Forty-six years after it was legalized in the UK, the legal status of abortion is still in a muddle. The Director of Public Prosecutions decided earlier this month not to prosecute two doctors who had agreed to do sex-selective abortions. Their conversations with a woman posing as a patient were filmed by The Telegraph. In a lengthy explanation of his stand, Keir Starmer says that justice would not be served by putting the doctors on trial when such levels of uncertainty exist about how abortions are handled in the UK.
There are basically two issues. First, is sex-selective abortion illegal? The spontaneous response of the British public, media and politicians was Yes. However, the abortion law is clear: if the birth poses a risk to the mother’s physical or psychological health, it is legal. Relying on criteria set down in 2007 by the British Medical Association, Mr Starmer suggested that while aborting girls because they are girls may be repugnant, it may be necessary to preserve a woman’s health.