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October 22nd 2013 print

Philippa Martyr

Let’s just call it ‘justifiable femicide’

No one should be in the least surprised when sex-selective abortions become completely acceptable. This is how it works: the police refuse to prosecute, test cases are heard, and finally the formerly unthinkable becomes legal

In the last few weeks, legal and medical authorities in the UK made the decision not to penalise doctors who refer women for sex-selective abortions.

The British Medical Association has indicated that there would be circumstances under which it would be lawful for a woman to terminate a pregnancy on the grounds of the baby’s sex. The Director of Public Prosecutions has also been forced to clarify exactly why the Crown Prosecution Service in the UK will not be prosecuting two doctors who recently referred women for sex-selective abortions.

And under what circumstances should a woman be referred for an abortion to terminate a perfectly healthy child?

That would be any circumstance at all, actually. Any woman with an unwanted child, whether it’s healthy or otherwise, can have a termination on demand in the UK and in Australia, as long as it’s reasonably early in the pregnancy.

And this is why no one should be in the least bit surprised that sex-selective abortions will soon be completely acceptable in the UK, and in Australia too. This is how abortion was legalised in the first place: the police refused to prosecute, test cases were then heard, and finally the law was changed.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but apparently the sheer psychological distress of having a baby of the wrong sex is why termination should be considered absolutely legitimate in certain circumstances. This is precisely the old ‘psychological incapacity’ argument that was used to legalise abortion in the first place, and then provide it on demand.

Obviously the wrong set of unborn genitals is so psychologically distressing and potentially life-threatening to some pregnant women that something must be done about it, and quickly. However, one set of unborn genitalia is particularly prone to cause women distress. That is the female set, which is why China and India have such interesting sex ratios today.

The fact that the pregnant woman may become a victim of violence from her husband and other relatives if she is found to be pregnant with the ‘wrong’ baby is rarely mentioned by the well-meaning crowd one sees waving coathangers in public. The correct intervention here would surely be to remove the pregnant woman from the violent people, rather than vindicate them by terminating her pregnancy.

Where are the cries of ‘misogyny’ for this culture of femicide? Why are we being forced to tolerate cultures that see an unborn woman as worth less than an unborn male, to the point of denying her life in the first place?

Don’t be silly. Abortion is now the one human right which will never, ever be challenged under any circumstances. There will never be a prosecution for anything related to procuring an abortion in the UK, or in Australia. Abortion is the trump card which trounces race, sexual orientation, or just being the unwanted child of a multiple pregnancy.

The only way you can be prosecuted is to do what Dr Mark Hobart did in Melbourne recently, and refuse to refer a woman for a sex-selective abortion. The woman’s unborn child was female and 19 weeks old, but she and her husband didn’t want her any more once they found out the baby was female.

Mark Hobart didn’t know any doctors who would perform an abortion at 19 weeks based only on the baby’s sex, so he couldn’t and wouldn’t refer her. But a few days later the couple found someone who’d do it, because they terminated the pregnancy.

So clearly there was no problem. I mean, the couple got their abortion, and Dr Hobart didn’t have to refer them because he couldn’t, so everyone should now be happy. Except that someone has clearly complained, because Dr Hobart has now been investigated for failing to refer the couple to a doctor who would give them a sex-selective abortion.

Abortion is legal on demand in Victoria, and protected by law as such. But apparently that’s not enough now. You have to be actively, busily, promoting abortion to show how tolerant and accepting you are. And if you happen to think, as I do, that abortion is a tragedy that kills one person and wounds two others, you need to be taught a lesson.

In Melbourne this month, the 2013 March for Babies – which attracted 3000 people and had a permit to march – was stopped by a group of anywhere between 50 and 200 demonstrators and forced to turn back. Touted in the Guardian as a ‘counter-rally’ supporting free, safe legal abortion on demand – which already exists and is protected by law in Victoria – the protestors subsequently attacked the marchers, and the police did nothing.

So why worry about sex-selection? We’ve been aborting perfectly healthy male and female babies legally in Australia for decades now. Why split hairs over sex-selection? Is it because some of us are starting to realise that those people who said ‘thin end of the wedge’ were right?

Philippa Martyr blogs at Transverse City . She is a patron of Abortion Grief Australia