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 272.

    this seems to me to be shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

    Children, particularly girls , should be taught at an early age that having unprotected sex, and sometimes protected sex, can result in a variety of unwanted problems. not the least a baby that might be killed, and no, I am not anti abortion....

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    15 Minutes ago
    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.

    God gives & is responsible for nothing, medics, scientists and engineers & ALL is achieved by hard human slog & learning from FACTS & EVIDENCE, which religions so often refute/reject

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    M4L Very true! Some peoples view of Christianity seems seriously warped to me too. And elsi64, like you I also worked as a nurse - I agree, have to trust people to make the best decision they can in the circumstances they find themselves. I also believe that causing uneccesary delay when their decision is made is cruel to all concerned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    Continuing on from my last post

    Improving education causes the abortion rate to drop, improving access to contraception and information causes the abortion level to drop, improving women's overall standard of living drops the abortion rate, improving adoption services drops the abortion rate.

    Banning or restricting abortion does little to the abortion rate apart from endangering women

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    Elsi64 239. And you should be aware that people act for all sorts of reasons, particularly when under emotional stress: family pressure, fear that there are no alternatives etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    People who are pro abortion should perhaps attend an abortion and then consider if they still feel as enthusiastic as before.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    [233. Doctor_Spin

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

    Can he carry the foetus to term? If he can, then let him do it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    236. marie

    . . . and your problem with eugenics is what? Is it wrong to try to improve the quality of the human race? Is it wrong to try to eradicate genetic abnormalities? The only aspect that is wrong is the method of achieving it. . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    I sincerely hope that anyone who is trying to understand the current campaign to change the law, doesn't form their opinion after reading this BBC story. It leaves out a lot of the background to how the campaign is supported and funded, and to why this particular amendment by these particular MPs is being opposed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    No religion is unbiased, each believes they are right, each endemically believes that others are wrong & that all others will be & should be "rightfully" refused entry to heaven & be punished in a fantasy world by fire, for eternity, even if you have been a good person.
    Hence, this basic belief & fact is evidence that they should not be trusted with unbiased advice on abortions or anything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    The problem is there is a massive difference between "independent" and "unbiased". The former is not required for the latter to be true. If the bill said "independent unbiased counselling" then thats fine. It doesn't and it's wrong to have counselling that pushes either the pro-life or pro-choice agenda. Neutral questions are whats required, not a sermon about a religious text or viewpoint.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    No, I am saying that if there was no fertility treatment those couples currently undergoing it would adopt these precious babies who would not now be aborted]

    Some people don't want to adopt children who are not genetically theirs. Sad, but true. They'd rather take their chances on fertility treatment. And some women would rather abort than risk a child going to a molestor/abuser.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    229. Bill - you are aware of course that there were unwanted children in orphanages who never found families before IVF....

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    There is no right to have children. One persons right means another person's responsibility. Whose responsibility is it to ensure that the other person's right to a child is fulfilled?

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    Cosmologic 225. We who work already do. It's called child benefit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    Thanks Maria. That explanation is the icing on the cake, in fact it really takes the biscuit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    One has to consider the dear child in this, do we really have the right to pontificate over whether this beautiful life lives or dies. If we have sexual intercourse it is well know that pregnancy can occur, and new life result.With all of mans knowledge life has never been created , only destroyed. This life is so precious. How sad the right to counselling from differing groups is questioned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    Thesilentpsycho 219. Professionals have no right to a freedom of speech or do you advocate that Christian doctors in the NHS should have a right to lecture patients on abortion? A professional opinion is one that is fact based and free of bias.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    I'm not entirely against abortion. In some circumstances, I guess it's a convenient if not necessary evil. However, I am strongly against lobbies that attempt to argue there is a certain amount of time after conception when a life is not a life. Scientifically speaking, this is abject nonsense. Stop insulting people's intelligence when defending the indefensible..

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    If the Dept of Health are considering changes in abortion advice, it would also be helpful to give advice for the fathers-to-be who are involved (where sex was consensual). It takes two to get pregnant and two to raise a child; both have needs that need to be considered.


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