concerning terminations very seriously. We are updating our website to ensure this is absolutely clear.” The Pall Mall centre has suspended Sivaraman and suspended further abortions.
In a statement, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said it “takes extremely seriously the allegations made against one of its consultants” and was “investigating these very serious allegations as a matter of urgency”.
The Health Secretary convened an urgent meeting of officials and decided to refer the matter to the police and medical authorities. The Chief Medical Officer is also writing to all abortion clinics to remind them of their “responsibilities”. In a statement, the Department of Health said: “Following the reports in the Telegraph, we will be speaking to the police. Criminal offences may have been committed and we will take urgent action. We will be speaking to the GMC to ask them to investigate individual clinicians and we have asked the CQC to urgently inspect the named clinics.”
Darinka Aleksic, the campaign co-ordinator for Abortion Rights, warned that the criminal practice by a minority should not be used to impose tighter restrictions on abortion. “It is absolutely vital that abortion providers adhere stringently to both legal requirements and professional guidelines, so that the public has confidence in the system,” she said.
The revelations prompted further claims that sex selective abortions have long been committed in Britain. Dr Vincent Argent, who previously worked for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and is now a GP and consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, said he had “no doubt” that women were obtaining abortions because of the sex of the baby and that he believed the practice was “fairly widespread”. However, he claimed the law on sex selective abortions was unclear and suggested that it was not illegal “because it doesn’t say that in the Act”. “It is certainly considered to be unethical by the General Medical Council. But there has never been a legal test case which has actually said it’s illegal,” he insisted.
In another case, a counsellor at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) in Willesden, north London, agreed to forge paperwork so the woman could have the abortion. When the woman said she wanted an abortion because “it’s a girl and I have a girl already, and I really want a boy”, the counsellor told her that it was illegal to have an abortion for that reason.
However, when the would-be patient asked if they had to mention the reason she had stated, the counsellor said, “I mean, if you want to tell me something different, another reason why you don’t want to continue with this pregnancy … I can put that.”
“Well just say that I didn’t plan it and I’m not prepared?” suggested the woman.
“Yeah, yeah, OK, that’s fine, so that’s what I will put down”, said the counsellor.
The woman, who was accompanied by an undercover Telegraph reporter, also told a nurse at the clinic the reason for the abortion following the foetal scan, but the nurse did not try to deter her. As they discussed the abortion, the pregnant woman reiterated her reasons to the nurse. “It’s not that I don’t want to get pregnant it’s just the sex of the baby,” she said. The centre manager booked the abortion for the following week at another BPAS clinic in Surrey.
As the pregnant woman and the reporter were leaving the clinic, however, the centre manager asked to speak to them again. She explained that her colleague had told her the woman wanted an abortion because of the sex of the baby. “We’re not legally allowed to let you have an abortion for that reason so I can’t let you go ahead and have it,” said the manager. “We’ll have to cancel your appointment”.
Other BPAS clinics also refused to arrange an abortion due to the sex of the foetus. One doctor at a clinic in Richmond, south-west London, said: “I’ll stop you there. We don’t terminate a pregnancy because of the gender, the sex of the baby. It’s illegal”. A BPAS spokesman said that its clinics always complied with the law.
F&L Comment: These revelations make clear that despite the alleged “safeguards” in the law, abortion on demand is a reality in Britain. The medical profession there has become so corrupted by the practice of abortion that it can no longer be trusted to act in the interests either of pregnant women or their unborn babies. With an annual death toll approaching 200,000, it is clear that the law needs to be changed as a matter of urgency to outlaw this barbaric practice.
The Daily Telegraph. February 23. Irish Independent. February 23. The Daily Telegraph. February 24. Irish Independent. February 24. Family & Life. February 27.
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