November 30, 2022

Is one in five abortion clinics breaking the law in the UK?

Abortion is back on the front pages of British papers with the news that abortion providers are routinely falsifying paperwork. The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, was outraged by revelations in the Telegraph, and vowed to crack down on clinics which were operating outside the law.

Abortion is back on the front pages of British papers with the news that abortion providers are routinely falsifying paperwork. The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, was outraged by revelations in the Telegraph, and vowed to crack down on clinics which were operating outside the law.

“I was appalled. Because if it happens, it is pretty much people engaging in a culture of both ignoring the law and trying to give themselves the right to say that although Parliament may have said this, we believe in abortion on demand.”

In the wake of revelations in February, also in the Telegraph, that some doctors were routinely approving illegal sex-selective abortions, this week the government regulator, the Care Quality Commission, raided every clinic offering abortions. Of about 250 clinics, both government-run and private, 50 were found to have falsified paperwork. Although abortion is a common procedure in Britain, it still requires the approval of two doctors. The main offense uncovered by the raid was that doctors were pre-signing the consent forms in bulk.

Mr Lansley was also disturbed that patients were not receiving adequate counselling. He said that this was not just a matter of pettifogging paperwork:

“There is the risk that women don’t get the appropriate level of pre-abortion support and counselling because, if your attitude is that, ‘You’ve arrived for an abortion and you should have one,’ well actually many women don’t get the degree of support they should…

“I completely understand the law doesn’t require the doctor to have met the woman concerned, but to pre-sign certificates when you don’t even know which woman it relates to and there hasn’t been an assessment, is completely contrary to the spirit and letter of the law.”

It is possible that clinics could lose their licences to do abortions and that doctors could be deregistered as a result of these breaches of the law.

The CEO of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the largest private abortion provider in the UK, Ann Furedi, was angered by the raids. She said that it was “absolutely wrong” for the CQC to abandon other important work to persecute abortion clinics. She accused the Health Secretary of bending to political pressure from anti-abortion MPs.

In fact, the sloppy paperwork seems to have been an open secret. The outrage of the Health Secretary smacks of the indignation of Captain Renault in Casablanca – “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.” In September 2007 a former medical director of the BPAS told a Parliamentary Committee that the paperwork was being done so badly, even illegally, that the two-doctor requirement should be abolished. Dr Vincent Argent wrote:

“The author has observed the following practices—some of these may be illegal and they need clarification: Signing batches of forms before patients are even seen for consultation; signing the forms with no knowledge of the particular patient and without reading the notes; signing forms without seeing or examining the patients; signing forms after the abortion has been performed; faxing the forms to other locations for signature; use of signature stamps without any consultation with the doctor.

“The HSA1 form is often considered to be just an administrative process where doctors make no attempt to form an opinion, in good faith, that the patient fulfils the grounds of section 1.”

Michael Cook
abortion
UK