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BMA medical ethics expert: sex-selective abortion in interests of mother AND baby

20 March 2017


Prof Savage said that sex-selective abortion is "another myth propagated by the anti-abortion lobby". Image: Eyevine

An influential member of the British Medical Association's medical ethics committee has said that women should be able to have abortions at any stage of pregnancy, and for any reason, including because the baby is a girl. 

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Prof Wendy Savage, a retired obstetrician and gynaecologist, who the paper says has performed 10,000 abortions in her career, said it was "outrageous" that some hospitals refuse to reveal the sex of the baby during a scan, because of fears of sex-selective abortion. "It’s her body and her foetus, so she should have that information," she said. "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 has previously signed a letter claiming sex-selective abortion is "not gender discrimination" as that term "applies only to living people". 

Not an "actual" human life

Prof Savage is also behind a bid to convince BMA members to back a policy calling for abortion to be removed from criminal statute, submitting a successful motion at last year’s BMA conference seeking a policy on decriminalisation. She insisted in the interview that women should be able to abort babies at any stage of pregnancy. "It’s her body. 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."

Sex selective abortion a "myth" 

She also dismissed late term abortion as "another myth propagated by the anti-abortion lobby, like women wanting sex-selection." 

Prof Savage's comments attracted instant condemnation, with MP Mark Field saying: "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.

"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."

Support from BPAS 

However, BPAS, one of Britain's leading abortion providers and the force behind last week's parliamentary attempt to decriminalise abortion, leapt to Prof Savage's defence, saying: "There is no evidence sex-selective abortion is an issue in this country, as Department of Health statistics show. Wendy believes women should not be prosecuted for causing their own abortion with pills bought online. We agree and so do two thirds of the public.

"We stand by Wendy Savage and are forever grateful for all she has done for pregnant women over a career spanning decades."

How does it benefit anyone to be exterminated? 

Fiorella Nash, a SPUC researcher and expert on gendercide, said: "It is incredibly irresponsible for a member of the BMA’s ethics committee to claim that sex-selective abortion is a myth when studies independent of the government have found clear evidence to support the fear that baby girls are being aborted within some communities. Worldwide, there are some 160 million missing baby girls, largely due to sex selective abortion and the consequences of gendercide are horrific for all women, including those fortunate enough to be born. It is particularly laughable for Dr Savage to claim that it is not in the interests of a child to be born if she is unwanted – how does it benefit anyone to be exterminated?"

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