The Calthorpe Clinic in Birmingham (pictured), one of Britain’s oldest abortion facilities, is now facing a police investigation after staff were caught falsifying paperwork and a doctor admitted that an abortion he was offering was tantamount to ‘female infanticide’.
Two abortion clinics exposed last night by The Daily Telegraph have already been reported to the police and the General Medical Council (GMC) by Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary.
Consultants working at Pall Mall Medical and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital were secretly recorded offering to conduct abortions because the baby was a particular sex.
The Pall Mall centre in Manchester suspended Prabha Sivaraman, the consultant at the centre of the scandal, and also suspended further abortions.
Mr Lansley has made it clear that abortions carried out on grounds of sex selection are illegal. If it is found, as appears likely, that the doctors involved did actually make false statements on abortion authorisation certificates then they face being prosecuted under the Perjury Act.
If convicted they could face imprisonment. In addition the GMC could strike them off the medical register taking away their right to practise medicine.
It is a common misconception that abortion is legal in Britain. In fact it remains illegal under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and doctors are only exempted from prosecution if they follow a strict set of guidelines as laid down in the Abortion Act 1967.
But the government, the medical profession and the police have consistently turned a blind eye over many years to practice at or beyond the edge of the law.
The present cases raise again the question of just how many illegal abortions are being carried out in Britain.
I have previously argued that the figure is close to 98% of all 200,000 abortions annually in Britain, on the basis that this is the percentage which are being carried out on mental health grounds when there is actually no evidence that continuing with an unplanned pregnancy poses any greater risk to mental health than abortion. This was confirmed in a major study by the Royal College of Psychiatrists last year.
BPAS, one of the country’s two major ‘abortion providers’ just escaped a police investigation when a centre manager at one of their clinics cancelled an abortion for sex selection that other staff at the same centre had authorised.
Thus far BPAS and Marie Stopes International have managed to escape blame. But the rabbit hole may run deep.
In 2007 Dr Vincent Argent, former medical director of BPAS, gave evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology committee, in which he alleged widespread abuse around signing of the ‘abortion form’ HSA1 that allows an abortion to go ahead.
He said that ‘there are widespread variations in the actual provision of signatures’ and added that he had personally observed ‘the following practices’:
- Signing batches of forms before patients are even seen for consultation
- Signing the forms with no knowledge of the particular patient and without reading the notes
- Signing forms without seeing or examining the patients
- Signing forms after the abortion has been performed
- Faxing the forms to other locations for signature
- Use of signature stamps without any consultation with the doctor
He added that ‘the HSA1 form is often considered to be just an administrative process where doctors make no attempt to form an opinion, in good faith, that the patient fulfils the grounds of section 1’.
The Labour Health Secretary at the time did nothing about these allegations.
Perhaps Mr Lansley will.
By forcefully making the point that some abortions (ie. for sex selection) are illegal he has already opened the question as to where exactly the line should be drawn.
Having started asking questions Mr Lansley may now find it very difficult to stop, because in reality sex selection abortions are actually just the tip of a large iceberg of illegal activity.
In the meantime abortion doctors need to be very careful what they sign.