Decision not to prosecute gender-abortion doctors ‘unconstitutional’, say MPs

A cross-party coalition of 50 MPs has strongly objected to the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to bring charges against doctors willing to abort unborn girls. (CV Comment background here; story here.)

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph today, 50 MPs say the CPS decision is “unconstitutional” because it implies that it is not illegal to perform abortions on grounds of gender (“it could lead to the conclusion that gender-specific abortion is merely a matter of professional misconduct rather than illegal”, they write). Yet “it is for Parliament to legislate to change the law, and [the CPS’s decision] has occurred without recourse to Parliament”.

Describing the CPS decision as a “step back in the fight for gender equality”, they say  gender-selective abortion where it occurs e.g. in Asian countries, “harms women by reinforcing misogynist attitudes”.

The MPs support the call by the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, for the matter to be investigated and say they look forward to the Attorney General “providing clarity on the issue”.

The text of the letter follows:

SIR – We are writing as MPs representing different views about abortion but united in concern regarding the recent decision of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to prosecute GPs alleged to have authorised illegal gender-selection abortions (report, September 6). We are supporting the call by the Health Secretary for this matter to be investigated.

The decision by the CPS could lead to the conclusion that gender-specific abortion is merely a matter of professional misconduct rather than illegal. This is clearly unconstitutional as it is for Parliament to legislate to change the law, and it has occurred without recourse to Parliament. Safeguards in the 1967 Abortion Act need to be properly applied and enforced. Doctors are not above the law and the General Medical Council cannot be a substitute for the courts.

Discrimination on the grounds of sex should not be ignored. The decision of the CPS is a step back in the fight for gender equality. Gender-selective abortion has affected the gender balance in many parts of the world and harms women by reinforcing misogynist attitudes.

We look forward to the Attorney General providing clarity on this issue.

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