In China in 2011, there are 118 male births for every 100 female births. That’s pretty typical for the last few years and is the highest ratio of baby boys to baby girls in the world. As far as we can tell, the natural rate is a preponderance of 105 boys born for every 100 girls. It is very hard to escape the conclusion that there is a surfeit of males in the most populous country in the world. As Steven Pinker noted in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, the civilising effect of women on young men is one of the most important ways that male aggression can be curtailed. In other words, too many guys are good for nobody. No one seriously doubts that the mismatch between the sexes is caused by selective abortion, and that this is exacerbated by the one-child policy of China.
On the controversial question of abortion, I’ve always felt Bill Clinton put it best when he said that it should be “safe, legal and rare”. But there should be no controversy about the equality of men and women. Both the sexes have exactly the same right to life. To abort a foetus just because it is female is a fundamental offence against human rights. In the UK, it is also illegal.
All this makes the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (“CPS”) not to prosecute two doctors who agreed to perform sex-specific abortions bewildering.
The CPS and the police have spent fourteen months investigating allegations made in the Daily Telegraph. In two cases, the evidence is strong enough for a prosecution, but the CPS have said that this would not be in the public interest. Jenny Hopkins, the CPS lawyer in charge of the case, appears to believe that aborting a female foetus is not a criminal offence, merely a breach of professional ethics. For this reason, she wants to the General Medical Council (“GMC”) to deal with the case. However, the GMC have already said that they cannot take the place of the CPS.
In the oddest part of her statement, she states that the level of harm to the victim was relevant. In fact, she implies that there was no harm to anyone as the journalist who approached the doctors was never going through with the abortion. This shows a disturbing level of naivety on the part of Ms Hopkins. Does she imagine that these doctors were picked by the Daily Telegraph at random? Clearly, the likelihood that illegal selective abortions have taken place in the past cannot form part of the case against the doctors. However, Ms Hopkins admits that there is already sufficient evidence for a prosecution. Presumably she also sees nothing wrong with speeding as long as there is no intention to crash.
The case must be reviewed by an independent and accountable third party. That review must include in its terms of reference how the CPS could reach such an irrational decision in the first place. As for the CPS itself, it is clearly not fit for purpose. Many people were shocked when it refused to prosecute Simon Harwood for the killing of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests in April 2009. Even when they were forced to change that decision, the CPS failed to achieve a conviction. As recently as June this year it was revealed that a murderer had to be retried because the CPS prosecutor was “incompetent”.
It is high time for the CPS to be disbanded. Its role should be given back to local prosecutors who will be ultimately responsible to elected Crime Commissioners. Unlike the bureaucrats of the CPS, Crime Commissioners are accountable to their electorates. If one of them were crazy enough to decide it wasn’t worth prosecuting doctors for agreeing to abort a foetus just because it was female, it is unlikely the public would keep him or her in post.
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