Even given the emotive nature of the abortion debate, some stories on the subject have a special capacity to shock. The case of Kermit Gosnell, who snipped the necks of viable babies in his Philadelphia charnel house, is one recent example, and now comes news from the UK that, while less overtly gruesome, is an equally chilling reminder of the everyday horrors perpetrated in the name of a woman’s “right to choose.”

It’s emerged that several National Health Service (NHS) trusts in the UK have been routinely burning the bodies of aborted babies as “clinical waste,” and that in at least two cases the remains were used to heat hospitals – an example of ruthless efficiency if ever there was one. This is what happens when the progressive left’s culture of death meets the heartless bureaucracy of socialized healthcare.

An investigation for Channel 4′s Dispatches program, which airs in the UK this evening, found that the remains of more than 15,000 aborted and miscarried babies have been incinerated in the last two years alone. At two hospitals the remains were burned in facilities that generated power to heat hospital buildings.

The Telegraph reports:

One of the country’s leading hospitals, Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, incinerated 797 babies below 13 weeks gestation at their own ‘waste to energy’ plant. The mothers were told the remains had been ‘cremated.’ Another ‘waste to energy’ facility at Ipswich Hospital, operated by a private contractor, incinerated 1,101 fetal remains between 2011 and 2013.

The program also found that, in the case of miscarriages, parents weren’t consulted over what should happen to the remains of their child. Britain’s Department of Health has acted swiftly to ban the incineration of remains, with health minister Dr. Dan Poulter calling it “totally unacceptable.”

The latest horror story is a reminder that, even as the pro-life movement in the U.S. has been eking out victories, with several states imposing tighter restrictions on abortion, in Britain pro-life campaigners have made little headway in recent years. The general public remains largely ambivalent on the issue, while the powerful medical and legal establishments appear thoroughly committed to the pro-abortion cause.

In 2012, 97 percent of the 185,000 abortions carried out in the UK were on the grounds of risk to the mother’s health, and 99.94 of those involved a purported risk to the mother’s mental health. Pro-life campaigners claim the “mental health” provision is routinely abused, and effectively amounts to abortion on demand. Under the UK’s 1967 Abortion Act, no termination is supposed to go ahead unless two doctors have judged it to be in the woman’s best interests; however the rules have been relaxed to the point where, in around half of cases, the woman doesn’t have to be seen by a doctor at all – a nurse can carry out the consultation, with doctors merely signing the paperwork.

And last year, prosecutors decided not to pursue criminal charges against doctors accused of arranging “sex selection” abortions, ruling that it would “not be in the public interest.” That decision was celebrated by Britain’s abortion industry, with the head of one of the country’s biggest abortion charities declaring open season on sex-selection abortions, and likening them to abortions carried out following rape.

(Incidentally, I’ve always found the position of those pro-choice people who do oppose sex selection abortions odd – they apparently think it’s wrong to abort a baby that the parents don’t want because it’s a girl, but fine to abort a baby because they just don’t want it.)