Friday, March 02, 2012

Working at the edge of the law

A Daily Telegraph undercover investigation made recordings of doctors at Pall Mall Medical, Manchester, the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, and the Calthorpe Clinic in Birmingham arranging abortions for women who said they wanted abortions because their babies were the "wrong" sex. Abortions because of the sex of the baby are illegal in Britain.

Details were passed to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. He passed them to police, who have launched an investigation.

"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," according to Dr Peter Saunders, CEO of the Christian Medical Fellowship.

"The present cases raise again the question of just how many illegal abortions are being carried out in Britain. . .

"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 were 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 had been performed
*Faxing the forms to other locations for signature
*Use of signature stamps without any consultation with the doctor. . .

"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."

There's more. Dr Francesca Minerva, an Australian philosopher and medical ethicist, and Dr Alberto Giubilini, a bioethicist from the University of Milan, suggested it could be acceptable to kill newborn babies born with disabilities who "might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole" and healthy children whose adoption would be distressing for the mother.

Writing in the British-based Journal of Medical Ethics, they said newborns were not "persons" in the sense of "having a moral right to life," only "potential persons."

The idea is not a new one. After all, if it's not wrong to kill a baby shortly before birth, what makes it wrong to kill a baby shortly after birth? (But what if abortion is wrong in the first place?)

I look forward to the result of the police investigation into the Telegraph revelations with interest. But not with an awful lot of hope.