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 292.

    Find 100 children, explain abortion and then ask them if they wish their parents had aboprted them. The defening NO! means that abortions are done against the will of another person. who is invading whose rights now?

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    Those on here who keep quoting/spouting biblical or religous stuff prove the point,faith based counselling is NOT independant and they should play no part in such counselling.If the majority of abortions are in the teens/early 20's group then we need to look at education and whether we're getting sex education right both at home and school.

  • Comment number 290.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    Although this issue is a very emotive issue, we all need to be aware of how the church and society actualy oppressed many of these individuals, and made illegal abortions be common practice, this damaging and abusing thousands of women.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    265 You don't try to talk young children or young people into having sterilisations as Maria was advocating (I presume as a means of keeping abortion rates or populations down, I'm not sure)
    You didn't read the earlier posts hence have misunderstood.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    As a Catholic I have always been taught that abortion is WRONG period. However, I must confess that there are certain cases where the decision to have an abortion (RIGHT or WRONG?) is very difficult to reach and a man (or a woman) cannot possibly dictate to another woman what she should do. Those who carry out abortions both legally and illegally are the ones for whom I feel deeply sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    This does look to be a classic case of an obviously sensible idea that could have unexpected consequences.

    I wouldn't vote for a change in the current system without a lot of careful study, and if this amendment has set that in motion, that's fine. And no change in the rules will be better for everyone, So No to the amendment, Yes to the debate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    As a hospital chaplain I am quite distressed by comments from both sides of the religious divide, We are not here to wave a big stick with GOD written on it at "transgressors". God gave people free will to choose and if we don't like their choice we must still love them. To avoid abortions don't get pregnant in the first place, and recognise the link between sexual intercourse and procreation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    256. jf
    With all of mans knowledge life has never been created , only destroyed. ]

    What about IVF babies? Evwn though Bill says god says they're a sin?

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.


    17 Minutes ago

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


  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    To all abortion supporters; here is a intellectual challenge; think about what is important to you; your feelings, needs, hopes. Now ask where these come from; you can't locate them in your body; the mind and the brain are different. If the mind is non-material, you and babies that are aborted are (partly) spiritual beings. This changes everything: life again becomes too valuable to abort.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Isn't it true that crime rates dropped after a decade of the introduction of the Abortion Act? Does it therefore not indicate unwanted babies tend to be brought up terribly and go on to become negative aspects of society? The system as it stands does not allow woman to bring up children comfortably. Who would choose a life of poverty?

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    Surely in any choice the more informed people are the better?

    It depends on the neutrality of advise.

    If you remove already existing neutrality advice & prevent it from even existing & advising, & then replacing it with opportunitys specifically designed to promote non-neutral religious groups giving advise, then ultimately you DESTROY/REDUCE informed decision making

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    What always puzzles me about the abortion debate is why it is considered morally right to kill a foetus but still a crime to kill a baby which has been born. Sometimes a born baby puts more demands on the mother's body than an unborn one. I am not defending infanticide, just asking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    How about the rights of the woman to abort her baby just because it's female? Is that an absolute right as well?

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    Also the point is that its the mothers choice. Should the woman choose to have the baby then they will get all the help that society can provide. If she doesnt then she will get all the help she needs after the procedure. its her choice and society MUST support her, and not spout drivel about sin, God and going to hell. Also if God existed for infinite years why cant the universe without God?

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    226. Tom
    @Bill 204.

    The commandment is not "thou shalt not kill", it is "thou shalt not commit murder" - there is a difference

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    234 pPanday: would you be willing to pay the extra taxes needed so that the government could increase support to kids who are given up for adoption?

    It's not an unreasonable idea and maybe women would be more prepared to choose having an unwanted child and giving it up for adoption if adoption didn't mean a life of deprivation and exclusion, as it currently does.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    It's more about christian fundamentalist pro life fanatics wanting to run the country.....oh wait! they already do!

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    So the government have noticed that Dorries is a nonsense spouting loose cannon, who makes stuff up like the rest of us breathe.
    She's in the wrong country, the Tea Party Republicans is more her thing.
    Even in an interview where the interviewer said she liked Dorries as a person, came away bemused by this MP's lack of basic comprehension and issues with reality,
    Yep, the TP would love her!


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