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Allow women to abort babies of 'wrong sex', argues BMA professor

By Scott D'Arcy

Forcing pregnant women who do not want a child of a particular sex to give birth could harm both the baby and the mother's mental health, a leading doctors' union member has said.

Professor Wendy Savage, a voting member of the British Medical Association Council, also said women should be able to terminate a pregnancy at any stage.

The comments by Prof Savage, a women's rights campaigner and retired obstetrician and gynaecologist, come after a proposal to decriminalise terminations passed the first hurdle in the House of Commons last week.

Prof Savage said sex-selective abortions were a "myth" and hit out at the NHS hospitals which refused to disclose an unborn baby's sex.

Parents wanting to find out the sex of their baby can usually do so in a mid-term scan at between 18 to 21 weeks, but some hospitals have a policy of not telling, according to the NHS Choices website.

Prof Savage, speaking in a personal capacity, told the Mail on Sunday: "Because of this sort of anxiety some places won't tell the woman the sex of the foetus, which is outrageous.

"It's her body and her foetus, so she should have that information… 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."

In England it is illegal for a woman to have an abortion after 24 weeks for non-medical reasons and each procedure must be signed off by two doctors before it can go ahead.

In Northern Ireland the law is much more strict, with NHS terminations only possible when the woman's life is in danger or there is a permanent or serious risk to her physical or mental health.

But Prof Savage said in her experience she only had a "couple" of cases over more than 24 weeks.

She added: "It is a woman's right to decide. 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."

A BMA spokeswoman said: "The BMA supports the current law on abortion."

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