How can the high priestess of abortion support the barbarity of terminating a baby just because she’s a girl?
Published: 23:30 BST, 19 September 2013 | Updated: 08:12 BST, 20 September 2013
To this day, I can still remember the sense of wonder that gripped me one morning in the middle of my first pregnancy. Returning to the office, I could barely concentrate on my work.
I had just been for a scan to check on the health of the baby – this was in the early days of ultrasound medical technology – and the experience of seeing the pictures of my own baby growing inside me was both thrilling and deeply moving.
Neither my husband nor I asked about the gender of our child, preferring the old- fashioned method of wait and see.
Ann Furedi, the chief executive of BPAS, claims that it was perfectly lawful for women to end their pregnancies if they do not like the sex of their unborn child
Since I come from a family that always seems to produce girls, it came as a great surprise when the baby turned out to be a boy.
Despite my delight in those ultrasound pictures, I decided I would not have any such tests when I embarked on my second pregnancy. I didn’t want any of the doubts or distractions that pre-birth scans might generate.
The experience of my second pregnancy, not knowing what to expect, not knowing if the baby was developing normally, mirrored that of women throughout the world and throughout history. Until very recently, expectant mothers have been entirely in the dark about the baby they were carrying.
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But all that has changed in recent years. We have now entered a brave new world, where a pregnancy can be terminated simply because the foetus does not meet an arbitrary set of criteria drawn up by the mother – or the wider family.
This moral revolution has been driven by two forces. One is the invention of ever-more sophisticated scanning techniques and other tests, which allow a comprehensive profile of the baby to be provided before the birth.
The second is the aggressively libertarian interpretation of the 1967 Abortion Act, which means that in this country we now effectively have abortion on demand.
Defenders of this seismic shift like to talk about women’s rights and ‘choice’. But this trend has little to do with true liberation.
On the contrary, it is profoundly damaging. Increasingly, life is being ended, not on the grounds of health as the 1967 Act stipulated, but on the basis of an emotional decision or social pressure.
The nadir of this destructive, immoral approach was reached recently in the shocking revelation that some doctors in Britain have been aborting female babies solely on the grounds of their gender.
Liberal leader David Steel, left, (pictured with MP Mike Hancock and Shirley Williams), architect of the 1967 Abortion Act, which is now completely meaningless
The appalling practice of sex-selective abortions, it seems, occurs mainly in Asian communities, where a small minority of families still carry the cultural baggage that places a higher social and economic value on boys than girls.
Yet the response of officialdom to the evidence of this phenomenon has been utterly feeble.
Shamefully, the Crown Prosecution Service has declared that there will be no prosecutions of those doctors who were revealed to have agreed to arrange abortions of baby girls, despite a ‘realistic’ prospect of convictions.
Even worse has been the reaction of parts of the so-called feminist ‘sisterhood’.
We have categorical evidence of female foetuses being destroyed on the grounds of their gender.
Yet few feminists have dared to utter a squeak of protest at this savage act of discrimination.
Instead, they either pretend the problem does not exist, or they end up in the bizarre position of defending it.
The latter is the stance taken this week by Ann Furedi, the chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), who claimed that it was perfectly lawful for women to end their pregnancies if they do not like the sex of their unborn child.
‘This is not feminism, but the very opposite. It is brutal, institutionalised misogyny on an epic scale.’
‘There is no legal requirement to deny a woman an abortion if she has a sex preference,’ she said. Going even further, she argued that any attempt to restrict gender selection would undermine a woman’s right to choice.
‘We either support a woman’s capacity to decide or we don’t. You can’t be pro-choice except when you don’t like the choice,’ she trumpeted.
It is truly terrifying that Ms Furedi should be in charge of Britain’s largest abortion charity, for her statements suggest she has completely lost her moral compass.
The idea that gender selection represents an aspect of a woman’s right to choose how to manage her own body and pregnancy is as perverse as it is deluded.
This is not feminism, but the very opposite. It is brutal, institutionalised misogyny on an epic scale.
The lethal message being sent out by Ms Furedi, the abortion clinics and the Crown Prosecution Service is that it’s acceptable to despise girls, to want them excluded from mainstream society, and even to desire an end their potential existence.
That is precisely the kind of outdated barbarity that feminism is meant to be fighting.
It should be said, however, that Ms Furedi has performed one useful public service.
Through her acceptance of gender selection, she has exposed a truth that many of us have long suspected: that the 1967 Abortion Act has become completely meaningless.
When the Act was introduced by David Steel, later the Liberal Party leader, it was with the aim of ending the outright ban on all abortion in this country.
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Under this legislation, an abortion is meant to be carried out only if the continuation of the pregnancy would cause real danger to the physical or mental health of the mother, or if there were evidence of extreme foetal abnormality.
But such qualifications are now treated as a supreme irrelevance. Abortion seems to be granted on the most superficial of grounds, often because it simply isn’t convenient for the mother to have a baby at that precise moment in her life.
As Ms Furedi admitted, terminations are now carried out even in cases of mothers ‘just feeling there’s no way’ they can bring a child into the world.
And so we have arrived at a situation where around 20 per cent of all pregnancies now end in an abortion, while 200,000 such procedures are performed every year, more than a quarter of them in Ms Furedi’s BPAS clinics.
Abortion has become just another form of contraception.
Just as disturbing is how our readiness to terminate a pregnancy has undermined efforts to promote equality in our society.
In recent years, there has been a tremendous – and wholly welcome – effort by our civic institutions to stamp out discrimination against people with disabilities.
Yet this runs counter to the growing acceptance of the belief that unborn children should be aborted if medical tests show they have genetic abnormalities.
The implication of this trend is that a child who is born with disabilities is not as wanted or cherished as one who is born healthy. Indeed, at its very worst, it smacks of eugenics, the twisted obsession with breeding physical perfection.
Gender selection is just as unpleasant. Any free, democratic society that truly wants to treat its citizens as equal would not dream of tolerating such a sinister practice. In its manifest contempt for female gender, it is the exact opposite of equality.
We cannot go on like this. We cannot continue to provide abortions because a family would prefer not to have a daughter, because their baby might not be ‘perfect’ or because a baby would be an ‘inconvenience’ to the mother.
Ann Furedi’s sweeping, superficial comments about choice confirm what many of us have feared: that abortion has become a service to be ordered ‘on demand.’
By failing to take action against doctors who agree to abort babies on the basis of their sex, the Crown Prosecution Service has all but given its blessing to this morally rotten practice.
Perhaps one day, a politician will have the courage to close the loophole in the law that allows this to happen, but don’t hold your breath. Once a social taboo is shattered, it is almost impossible to glue the pieces back together.
Kathy Gyngell is a research fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies.