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Response to Sunday Telegraph report

Published 10 October 2004

Response to Sunday Telegraph report

bpas provides abortion care for almost 50,000 women each year, almost 80% of care is provided under contracts with the NHS. We receive no direct funding from the Department of Health. Our only NHS income is derived from specific agency arrangements whereby bpas is contracted to provide a service on behalf of a Primary Care Trust.

Each year we turn away about 100 women whom we are unable to treat as they are beyond the legal time limit. Most of these women accept that they will not be able to obtain an abortion and we advise them to access ante-natal care. A very small number cannot be reconciled to their situation and faced with women who will pay any price and travel any distance to end an unwanted pregnancy our staff do what they can within the law.

bpas staff occasionally give telephone numbers of clinics that provide safe, legal abortions in countries with laws different to our own. The number of the Ginemedex Clinic has been provided, as has that of two clinics in the USA. We do not ‘refer’ women to foreign clinics. Staff are instructed to make it clear that we cannot ‘vouch’ for these clinics and we have no financial links with them. This has been bpas practice for more than a decade and there have been no objections to this practice previously.

It is well established that women travel abroad to circumvent restrictions in their own national abortion laws. More than 10,000 each year come to Britain from countries such as Ireland and Northern Ireland. It is also well established that women travel abroad from Britain to obtain reproductive healthcare services that are unlawful in Britain. For example, couples travel to Europe and the USA to benefit from infertility treatment in circumstances where treatment would be prohibited in Britain. This is directly comparable to travel from Britain for late abortion.

The issue of women’s right to information about abortion services abroad and their right to travel for services that are illegal at home has been central to the Irish debate on abortion over the last decade. The right to information was established under the European Convention on Human Rights of which the UK is a signatory. Our understanding has been that doctors in Spain are lawfully able to provide abortion beyond the usual 22 weeks gestation in certain circumstances. As far as we are aware the Spanish authorities have not previously expressed concerns about the Ginemedex Clinic.

As of the date of the Sunday Telegraph report, it was not subject to investigation.

Ann Furedi, Chief Executive, 12 October 2004.

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