Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Sex-selective abortions should be allowed, says pregnancy expert


A senior doctor has said that women should be allowed to have sex-selective abortions – and torn into a policy that means some pregnant women are denied the chance to find out the sex of their baby.

Parents who want to find out the sex of their foetus can usually do so in a mid-term ultrasound scan at around 20 weeks. However, some hospitals have a policy of not revealing the sex at this point, due to fears of sex-selective abortions.

Professor Wendy Savage describes this policy as “outrageous”, and says that women should have the right to terminate a pregnancy at any stage, whatever their reasons.

Under the 1967 Abortion Act in England, Scotland and Wales, a pregnancy can be aborted before 24 weeks if two doctors approve it, and it is illegal to terminate a pregnancy based on the baby’s predicted sex.

Some experts argue that withholding the foetus’ sex until later in the pregnancy – when abortions are much more difficult to obtain – will reduce the number of sex-selective abortions.   

Retired obstetrician and gynaecologist Professor Savage, who is a member of the British Medical Association’s ethics committee, says that women should be allowed to have sex-selective abortions.

“If a woman does not want to have a foetus who is one sex or the other, forcing her is not going to be good for the eventual child,” the 81-year-old doctor and women’s rights campaigner tells the Mail on Sunday.

Read more: Letters penned 100 years apart show attitudes to abortion haven’t changed

A pregnant woman should be told whether her foetus is expected to be male or female because “it’s her body and her foetus”, continues Professor Savage.

“She is the one taking the risks.”


Pro-choice protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in 2008.

A woman’s mental health could be damaged if she was “forced” to have a child she did not want, Professor Savage adds.

“The foetus is a potential human life at that stage [20 weeks],” she says. “It is not an actual human life… I think you’ve got to concentrate on the [rights of the] woman.”

Read more: Contraception is more effective than ever before

MPs voted last week in favour of the Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill, which would remove criminal sanctions for women and doctors in England and Wales and place regulation with professional bodies.

Under current laws, it’s illegal for a woman to have an abortion after 24 weeks for non-medical reasons. Labour MP Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North), who brought in the Bill, said she wanted to change “Victorian” laws that carry a life sentence for women and doctors.

“I don’t think society would say we want to criminalise these women,” said Johnson.


Diana Johnson, Labour MP for Kingston Upon Hull North, brought in a recent bill for the decriminalisation of abortions in England and Wales.

However, Conservative MP Maria Caulfield (Lewes) has argued that removing criminal sanctions from abortions “would not protect women”.

Caulfield said that the Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill would increase “wider communal discrimination and pressures that tell a woman that she must abort her child because it is a girl, because it has Down’s syndrome, because it has a disability”.

The practice of terminating a pregnancy because of the predicted sex of the child is most common in areas where baby boys are valued over girls, such as China, India and Pakistan. It is illegal in the UK.

However, a 2014 investigation by the Independent claimed that sex-selective abortions were much more widespread than government figures suggested.

Another senior obstetrician who had previously worked for the UK’s leading abortion care service has said that he had “no doubt” that women were terminating pregnancies because of the child’s predicted sex. Dr Vincent Argent told the Telegraph that he believed the practice was “fairly widespread”.

Images: Rex Features, Getty



Texas politician proposes fines for men who masturbate in private


Thousands of Irish women march against draconian abortion laws

oprah winfrey.jpg

Oprah Winfrey nails the problem with the term “childless woman”


The second series of Victoria has an important mental health storyline

The ITV show is tackling issues as relevant now as ever

by Amy Swales
23 Aug 2017

Woman ghosted by her ex gets ultimate revenge by becoming his boss

Revenge is sweet

by Megan Murray
23 Aug 2017

Former Lioness says women’s football has a toxic culture of bullying

Ex-England player Eni Aluko has spoken out about her time on the team.

by Moya Crockett
23 Aug 2017

Thought-provoking illustrations reveal hidden secrets of strangers

The artist was met with “unexpected confessions”

by Sarah Biddlecombe
22 Aug 2017

The most annoying Tube habits, as ranked by irritated Londoners

“Could you move down, please?”

by Amy Swales
22 Aug 2017

These are the main reasons relationships end, according to a new study

...and the reasons couples stay together

by Megan Murray
22 Aug 2017

The new Great British Bake Off might be OK after all

The first episode has not bombed, we repeat: it has not bombed

by Amy Swales
22 Aug 2017

Woman claims she was fired for leaking during a heavy period at work

“Every woman dreads getting period symptoms when they're not expecting them, but I never thought I could be fired for it.”

by Sarah Biddlecombe
22 Aug 2017

Women football fans forced to show bras while being searched at match

Add this to your list of ‘things that are definitely not OK’

by Moya Crockett
22 Aug 2017

This prosecco advent calendar will have you waving goodbye to summer

We're suddenly very excited about Christmas

by Megan Murray
22 Aug 2017