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bpas on Dorries' amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill

Please find below  comment on Nadine Dorries’ and Frank Field’s proposed amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill, which we understand would require that women seeking abortion undergo counselling by a body which does not provide abortions, and would transfer authority for drawing up guidelines on the clinical care of women away from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

The proposed amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill are misguided and unnecessary.

Information is not withheld from women seeking abortion. As with other medical procedures, women must provide informed consent before an abortion can take place. This means that all women attending for abortion treatment must have the risks clearly explained to them. This is provided verbally at consultation, and in the form of literature to take away and read. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists provides guidance, on the basis of clinical evidence, on which risks should be explained and how they should be discussed.

bpas treats the women who seek its advice as individuals. Many women are clear about their decision to end a pregnancy and find further questioning and probing intrusive and unpleasant. Other women may be more ambivalent, and require further support as they reach the decision that is best for them.  As a charity which seeks to enable women to make genuine reproductive choices, bpas has no interest in encouraging women towards decisions they may later regret.

One woman in five who attends a bpas pregnancy advisory bureau does not procede to an abortion. It is important that women are not rushed into an abortion decision, but it is also important that women do not face unnecessary delays. Significant progress has been made towards increasing the proportion of abortions carried out at under 10 weeks, with 75% of all terminations taking place at these early gestations in 2009. The earlier a termination can occur, the lower the risk of complication, and the greater the choice of treatment method.  

Ann Furedi, chief executive of bpas, said:

“This amendment is a misguided attempt  to solve a problem that does not exist.  If abortion providers have a vested interest, it is to be as sure as possible that women are making the choice that is right for them.  The RCOG is clearly the body best suited to produce guidance on what information is appropriate.  We find it bizarre that anyone should think that this expert, clinical role should be removed from them.”