An undercover investigation by The Daily Telegraph filmed doctors granting the illegal abortions based solely on the sex of the unborn baby.

In the films, doctors admit that they are prepared to falsify paperwork to arrange the abortions, the broadsheet reported. It is illegal to conduct such “sex-selection” terminations.

The paper said that it acted on specific information that raised concerns about the procedures becoming common for social and cultural reasons.

Undercover Telegraph reporters accompanied pregnant women to nine clinics in different parts of the country. On three occasions, doctors were recorded offering to arrange terminations after the woman said that she did not want to go ahead with the pregnancy because of the sex of the unborn child.

One consultant was filmed telling a pregnant woman who said she wanted to abort a female foetus: “I don’t ask questions. If you want a termination, you want a termination.”

The consultant then telephoned a colleague and said: “This [the termination] will be under private, she doesn’t want to go through NHS …  she doesn’t want questions asked.”

Another consultant agreed to arrange for a woman to abort a boy after being told that she and her husband already had a son from his first marriage. The practice is known as “family balancing”, the Telegraph reported.

The paper added that the women who accompanied its reporters to consultations were from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “I’m extremely concerned to hear about these allegations. Sex selection is illegal and is morally wrong. I’ve asked my officials to investigate this as a matter of urgency.”     

The Department of Health has apparently now launched an inquiry.