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  1. ITV Report

Women 'should be allowed abortions at any stage of pregnancy or to select sex of child'

Professor Wendy Savage said it should be the 'woman's right to decide'. Credit: PA

Women should be able to get an abortion at any stage of pregnancy including in cases where they want to select the sex of their child, a retired doctor and medical ethics expert has said.

Professor Wendy Savage, a retired obstetrician and gynaecologist, said it should always be the "woman's right to decide" if she wanted to end her pregnancy.

"It's her body. She is the one taking the risks," she told the Mail on Sunday.

"The foetus is a potential human life at that stage; it is not an actual human life ... I think you've got to concentrate on the [rights of the] woman."

Professor Savage also hit out at some NHS hospitals which refuse to tell women if they are expecting a girl or a boy out of fear that they might end the pregnancy if it is not the sex they want.

The doctor, who sits on the ethics board of the British Medical Association Council, said it was "outrageous" to withhold the information.

Sex-selective abortions were a "myth", she said - but added that compelling a woman to carry a pregnancy to term against her wishes could harm both mother and child.

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, she said.

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.

Some hospitals refuse to reveal whether a couple is expecting a girl or a boy. Credit: PA

Addressing the issue of late-term abortions, Professor Savage said she had only seen a "couple" of cases over more than 24 weeks.

Under current laws, 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.

Professor Savage spoke out after a proposal to decriminalise terminations passed the first hurdle in the House of Commons last week.

Her comments brought calls to resign from some quarters, while others have praised her for defending the rights of women.

In a statement, the BMA stressed that the Professor was speaking in a personal capacity and her views did not reflect those of the organisation.

A spokeswoman said: "The BMA supports the current law on abortion. "Though we recognise the diversity of opinion amongst membership, we advise members to act within the boundaries of the law and their own conscience.

"Given the range of views on this subject, patients must be entitled to impartial and objective medical advice and treatment."