A top British medical leader is facing public backlash this week after saying women should be allowed to abort an unborn baby simply because of the baby’s sex.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Professor Wendy Savage, a member of the British Medical Association ethics committee, argued that sex-selection abortions are not happening in Britain. A retired OB-GYN and abortion practitioner, Savage said she performed about 10,000 abortions during her career and only once was asked to abort an unborn child because of its sex.
But Savage’s claims about rarity basically are meaningless, given that she believes women should be allowed to abort an unborn child because of his or her sex – for any reason at any point in the pregnancy. To Savage, a sex-selection abortion is “not gender discrimination” because only “living people” can be discriminated against.
The Mail reports Savage is urging the government to get rid of the law that prohibits sex-selection abortions.
“If a woman does not want to have a foetus who is one sex or the other, forcing her [to go through with the pregnancy] is not going to be good for the eventual child, and it’s not going to be good for [the mother’s] mental health,” she said.
Though sex-selection abortions are illegal, there is evidence that they may be happening anyway. A 2014 study found that there were about 4,700 fewer girls in Britain than what statistics would suggest – leading many to speculate that they may have been aborted, according to the report. In 2013, another British government report also found signs that unborn girls are being targeted for sex-selection abortions.
Further, in 2012, an undercover investigation by the London Telegraph exposed several British abortion doctors who were willing to help facilitate illegal sex-selection abortions.
Here’s more from the interview:
[M]any NHS hospitals have stopped telling parents the sex of their unborn child at their 12-week scan, instead waiting to 20 weeks, and ‘some hospitals have a policy of not telling patients the sex of their baby’ altogether, according to the NHS Choices website. The 2014 study of census information suggested sex-selective abortions may be a particular issue in Britain’s South Asian communities, where there is a cultural preference for boys.
Prof Savage said: ‘Because of this sort of anxiety some places won’t tell the woman the sex of the foetus, which is outrageous. It’s her body and her foetus, so she should have that information… If a woman does not want to have a foetus who is one sex or the other, forcing her [to go through with the pregnancy] is not going to be good for the eventual child, and it’s not going to be good for [the mother’s] mental health.’
In a follow-up interview, Savage also said women should be allowed to have abortions at any stage of pregnancy, for any reason. Currently, abortions are illegal after 24 weeks in England, excepted in limited circumstances.
“It’s her body,” Savage said. “She is the one taking the risks. The foetus is a potential human life at that stage [in the womb]; it is not an actual human life… I think you’ve got to concentrate on the [rights of the] woman.”
Savage’s comments sparked immediate backlash after the Daily Mail published the interview over the weekend.
Conservative lawmakers, pro-life groups and others quickly responded to her abortion extremism.
“Suggesting that women should be able to abort babies solely because they happen to be either male or, much more usually, female, is utterly abhorrent,” MP Mark Field told the Mail. “To have someone like Wendy Savage with her extreme views at the heart of the BMA is a very worrying sign. The majority of people in this country, even those who support abortion, think sex-selective abortion is a step too far.”
Experts estimate that as many as 200 million girls are missing world-wide because they were aborted based on their sex. Even research from the United Nations, which is no champion of unborn babies’ rights, points to sex-selection abortions as a huge discrimination problem against women and girls.
Evidence of the discriminatory practice is especially strong in Asia. In China, for example, the birth ratio was 115.88 boys to 100 girls in 2014, according to research by the Charlotte Lozier Institute.
The research group said there is evidence that sex-selection abortions are happening in the U.S., too. Sex-selection abortions are illegal in just a handful of states.
“One major study that analyzed U.S. Census data from 2000 found that third births in families of foreign-born Chinese, Indians, and Koreans in the U.S. who already had two daughters displayed a ratio of 151 boys to 100 girls—an extreme male-biased ratio,” according to the research group.