ENGLISH LAW DOES not expressly prohibit gender-selective abortions, its Director of Public Prosecutions said today.
Keir Stamer, DPP, published a letter saying this as part of his explanation about a case where two doctors were not prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for attempting unlawfully to procure a miscarriage.
In his letter to the Attorney General, Stamer said he was giving more detailed reasons for the CPS’s decision.
The two doctors had been secretly filmed by the Telegraph newspaper being approached by a woman who said she was seeking an abortion as she was told that she was pregnant with a girl, and that a previous female pregnancy had gone wrong because of an alleged “chromosomal abnormality”.
Among the reasons outlined in Starmer’s letter, he says that these cases “are by no means clear cut” and that a number of important issues arise.
The law does not, in terms, expressly prohibit gender-specific abortions; rather it prohibits 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 termination.
He said that on the facts of these specific cases, “it would not be possible to prove that either doctor authorised an abortion on gender-specific grounds alone”.
He added that there are “very real risks in bringing a prosecution in which the prosecution would have to set out, effectively for the first time and to the criminal standard, the approach that should be taken by doctors before authorising an abortion”.
However, he cautioned that the outcome in these cases “should not be taken as an indication that criminal proceedings will not be brought where an abortion is procured on gender-specific grounds”.
Stramer said that these cases have been considered on their individual facts and merits and “there might be powerful reasons for a prosecution in the public interest in such circumstances”.
He concluded that he is content that the decision not to prosecute on the facts in these cases “was the right decision”.