Health ministers 'oppose abortion advice changes'

Woman and doctor The proposal applies to abortion advice in England and not the rest of the UK

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The government has written to all MPs to tell them health ministers will vote against a proposal to change the advice given to women seeking an abortion.

Conservative MP Nadine Dorries has suggested abortion advice in England should not be given by organisations that carry out terminations.

The government says it is committed to making sure counselling is independent.

Some Tory MPs say they are angry at what they see as an attempt to put them under pressure during a Commons debate.

Downing Street earlier made it clear Prime Minister David Cameron opposed Ms Dorries' amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill.

However, a spokesperson said that no pressure was being applied to Conservative MPs to vote in a particular way.

The bill is due to be discussed by MPs in the Commons on Tuesday and Wednesday but it is not yet certain that the amendment will even be heard, says BBC political correspondent Ben Geoghegan.

At present, women seeking an abortion need the consent of two doctors, which can be obtained through an NHS clinic or GP surgery, or at a private provider, such as Marie Stopes or the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), affiliated to the NHS.

In both cases, staff have a duty to provide counselling to the women who use them - and under Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' guidelines that advice should be impartial, objective and unbiased.

'Nothing finalised'

Ms Dorries' amendment - which is also supported by Labour backbencher Frank Field - would remove that duty from Marie Stopes and BPAS.

It says the NHS - specifically GPs - should provide "independent information, advice and counselling services for women requesting termination of pregnancy" - and it defines "independent" as an organisation that does not itself provide abortions.

There are no other stipulations about who those independent bodies could be. Pro-choice campaigners say they could be faith-based groups morally opposed to abortion, who will seek to persuade women that going ahead with one would be a sin.

While MPs are traditionally given a "free vote" on abortion, the Department of Health's letter to MPs says all health ministers are against the idea.

The Department of Health says it is looking to consult over the advice available to women seeking terminations and has not finalised any proposals yet.

It says any requirement to offer independent counselling would be in addition to what is already provided by GPs and clinics, not instead of it, and the government does not propose to strip abortion charities of their ability to provide advice.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    There is only one God. The pro abortionists seem to be drifting away from the subject under debate and becoming obsessed by theology. Can we turn our attention back to this very important matter.
    Of course Bill. Just as long as the anti abortionists don't bring theology, God, Sin, the bible, the afterlife, eternal damantion, Jesus or Father Christmas straight back into it again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    Further to my previous point, the NHS or your own healthcare provider if private are 100% neutral & above accusations of treating patients to make profits. Even though I doubt that others set out to maximise profits at patients' expense, I feel it's unnecessary to involve them at the advice stage. Family planning NHS staff are caring & only want to help couples / women to decide what suits them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    This is not a moral question being raised by the government. It is just an extension of their long expressed policy of spreading tax payers money to private enterprise and charities that are run as businesses. That is what the word 'independent' actually means. It means 'run for monetary gain'.
    Anyone bringing the rights and wrongs of abortion into the argument is hijacking the thread.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    Who is Nadine Norries ? she has nothing to do with me , was she voted in on her opinion about abortion ? i think not probably about getting the economy right and getting the huge debt we are in right . her personal issues she should keep to herself , im sick of being dictated to by people like her in her ivory tower , looking down on the rest of us this subject keeps getting chipped at .

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    @170"Or can we stupid members of the public discuss the ethical distinctions... Both have been simplified, so I suppose I will say: 'Down with the Christians', and forego any attempt to discuss the moral complexities"
    Would be nice, but apart from yourself, the supporters for this law have shown an inclination to denigrate the Marie Stopes institute, and the idea of abortion per se. Debate?

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    Killing children is wrong. If you don't want to have children- don't have sex.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    220. mattfrombrum - Its not a case of "letting" her have independent advice. Its not as if a woman considering abortion is prevented from discussing it at all - she can get all the advice she wants from whoever she likes.
    This amendment would push mothers into getting advice they may not want from organisations who are not really independent but are instead pushing an agenda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    Bill 218. As a Christian myself, I disagree with you. We interfere with nature all the time using, in my Christian view, the God given skills of medics, scientists and engineers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    . . . surely it is up to the individual to who they turn to for advice! If a woman wants a termination, she is hardly likely to ask her local catholic priest for advice is she.She will want to talk to some one who is sympathetic to her position. Impartial advice advice will say neither yay or nay and she will be in no better position than when she started. This is just a ploy to delay things.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    No-one is forced to have an abortion in this country. So why should they be forced to keep a baby they can't, for whatever reason, take care of/bring up properly? Or will we have to sit and watch more baby P's being battered to death by mothers who can't/don't want to bring up offspring? "
    P's mother had the option of abortion or adoption but her children were still abused

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    196. Bill
    Seems rather arrogant of you to claim to know the mind of god and go against his word in the bible. Guess I must have missed the small print: Judge not lest you be judged yourself - unless you're sure you know better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    @218. Bill

    God made some people capable of having children and some not. It is not for us mortals to interfere with God's will. To do so is a mortal sin.
    What about premature babies, is saving them interfering with God's will too?

    The problem with trying to apply the Bible to life in the 21st century is that is all biased interpretation & not literal fact as the fundamentalists like to claim.

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    146 This Is England: The point is that it isn't just the NHS you have to consider. There are numerous private clinics that offer abortion for profit and also advice. If anyone doesn't believe that poses a potential conflict of interest then I would say they were naive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Good Grief! What a lot of nonsense masquerading as comment! I am a nurse I work on a daily basis performing early medical abortions. This proposal of Dorries would mean a delay to treatment which can only adversely affect women who are in this position. We ask the women we are treating at every stage if they are sure of there decision and I credit them with minds of their own.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Abortion is mans way of justifying and rationalizing infant murder. For those who were not created (athiests) but created themselves, i just want to know how you can deny GOD if HE did not exist ?..IF our Creator does not exist, then nor do you...
    Dont be ridiculous, god doesnt exist apart from in the indoctrinated minds of some, might as well say marshmallows are in everything

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    144. Bill, my son, his father and me are proud he was born of sin (IVF). I'm equally proud of my granddaughter born out of wedlock. My 48 yrs so far have taught me life does not always go according to plan and once we learn to accept our own faults we begin to accept the faults of others too. With all respect I would rather hold my views than yours because I know YOUR God didnt create perfection.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    215 Maria, no you don't sterilise girls. Your statement has the whiff of eugenics about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    222. bacy - you missed out the key phrase there - choice WITHIN THE LAW!

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    well, Abortion is illegal and immoral, who does have a right to kill the growing baby inside mom's belly? why don't people give advise and counsel those who are in trouble to find other way out? why don't government support those innocent babies? there should be a support and resource center for those mother and family and innocent preborn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    What about the rights of the father. Shouldn't he get a say in this?


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