Pro-life groups have welcomed the decision to suspend certain abortion services at Marie Stopes clinics after an intervention by the health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Marie Stopes International – which operates in 40 countries worldwide – has suspended surgical abortions for girls under 18 and vulnerable women in the UK after safety concerns were raised by inspectors.
A number of other services offered by the family planning provider have also been halted, including the suspension of terminations under general anaesthetic or conscious sedation, and the suspension of all surgical terminations at its Norwich centre.
A spokesperson from LIFE, the anti-abortion advocacy charity based in Leamington Spa, said it was “alarmed” and “deeply concerned” by the news. “It is absolutely scandalous that Marie Stopes International, which likes to talk about women dying from unsafe abortions, is itself being rapped for exposing patients to potential harm”, it said.
Peter D Williams, Executive Officer at Right to Life, said: “Abortion is always destructive of the lives of unborn children…I hope this opens a real debate about the under-regulation of abortion in the UK; one that leads to a proper respect and application of the original intention of Parliament in 1967 and the welfare of women – and increasingly their unborn children – to be made paramount”.
As a result of the intervention, 250 women a week are to be sent elsewhere to have their pregnancies terminated until Marie Stopes International can assure the inspectorate that it is proceeding safely.
Professor Edward Baker, deputy chief inspector of hospitals at the CQC, said in a statement released on Friday (19 August) that the commission will continue to monitor services at Marie Stopes “very closely” and “will not hesitate to take further action, if needed”.
The full CQC report will be made public “as soon as our regulatory process has concluded and we are able to do so,” he added.
Marie Stopes UK said they are “working urgently with the CQC” to resolve “areas of concern in its training and governance procedures” and that their immediate priority is to ensure women booked into affected services are “rebooked swiftly into alternative local services”.
Each year 70,000 women are treated in Marie Stopes centres around the UK.
According to a statement by the CQC, the Government has informed the organisation that Ministers will not give approval for further clinics – in accordance with their statutory role – to offer termination services until the CQC are satisfied that their concerns have been fully addressed.