Two startling stories about sex selective abortion in the West hit papers this week. First is one about Dr. Mark Hobart, an Australian doctor who is under investigation for refusing to preform a sex selective abortion and then failing to refer the couple seeking the abortion to another doctor. Dr. Hobart could lose his job or even his medical license. The investigation has apparently been going on for five months now, but it has just started to generate more media and political attention, with an MP recently speaking out on his behalf.
There are circumstances that mitigate the importance of this case in civilizational terms: Dr. Hobart is receiving a lot of support from the public, and the investigation itself may have been politically motivated. Moreover, the couple originally seeking the abortion was Indian, so the whole incident may say more about cultural norms in that country than in the West.
But when viewed in conjunction with the news out of Britain, the picture begins to look more troubling. In recent weeks, the British government has decided not to prosecute two doctors who were caught on tape agreeing to arrange sex-selective abortions. One defense the government has offered of its position is that it would be impossible to determine if the abortions were preformed solely for gender reasons, or if, in addition to the gender reasons, there were also other health factors involved.
And yet new guidance issued by the British Medical Association states that “there may be circumstances, in which termination of pregnancy on grounds of fetal sex would be lawful.” Keir Starmer, England’s Director of Public Prosecutions, followed up on the BMA memo, arguing “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.”
We’re not lawyers here at Via Meadia, but even we can see how a medical establishment committed to the view that sex selective abortions are sometimes appropriate could wiggle its way out of that language. When you pair that with recent investigations finding that UK doctors often sign off on abortions without investigating the woman’s motives for seeking one, you have an environment ripe for abuse of the spirit of the law, if not the letter.